We are down at Disneyland for the Christmas holiday. We came down in for Christmas 2001 and it was not terribly crowded (people stayed away from big public places like this that year for some reason…) but this year the place is packed. Throngs of people flowing through the streets and extending attraction lines to over an hour in some places, but everyone is in pretty high spirits and enjoying the parks.
This morning, Kate, Zach and I decided to venture into Disneyland Park early, as it opened at 8:00 am. Rather than get stuck in the lines at the main entrance, we figured we would take the monorail in and start in the middle of Tomorrowland, so instead of turning right out of the Grand Californian hotel, we turned left and headed against the flow of early morning Disney revelers towards the monorail. When we got there the line looked really short. Too short. In fact, there was no line at all because the monorail was “temporarily unavailable due to technical difficulties.” It was broken. Oh well. We jumped into the people current and floated on down towards main entrance waiting in the bag check line (this wasn’t here in 2001…) and then the line to get in to the park.
Once we got into the park we headed straight for the Indiana Jones ride and we got in line. The line was moving pretty well until we heard an announcement that the ride was experiencing more technical difficulties and would be delayed for at least 15 minutes. When that delay turned into an “indefinite” delay, they cleared out the line and we headed off to look for a different thrill.
We went to the Matterhorn and got in the very long line, but decided it would be a good idea to try to get a FastPass for Space Mountain, so Kate headed off to grab those. A few minutes later, she called saying that Space Mountain was broken so she got us FastPasses to the new Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride. We started teasing her that she kept breaking the rides. When she got back to the Matterhorn, um… it broke. The car stopped going and we started to wonder what happened to all of the cars that were rolling around inside the giant paper maché mountain when it had technical difficulties but after about 15 minutes, it started working again as we actually got to go on a ride.
When we got out, we headed over to Buzz Lightyear to use our FastPasses but we were early so we tried to get a snack. After being turned away from 2 pizza places because they were not open (probably broken) we came back to Buzz’s ride to see a long line at the Fast Pass entry. Why? Well campers, you’ve probably guessed it already, but they were in the process of rebooting the ride. In case you’re trying to keep score, that’s four attractions, one transportation mechanism and two Italian eateries that were all unexpectedly out of service and it isn’t even 10:30 yet.
Buzz booted, though, and we did ride. Around this time, Leslie showed up and the rides were better behaved that afternoon. After dinner we went to California Adventure so Kate, Zach and I could ride California Screamin’ the zippy, twisty and loopy roller coaster. The line was short and before you know it, we were rolling and screaming. It is actually a very smooth ride given its gyrations and when we finished, Kate and Zach wanted to ride again so off they went. We watched them as they were launched up the first hill and a minute or so later we heard the telltale PA system announcing that California Screamin’ was experiencing “technical difficulties” and would be closed for a little while. Looks like Kate had broken another ride.
Kate and Zach, though, had not emerged from the ride yet and were, in fact, stuck in the roller coaster near the top of the highest hill. I asked the person turning would-be riders away from the turnstiles what was going on and she said that it happens all the time (why am I not surprised) and that this time it was probably just due to a problem with a chip in the station and there was nothing wrong with the cars or the track. In fact, she said that they were probably over cautious in how they set up the rides to stop working when just about any sensor indicates a potential problem and she mentioned that Thunder Mountain Railroad would break if a sparrow flew through the ride in just the right way. In the meantime, cast members would be climbing up to the train and walking the passengers down. I briefly imagined Peter Pan flitting up to the stuck cars and removing the safety harnesses but alas it was the maintenance crew who did the only flitting. Soon afterwards, I received a call from Zach’s cell phone. When I answered he yelled out “WE’RE ALIVE!!” and sure enough they came running up to us a minute or so later excited to tell us the story of their not-so-harrowing escape.
I guess now we know what happens when the roller coasters break down.
I don’t know whether the issue is that the now 50 year old theme park is showing its age and is just less reliable than it once was, or if the addition of all of the computer technology and associated complexity is the cause of so many failures. I’m sure at least part of the issue is that they are so concerned about making sure the ride is safe that they are willing to stop it for any indication, including mostly false positive indications, that there may be a problem. This is certainly the safest path through it has the same effect of making people wonder about the overall safety of the park that constantly releasing security patches does to people’s trust in computer software.
We will be back tomorrow, though and hopefully the rides will be in better shape.
The next morning...
Indiana Jones is still busted, but everything else seems to be working.