“I’ll be in Orlando for a day between business trips,” said RG Daughter during one of her daily calls a few days ago. “You have to come up.”
I love it that RG Daughter calls me almost every day. It’s like she lives just over the fence and a shout away instead of 1000-plus miles out of reach and many more in the distance.
I saw a double rainbow moments after she called. I was outside smoking a cigarette before a freebie slot tournament, and a select few smoking outside with me knew the rainbows meant something wonderful:
“I’ll win, for sure,” said two.
“The pot of gold is right here!” said four.
“Alright,” sighed a few others who noticed this freak of beautiful nature.
“I’ve never in my life seen that! Never! Today must be my lucky day.” said one.
I didn’t win money that day, but I didn’t lose any, either, the slot tourney being free. But those double rainbows heralded the 15th–or is it the 20th–time RG Daughter and I have glanced at each other over a fast-pass fait accompli and silently high-fived because we had an unexpected, incredible time together in a place that writes the book for unoriginal and very expensive family time to which we cannot say no.
I had to beg to leave early on a slow day and promise to be back for the next morning’s 5 a.m. shift that would surely be slower. I wasn’t sure how I would make the three-hour drive up and back in one scant afternoon and evening, but I didn’t care. I hadn’t seen RG Daughter in six months, and I was certain I wouldn’t see her for another six if I didn’t run screaming from my slower than slow off-season serving job and just go.
I drove three-and-a-half hours through multiple horrific rain storms, some so strong I was sure a tornado lurked just beyond the wall of water that my VW’s windshield wipers could do nothing whatsoever to clear. I got lost twice trying to find RG Daughter’s hotel. I hadn’t eaten a thing since my day began 12 hours before.
All of this mattered not the least at the exact minute I wrapped my arms around my best baby girl and hugged her tight. My stupid schedule, my terrible tips, my total lack of a life beyond my stupid schedule and terrible tips retreated into a safe harbor of momentary denial in the here and now of seeing her again.
Back in the old days of easy money and frequent-flier perks, RG Daughter and I only ever stayed on Disney property, where we walked or trammed to the parks and never, ever parked with the masses in lots named “Pluto” or paid full-price for one-park, one-day admission. Funny how times have changed. Funny how much the real Disney World costs.
I bought a Florida resident multi-day pass for myself and tried to convince the perky Disney gate agent that RG Daughter counted as one, too. An expired Colorado school ID didn’t convince her. It was probably just as well; I felt like one of my customer thieves who pawn off 16-year olds as “under age ten” so they can get a cheap plate of kids’ eggs.
So, hundreds of dollars later, we were in Epcot buying frozen margaritas in Mexico, when we saw him–a poncho-clad Donald Duck, with no line of strollers to meet him.
“You’ll need to put the drinks behind his back for the photo,” said Donald’s handler, “You know, so he doesn’t get in trouble.”
The handler took our photo with my phone, and I promptly texted it to my manager and begged for today off. Something about a mother-daughter Disney photo must have tugged hard at her heart, because she relented, adding that RG Daughter was “beautiful.”
We never planned to go back to Disney today. RG Daughter had work to do; I would leave early and head back before rush hour and more storms. But at 7 a.m., while drinking the worst-tasting in-room coffee ever brewed, I pointed out that we could be at the Magic Kingdom riding Big Thunder Railroad in less than an hour.
And so, another $88 dollars later, RG Daughter was upgraded to another day’s single-park pass, her work and mine be damned. We got soaked on a log flume ride that scares me more than upside-down roller coasters and dried off on Big Thunder. We took in the Pirates and got fast passes for Peter Pan’s Adventure. Which gave us an hour to kill.
“We’ve never eaten in Cinderella’s Castle,” I pointed out.
“You have to have reservations,” pointed out RG Daughter.
“You have to have reservations,” said the un-Disney-like greeter. “Sorry.”
We wandered aimlessly in the crowds for a few minutes, when RG Daughter announced we would return to the Castle and beg for a last-minute seating. Something about a mother wearing yesterday’s clothing and her cute daughter must have tugged at the heart of the second not-too-nice greeter.
“I’ll seat you, but it has to be now and it has to be breakfast. And it’s $54 each. It includes a photo with Cinderella. Is that okay?”
What the hell.
The photo, it turned out, was a “professional” shot that included an 8×10 and six 4×6 copies. The $54 breakfast included an auto grat (they get a guaranteed 18 percent on every check?!?) and visits with five princesses, plus a table-side chat with the chef who wanted to make sure we knew he knew we were Celiac girls.
I spent more on park admissions and over-priced food in 24 hours than I make in a week. I missed a day-and-a-half of lousy tips and $4.25 hourly wages. Maybe I’ll care when I see my credit card bill. Today, I couldn’t have cared less.
Because when you add it all up, I have had much less fun for far more money on many other days. And I wouldn’t trade this regal day for any amount.