dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

I’ve now had a guest blog post from nearly every member of my family — except one. Well, today, I’m very pleased to introduce you to my husband, Bob. He’s my best friend, my advisor, my tech crew, and the reason I ever became brave enough to publish a book. Today, he’s going to share some tips on cutting yourself from the herd …

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED – advice from Bob Salerni

“So, you like to take the road less traveled, eh?”

I was startled by the words of the Disney employee standing next to an empty FASTPASS machine. I already thought it must be broken or some kind of trick. After fighting my way thru the heavy crowds in Adventure Land, most of whose deodorant was not up to the task that day, I found myself watching other park-goers standing in FASTPASS lines 15-20 deep for the same attraction — as my machine spit out a ticket with a small, reassuring noise.

I looked at the Disney employee as he smiled at me. He made no move to summon the other guests or to organize the mob. Was he there just keeping tabs on Disney’s little social experiment? The machine was located by itself, a short distance away from the others, but still clearly labeled and open. Why did everyone go stand in the long line? Duh! Because there was a line!

What is it about our nature that makes us want to follow the herd? As I had already read — and was quickly discovering to be true — when at any crowded venue, it’s best to do the *opposite* of everyone else.

A website that I used to plan our Disney trip offers a complete analysis of Theme Park crowd psychology. What’s really scary is how accurate and useful it is. Big event here today? Nope. Avoid it like the plague. Extra hours tonight? Probably not. Go to sleep and start out early tomorrow while everyone else is tired. Time and again, this strategy worked flawlessly.

I’ve seen it in operation elsewhere too. Really, almost everywhere you look you can find examples of how *not* following the crowd will get you where you want to go faster.

Even when someone offers helpful advice for avoiding a line, most people will resist. On a recent jaunt through security at the Philadelphia Airport I was waiting in a very long and growing line at Terminal B. A nice TSA employee circulated through the crowd and told everyone there was NO LINE at Terminal C. Just walk about 500 feet out of your way and back to avoid standing here for 45 minutes to an hour. Did she get many takers? Of course not. Everyone stood frozen, unwilling to risk the unknown of walking over *there* and back.

Being the risk-taker that I am (and being able to clearly SEE the other empty TSA line from where I stood!), I walked over and was on my way in less than 2 minutes.

Look around and see where you really want to go. There may be a better way to get there.

Which road do you prefer ?

Apparently, I get a thrill out of not knowing where I’m going.

I never knew this about myself. I thought I liked to be completely in control – and definitely never lost.

I also thought I hated roller coasters – though I always suspected I was afraid of the height, more than the coaster itself. I’m also not fond of bridges and ferris wheels. I keep imagining myself FALLING. I don’t see how those flimsy guard rails are going to keep my vehicle from falling off the edge of the bridge, and as for roller coasters, I expect the cars to fly off the track at any time – or just break through the track on the curve and hurtle out across the amusement park …

Therefore, it was with great trepidation that I allowed my family to talk me into riding Space Mountain at Disney last month. My husband said, “It’s in the dark. You can’t see how high you are.” And although I wasn’t convinced, I did try to be a good sport. I figured, if I was terrified – he’d owe me BIG TIME. (Always a good position to be in.)

So I rode it, and as we were leaving, I turned to the family, coughed sheepishly, and murmured, “Uh, we could do that again, if you want …”

Turns out – I love roller coasters, as long as I can’t see where I’m going! Who knew? Not only did I ride Space Mountain again, but I was first in line to ride Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios – after I’d ascertained that it, too, is in the dark. Strangely enough, I also enjoyed Tower of Terror – in which you really are falling – and during which you have a plain view of how high you are. Mission Space – no problem. The Simpsons Ride and the Spider Man Ride – loved ‘em! I’ve got no issues being strapped into a car that bumps around a bit while being shown a movie that simulates falling and flying. (I even laughed during the Simpson ride when the roller coaster track breaks and the car hurtles out across the amusement park … arguably, a simulation of my worst nightmare!)

I thought I was afraid of the motion. Not true. I thought I was afraid of heights. Not really. I thought I was afraid of falling. Hmm … closer, but Tower of Terror was kind of fun. I’m not sure there’s a name for why I’m terrified of the itty bitty baby train that rides a skinny track overtop of Playland in Ocean City, NJ, but it’s definitely not what I thought it was.

Have you ever thought you were afraid of one thing – but turns out you were afraid of something else entirely?

Do you enjoy that sensation of not knowing where you’re going next – on a dark roller coaster – or in your current WIP?

Last week, my family took a unique and little-known excursion at Disney Epcot’s Living Seas Aquarium. The Aqua Seas Tour is a behind-the-scenes tour of the Living Seas facility, culminating in a surface swim inside the aquarium!
The tour behind the scenes was cool. It was fun to learn, for instance, that the animals in the facility are fed restaurant-grade food and that the kitchen is maintained above the level of sanitation required for restaurants. The joke at Epcot is that if food falls on the floor in the kitchen at the aquarium, they don’t feed it to the fish – they send it over to the restaurant! (Don’t worry. Not really!) According to Disney, the main aquarium tank contains approximately 5.7 million gallons of sea water and is large enough to hold Spaceship Earth (the giant white ball icon of Epcot) with room to roll it around!
But of course the real draw of this excursion is the swim. Epcot suited us up in wetsuits and briefly trained us on use of the air tanks and regulator. Even though this was a surface swim (and they pile on enough buoyancy to make sure you stay on the surface), the swimmers breathe through diving equipment. It’s easy to get used to and not unlike a snorkel – without the worry of accidentally dunking your snorkel and getting a snoot-full of water.
In full view of the tourists in the aquarium, we swam out into the giant tank, sharing our space with schools of fish, curious eagle rays, sand sharks, and one large sea turtle. The fish were totally nonplussed by our appearance in their environment. The sharks stayed at the bottom where they belonged, while the eagle rays came to check us out eye-to-eye and schools of fish swept by just in case we had any food to hand out. The sea turtle swam up and surfaced for air just a few feet away from me. I poked my head up above the water line and saw his big turtle head appear opposite me. He gulped his air and went back down, completely uninterested in me.
Both my daughters (ages 10 and 13) handled the equipment without much problem. In fact, this was a repeat visit for my older daughter and me. She and I took this tour 5 years ago, when she was only 8! On this trip, the younger daughter had a little trouble with a leaky mask, but overall enjoyed the experience. As for the older daughter, she climbed out of the tank with such a big smile that the Epcot staff told me it made their day.
The cost? About $100 per person, which isn’t bad, and all the money is donated to a wildlife conservation fund. Disney actually picks up the actual expenses of the program. I highly recommend this as a worthwhile experience, and you can learn more about the program here.

Harry Potter can keep his Invisibility Cloak. I’d rather be seen – and not stepped on.

I’m only 5 feet 2 inches tall, and I don’t make out well in crowds. I can’t see, and people tend to push me around. With my family leaving on Saturday for a vacation at Disney and Universal Studios, I am starting to plan my packing – and I well remember the lesson I learned on our last visit.

We visited Disney in 2005, and I recall that the first couple days of the trip were a misery to me. I was stepped on, pushed aside, elbowed out of the way – and mostly by men. Yes, men. It didn’t matter that I was obviously a mom with 2 small children in tow, and my husband’s presence didn’t help, either. It didn’t matter whether the man looked like a CEO on vacation with his own family or a Hell’s Angel who wandered into Disney by mistake – I was invisible.

I did try to make myself known. I squealed when they stepped on my feet. I protested when somebody pushed past me. “Excuse me!” or “Hey! Watch it!” At best, I would get a look of contempt: You are an obstacle in my way.

By the morning of the third day, as I tallied my bruises, I wondered: Is chivalry dead? Or only for the nondescript? I decided to try a little social experiment.

This is what I wore on the first day:

This is what I wore starting on Day Three:

Do you see the difference? Yeah, I bet you can. For the rest of the trip, men held doors open for me. They waved me ahead of them in line. They smiled at me. My husband, observing from a distance, laughed and laughed. He didn’t think it would make a difference (‘cause he likes me no matter what I’m wearing), but it did.

It’s a SAD, SAD testimony to life in America, folks. But I learned my lesson. In packing to face Disney this year, I am going to remember the Three C’s of Crowd Wear: Comfortable, Cool, and Cleavage.