I was in California recently for a wedding and, because I hadn't been since I was a kid, I did something unusual and slightly inappropriate: I went to Disneyland by myself. No one, from the park patrons to employees, wants to see you do that. It defeats the purpose to be alone in The Happiest Place on Earth. The single rider lines to fill out odd-numbered parties for the Matterhorn or Splash Mountain are not actually intended for single riders, yet the experience was strangely enjoyable. There were no passive-aggressive negotiations among people with disparate levels of energy or enthusiasm; I was entirely independent in structuring a perfectif kind of eerily silentday.
Very early in that perfect day, I had what would end up being the only sour encounter. Cars Land opened this summer in the California Adventure Park and with it the hyped-up Radiator Springs Racers ride. It's creatively detailed, whimsical, well-executed, and for the average little boy, could be outright mind-blowing. For an adult female, even one who goes to Disneyland by herself, however, it's not worth the typical two-hour wait. In truth, nothing is ever worth that wait, which is why Disney parks have Fast Passes for favorite attractions that schedule batches of guests to come back at spaced out intervals to relieve the crush of thousands of people at once.
The popularity and novelty of the Cars ride, though, trumps even the ability of that system to alleviate wait times. The passes are typically gone before the park has even been open an hour; or so I was told by the eager parents waiting in the line for passes to avoid waiting in the real line at the ride. I succumbed to the pressure of these seeming authorities and only realized when I finally got on the ride just what a blunder this was.
Unencumbered by a stroller, I could have zipped right up to the front of the line as a single rider and escaped the mindless idling in a queue of strangers that seemed to know best. The reality, even in the manufactured magical non-reality of Disneyland, is that when you are an individual, no one knows best but you. It's rare to be truly alone in a world where isolation is impractical, if not impossible, but in the moments when you can decide for yourself how to act, it's a fact: No one knows best but you. No one can plan and execute the perfect day for you, though they will insist that it is absolutely imperative that you join them in whatever it is that they think will make it perfect for them.
Like the well-meaning patrons in a pointless line, the perpetual bombardment of bait-and-switch headlines and ads promising cures, shortcuts, and answers can be tempting. The persistent onslaught of unasked-for advice can be alluring. Yet, whether it's an online columnist or your own mother, a tenured professor or the American president, no one truthfully knows or understands anyone else's life.
If you can't relate to my experience in AnaheimI don't expect you to! I don't expect that you are part of the randomly specific subset of the population that is young, single, comfortable with solitude to an unnatural degree, deeply affected by childhood memories, and able to take a vacation. I don't expect my friends to be part of that group, much less strangers I will never meet. So I certainly have no hopes for a policymaker, elected or appointed, to embrace my individual worldview enough to fulfill my dreams for me. With this in mind, I would rather politicians stop trying to pretend like they can do this. I would rather they no longer feel obligated to pretend.
Only a few attractions at Disneyland have single rider lines (N.B. Star Tours is an illogical omission); there are even fewer opportunities for solo pursuits in real society. Living is at nearly every level a joint activity and there is minimal queue-jumping. However, we are not intimately and irrevocably tethered to millions of other people. We have a choice in our interactionsor lack thereof. For the state to link us all together in mandatory, universal projects to over-privilege a dubious "greater good" is oppressive. That shouldn't be what we demand of our leaders. The more they claim to do to free us, the more our ability to act independently is constrained. It's inevitable when no active, invasive policy can legitimately benefit everyone.
Disney park operators don't anticipate a large number of single guests, but they don't restrict their access simply because they are a negligible minority. Walt Disney opened the first park in 1955 with the words: "To all who come to this happy place: Welcome." Thanks to that inclusive philosophy, the company's resorts contributed $1.6 billion of its overall $4.8 billion net income for FY 2011. Were Americans at large to be as accommodating as we swear we are, the nation might do so well. Allowing people to plan and live out their own days is the only way we'll ever have any that are a wish come true.