Culina Americana

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Travelling to Orlando is a different experience from other business trips. You notice the difference when you reach the departure gate in Toronto. There are little people. Lots of them. More than the tolerable threshold: 0. I don’t mean dwarves, midgets or elves. I mean children.

This can be very disruptive to the normal routine of the seasoned business traveller. These little people have voices in a pitch above the range of the normal vocal din. They make noise, and lots of it. It comes in various forms: whimpering, whining, crying, screaming but worst of all is laughter.

Next, they move around. The experienced business traveller finds his spot and sits. Some read, some RIM, some work on their PC. But they are all basically motionless. These little people run around.

Finally, there are the toys, which invariable transform themselves into lethal projectiles or become the objective of some contention resulting in screaming (noise) and a chase for possession (lots of movement). Alternatively if they are not immediately fought over they seem to be enjoyed, resulting in laughter (noise) which seems to attract attention, which in turn causes envy and thus contention and the whole vicious cycle begins.

Toys seem to be a driver for a lot of these things upsetting to the harried business traveller. Toys should be banned in airports.

Arriving in Orlando Airport is like, well passing through the portal into a theme park or never-never land. The first thing you do is take a ride on the unmanned monorail, that employs the recorded messages of an announcer who’s voice lies in an area somewhere between a combination of automaton and disc jockey, and Walter Cronkite and Goofy.

A monorail is not bad in itself, after all many airports have such transport and quite rightly; it is easier than walking. I mention it only to highlight that the monorail is not just about the physical transportation, but rather it symbolizes the transportation on another level: from the real world into themeland. In themeland, everyone is happy, people smile, all your needs and expectations are met. There is good service, things go as they should, it is safe and protected (even from the weather). All very strange and unnerving for the wary business traveller.

Next is the hotel. Look at the pictures below:

First, they were all taken in doors.

But wait! There’s more. This multi-acre-under-glass garden is sub-divided into theme areas, including Key West, Alligator Alley and some Pirate thing. For the little people this is just the beginning of the ramp to the ultimate theme park: Disneyland. For their parents this is the holding area between park sessions; a place that provides continuity of a theme avoiding their psyches from being buffeted between the imaginary and the real. It is truly for mental health. For the seasoned traveller it is all a bit extreme.

And it gets worse for the weary business traveller: this time of year the theme-park hotel is decked out in full Christmas gear with Christmas Carols the dominant–OK only–musical theme. It’s all very close to an overdose.

During my stay, there seemed to be three dominate groups: the Gartner Conference attendees; the Achievers Conference and then “others”.

The Achievers out-numbered all other groups. They were a very un-business like group. Unlike the typical Gartner attendee: large corporate, senior technical, etc. These Achievers did not come as individual attendees, they came as families: husbands, wives, and children. May be even grandparents. They were all happy. There were lots of little ones, but old ones too. Some in wheelchairs, many with canes, lots with toys and all with smiles; big fat happy smiles. I thought they were some religious group here to find whatever sanctions their definition of a supreme Being might offer to them, but no. They are Internet business people. A new religion? My how the home business has changed.

My only escape was the conference sessions held inside the dark sunless chambers accessible only through the hallowed halls of the convention centre. The chamber in which deep thought, serious concepts, and important business information was conveyed. Critical to an individual’s success and of their business’s too. But if the content wasn’t enough, I suspected a more subtle stratagem being executed by the conference organizers: to use such a theme park environment to drive the cynical business traveller to the sessions.

The escape from all this was marked by the return to the airport. Back through the portal to the other side. Can you guess why the waiting area at the gate is so empty? Answer: everyone is standing in line for the security check. I’m not sure why the lines are so long, but I submit a couple of theories for consideration. First, it’s the children. They are high risk, many of them potential terrorists. Sitting in the waiting area with even just a few it is easy to come to this conclusion. Second, people leaving Orlando are likely to have been changed (or infected) by the constant day to day, 24 hours per day over and over blast of themism, that to let these people loose on the rest of society could impose a threat. I believe the theory here is that you need to hit them with a hard dose of reality to bring them out of their transcendental state back into the real, ugly, vulgar world in which we all live. That place we call home.

I thought at last I was free and safe and ready to go. Unscathed by the ever-present theme, protected by the thick skin of skepticism each seasoned business traveller ports. But apparently I had been inflected. I broke down and bought a Big Whopper, with fries, and a coke.

So as I now sit in the waiting area at the departure gate, among the other tired business travellers using their PC’s and me my RIM, I feel now why they call it a Big Whopper.

I know I will be protected in my up-front seat on the way back, as the little people generally purchase discount tickets that provide them with seats way at the back. Yes there is justice in the real world.

Just a moment. I hear a musical toy. Oh no, the little person is laughing …


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