I recently attended a meeting at the Disney World complex near Orlando. Actually, it was held at a Hilton Hotel, a non-Disney property operating in the complex. Although I've been to Orlando many times, I haven't been to Disney since the kids were little. I don't have a GPS in my car, so, to make sure I knew where I was going, I printed a map from the Internet which I assumed was accurate and the directions looked familiar to me. Normally, it takes me about an hour and a half to drive from Tampa to Disney, but on this particular evening it took over three hours. No, there weren't any accidents, no heavy traffic, no construction, no obnoxious drivers to follow; just Disney.
According to the map, I was to turn off I-4 west at the main Disney interchange (World Center Drive which becomes Epcot Center Drive) which leads you to Epcot and the Hilton which I was led to believe was close to Epcot. Okay, fine, got it, no problem, let's go. As I made the proper turnoff from I-4, I began my trek down Epcot Center Drive, which is a well sculpted boulevard featuring all kinds of Disney eye-candy. Traffic control appears to be a big concern with the Disney people and they had numerous signs guiding motorists to the various Disney properties. I was hoping I might see a billboard or some sign to direct me to the Hilton, but alas, nothing but Disney signs which started to become irritating.
Before I knew it, I found myself approaching the Epcot resort which allegedly was near my hotel, so I felt a glimmer of hope. I thought I would stop and ask someone at the parking gates for directions. Unfortunately, I discovered that after 7:00pm, the gates are wide open and there wasn't an attendant to be found. Okay, I'm near Epcot, the map says I'm not far away, but for some reason I couldn't find any of the roads on the map. My male stubbornness began to surface as I told myself to keep pushing on, there has got to be someone around here who can help me. As I was to discover, there wasn't. By now, I was starting to get a great behind-the-scenes tour of Disney as I found myself traversing the many access roads around the park (Epcot Center Road was well behind me by this time). In addition to the big parks and main resorts, I drove by the Tower of Terror, the monorail maintenance depot, several emergency areas, a secluded golf course, a dog kennel, and tons of parking. Actually, I saw more of Disney that evening than I did with my kids years ago. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a single human being to talk to. There was nothing but bus and tram operators dropping off guests to pick up their cars in the parking lots, everything else was automated. The whole place was on autopilot and I got the unsettling feeling that the only human being controlling all of this was in Teaneck, New Jersey. Heck, I would have even settled for Goofy to give me directions, but I think he had already turned in for the night (probably at the Hilton).
Around and around I went with nothing but Disney signs directing me to their next resort. Somehow I broke out of the vicious circle and found myself in a daze heading towards Tampa on I-4. Okay, I told myself not to panic but to turn around at the next exit which, unfortunately, was something called the Osceola Parkway, a toll road which did nothing to improve my personality. Nonetheless, I persevered and pressed on. Now desperate, I pulled the car off to the side of the road and called the hotel who was finally able to talk me down like an airplane landing at a fog covered runway. Interestingly, my Internet map had gotten it completely wrong. More disturbing to me though, was the absence of any sign to a non-Disney property, and the lack of human-beings to help point me in the right direction. I would have even welcomed a private radio network like you see at airports which offer driving instructions. No, the Disney folks were content to have me circle the complex over and over again like I was in the Daytona 500.
I found this experience nightmarish and it certainly didn't endear me to Disney. Not surprising, I discovered several other motorists caught in the same trap I was in and are probably still circling around the complex.
If you talk to a Disney employee, he or she will proudly proclaim they work for "The Mouse." This may be so, but someone needs to tell the Disney people that there is a rat in the traffic department.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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