Column: Calamity welcome, but Disney lets Dad down


I needed one of my daughters to punch Mickey Mouse in the groin.

I would have settled for something less appalling. But there stood the Recker children, rare to exhibit congruent angelic behavior, fawning over Disney’s finest and thanking their mother and father before and after eating breakfast with animated legends in the furry flesh. There stood me, proud yet disappointed.

Columnists need chaos like a cleaning lady needs a mop. Comedy can’t breathe without something going hopelessly sideways. A weeklong spring break venture to the happiest place on Earth with 14 people, all related by blood or marriage, is a minefield absolutely loaded with certain disaster, and while three delighted and compliant children unquestionably relaxed the anxiety, I wanted all-out Griswold.

Somebody stomp on Mickey’s yacht-sized feet. Mock his girly voice. Forever change the famous three-circle silhouette by biting a hole in one of those ears.

Nothing. I should have bribed them.

Our seven days included a 2 a.m. departure, more than 24 hours in a van and daily 6:30 a.m. wake-up calls to ensure we were first in line at the gate. Sounds like hell to me.

The worst thing that happened was a member of our three-vehicle caravan quite likely failed to pay an appropriate toll somewhere northwest of Orlando. I didn’t see it, but there were apparently flashing toll booth lights and an edict from a passenger to “Go! Go! Go!” They blamed the machine for miscounting their coins. The delinquents face a $100 fine, should Florida’s Turnpike authorities find them hiding back in the rural Midwest.

We otherwise only flirted with detonations.

At a gas station somewhere in Tennessee, the 7-year-old refused to put on shoes or leave the van to use the restroom. I carried her inside anyway. Soggy crises averted. No big deal.

On a parkway in southern Kentucky, the 2-year-old was far more willing to defecate. She filled her pants. We did not stop until we reached our driveway a time zone away and by then the contents of her trousers had escaped their intended boundary. We cleared the debris with a wash cloth and held our noses. It’s been worse.

Twice in a crowd at Animal Kingdom, the 5-year-old pleaded to ride in the stroller reserved for her younger sister. Denied, she sat on the ground, forcing fellow patrons to detour around her criss-cross-applesauce protest. Once, I peeled her from the concrete. Once, the rest of us just walked off. She got up. Moving on.

I needed the 7-year-old to flood the gas station with an overflowing toilet. I kind of wanted the 2-year-old to remove her soiled diaper and fling it at passing traffic. It would not have been terrible had the 5-year-old rolled down the Animal Kingdom walkway, screaming about how for God’s sake it’s my freaking turn to ride in the stupid stroller so back off before I rip off half your face. Then, I got a column.

Instead, I spent Gainesville and Macon and Atlanta and Chattanooga and Nashville and Owensboro and Huntingburg waiting on something awful. Even an overnight layover at a Georgia hotel brought nothing more than brief bedtime whimpering. “Somebody flip the Pack ’N Play through a window, already!” I wanted to scream.

Heck, my wife even set us up for a colossal mess with a classic jinx. Still 10 hours from home and speeding toward Atlanta’s traffic roulette, she remarked how “We’d have to give this trip an ”˜A.’” I guessed her letter-grade appraisal would be like a broadcaster blabbing about how a basketball player hasn’t missed a free throw in 23 games right before he flops up a brick. Something disgusting or ridiculous or flammable was about to happen, I chuckled to myself. The last time we went to Disney, a kid puked in the back seat of my car. At the least, my wife’s premature celebration could get me some interstate upchuck.

Nope. Just lots of northbound pavement, the kid who didn’t want to pee and the kid who really wanted to poop.

No good columnist returns from a 1,700-mile round-trip through five states without some sort of wild tale. People have asked if they’ll read about The Great Disney Adventure in the newspaper. “How long did those seven days really last?” “Surely you about lost your mind.” “Glad it was you and not me.”

I laugh but panic grips my gut. I feel like Christopher Columbus returning to the old world having never discovered the new world. What if Lewis and Clark got back to St. Louis and said, “Yeah, not much out there. Just some prairies, a few mountains and a big ocean. No problem.” Without “Houston, we have a problem,” Apollo 13 is just another flight into outer space.

Turmoil, where have you gone? Everybody knows trouble only makes us stronger. Nobody wants to read about kids who actually respect their parents.

My dear children, bring back those outbursts of tomfoolery, give me more really loud whining, and long live that oh-so-charming sense of entitlement. Because, sooner or later, we’ll go back to Disney’s magical world and I need material. So if you won’t kick Mickey in the shins, flip off Donald Duck and dump a plate of gravy on Piglet’s head, I will.

Jason Recker is the news editor at The Herald. He has a crush on Belle. His email is

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