Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Bare Necessities....

A few weeks ago I found myself wandering down Main Street in Magic Kingdom, eating an ice cream and deciding whether or not to stay for the evening's fireworks. Having more or less decided to leave so that I would be home on time for a night out, I caught eyes with a lad around my age standing with his family. 

I did what any British person would do and immediately averted my eyes and continued down the street. 

Until I caught eyes with him again. 

And again. 

The third time he stopped me. 

'You can't catch eyes with me three times and keep walking. We have to talk now.' 

So we did. We introduced ourselves and chatted easily for a while before he introduced me to his entire family and invited me to watch the fireworks with them. I spent the rest of my evening with these people- hearing about their holiday and telling them about my adventures here. I had a brilliant time and will remember it as one of my favourite evenings in Magic Kingdom long after I leave. 

On relaying this story to my friends later (in the taxi for the night out that I still managed to make- it was clearly meant to be), I was greeted with exasperation. 

'How do you always end up in these situations?' 

People say that to me a lot. 

In fact, in the last couple of weeks I seem to have got myself into 'these situations' more than ever....

1. Last Friday I wandered into Guess (the clothes store. My mum was most confused when I told her this story without explaining that fact), and in the ten minutes that I was in there, four members of staff introduced themselves to me and told me they would be around if I needed anything. At the time I was most flattered, but I returned this week with male company and got even more attention from the male staff so I think I can confirm that they really are just very efficient. 

Before I left, however, the first staff member came over and gave me a brief summary of his life before adding me on Facebook and inviting me to the cinema. I went back this Friday and saw him again. I think we might actually be real life friends. 

2. I spent yesterday morning running around the Premium Outlets looking for a bright red beanie to complete my Where's Wally? costume for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. How else would I want to spend my Friday morning? 

Now the very helpful lady in Icing sent me to Dress Barn, where an equally helpful lady sent me to Guess Accessories, where a very glamorous lady sent me to American Eagle, where a lad far too cool for his own good sent me to Oakley, where a very good looking man sent me to Hurley. 

Which is how I ended up walking into Hurley trying desperately not to look in any way intimidated by the five bored-looking Backstreet-Boy-Clones standing at the entrance ready to greet anyone that was willing to step into their empty store. The second the 'hello' was out of my mouth all five of them wanted to hear my life story. Where was I from? Why was I in Orlando? Did I like it? How long would I stay? What did I miss about London? Did I go the the Royal Wedding? Could I say Harry Potter for them? The usual excited questions. 

Having answered all of these I continued my search for a red hat before making my peace with the fact that I had reached yet another dead end. As I was walking toward the exit Backstreet-Boy-Clone-Number-One approached me. 

'Can I ask you an awkward question?' 

I'm not a particularly awkward person. And as an English girl living in Orlando I'm used to weird questions. 

He asked me to record his voice mail message so that any callers would be greeted with my beautiful dulcet tones. (He didn't use those words. I did. Is that weird?) 

After a couple of practices I happily obliged and by the time I had spent far too long speaking to him (I was, after all, on a very important mission), we had planned our beach wedding and Bahamas honeymoon so that I could get a green card and work in entertainment for Disney for the rest of my life. Wonderful. 

He wants me to go back again this Friday. 

3. A few months ago Aladdin came bouncing in explaining that he had met a beautiful family at work that day who he had talked to for so long that they had ended up swapping contact details. They had then visited him at work a few more times on their trip and had been sad to leave him at the end of the week. 

They kept the communication between them going for quite a few weeks before he had an email to say that the parents were returning for their anniversary and they would love to see him and meet me while they were here. 

Which is how, on Saturday 27th July, Aladdin and I ended up playing grown ups for a night and going on a double date to one of the best (in my opinion) restaurants in the whole of Walt Disney World. We spent the whole evening chatting and laughing, and went from the restaurant to their hotel where we were treated to a breathtaking view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. The whole evening was magical and memorable and one that I will treasure when I leave America next year. 

I then met again with one half of the couple for a quick catch up and a photo at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween party yesterday, and plan to let them know when I am visiting New York. 

4. This is the last time I mention Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Promise. Somehow last night I ended up watching the parade on my own (which didn't make it any less magical I can assure you- who knew Halloween could be the most magical time of year?!), and as I was leaving was kicked by the man behind me. He apologised immediately and explained that he had been pretending he was in the parade. Cue a ten minute conversation comparing Parades-Over-The-Years and Halloween-vs-Christmas. 

5. Tonight I was waiting for the bus home from Downtown Disney for approximately a year and a half when I decided to give in and ask the girl next to me whether she knew what time it was due. She didn't. But she did go on to tell me her life story and ask me about mine. We covered all the important topics and more and when the bus finally decided to reveal itself we had both forgotten how long we had been waiting. 

6. As I stepped onto the bus the boy behind me asked whether I had been to the cinema tonight. As soon as I told him that yes, I had, he- naturally- caught onto the accent and began to ask me all the usual questions about my life here. He then told me about himself as I positioned myself across from both the girl and the boy that I had been talking to, in an attempt to make it clear that I am not The Bus Weirdo Who Talks To Everyone. Neither, I would like to point out, were either of them. 

6. Having sat in a reasonable position- close enough to both that I could talk to them and far away enough that I could save my reputation, the lad next to me- the only other person on the bus- also commented on my accent and proceeded to ask me about an embarrassing number of London-based places/events/groups that I had never heard of. 

It probably doesn't sound like a huge deal when I write it like this but actually, for four complete strangers to be sat on a bus together and all speak as though we had known each other for years was nothing short of a miracle. It was wonderful- we've all been on the bus with the weird boy with bad breath and a mole that we can't stop staring at, who wants to be best buddies and meet up again tomorrow- but none of us were that person today. (Unless it was me? It definitely wasn't. I am doubting myself now though.) 

When the first two left the bus at their stop another girl got on and immediately began chatting to me. Again, not in a weird way but just a friendly, let's-make-this-dreaded-bus-journey-go-quicker way. 

It was at this point that I realised. Usually when I'm asked the 'But how did you get into that situation?' question, I shrug and mutter something about having no idea at all while I secretly think that it happens to everyone really, it could be anyone telling that story and the reaction would be the same. 

But today I'm fairly sure I realised exactly what it is that gets me into these situations, and why they have been more frequent than usual lately. 

As anyone that knows me will tell you (except my grandparents because they are duty-bound to believe that I am an undiscovered genius), I am terrible with technology. I can't use my laptop the way I should probably be able to, I fight with our techno-crazy payment systems at work every single day, and I absolutely do not know how to use my phone. 

Until around a month ago when I was forced into joining the 21st century by an exasperated friend, I had always used the equivalent of a Nokia 3210. Apart from the one month before I came to America in which my mum attempted to get me to use a touch-screen phone which ended in everyone I know receiving ridiculously long voice mails from me saying 'Hey it's Rebecca, I have a new phone and I don't know how to hang up so I'm just going to be on here until it cuts out. Sorry about that.' 

So far, this attempt is far more successful than my previous attempts, and, as much as I swear about it, I think this phone was a good stepping stone for me because it is fairly straightforward to use. 

Don't tell anyone I said that though. 

Now the main reason that I'm not very good with phones is that I have never had a chance to have a posh phone before. I couldn't justify spending money on a fancy phone when I was at university, and ever since then I've lived abroad on a foreign pay-as-you-go plan using the most basic phone that will accept the sim card. (Because- and this is another argument for you- old-style phones tend to accept any sim card, whereas these posh ones seem to want posh plans to go with them.) 

But I do have a second, secret reason, which my hero Miranda recently used as a reason to put technology into Room 101. 

I don't want to become one of those people. No offence. 

You probably are one of those people. Most people are. 

You know the people who have to take photos of everything? The people who go to a concert/parade/fireworks show and watch it through the camera on their phone? The people who post pictures of their dinner on Facebook. The people who spend £60.00 on a concert ticket then the entire time tweeting about how amazing it is. The people who text, whatsapp, tweet, post and snapchat when you're apart then spend the time that they're actually in your presence texting, whatsapping, tweeting, posting and snapchatting other people? 

It drives me crazy. I have to watch concerts/parades/fireworks shows through other peoples' phones because they're all I can see when I look toward the stage. I have to have half conversations with people while they're speaking to everyone else they know on their phone. 

But not only does it annoy me for me, but it annoys me for them. 

They're missing out. 

Did you know that J.K. Rowling came up with the idea for Harry Potter when she was on a train? Her mind began to wander and she started to imagine a magical place that her train could be going...

I wonder would her mind have wandered there had she been busy taking pictures of the innocent sleeping person opposite her and posting them online? 

I wonder would I ever have caught the eye of the lad in Magic Kingdom if my eyes had been fixed to my phone? Would the staff in Guess and Hurley have even bothered trying to talk to me if I had my ipod blaring and my phone in my face? Would Aladdin have made such a fuss of the wonderful family he met if the children had been glued to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on their ipad instead of being interested in the animals that he works with? Would any of the people on my bus tonight have made any effort to speak to me if I had my eyes down and music on? 

Probably not. 

I assure you I am not preaching in any way here- the only reason I didn't have my ipod on was because I lent my headphones to Merida last week and haven't had them back yet (not that I'm hinting or anything Merida), and one of the reasons I've been particularly separated from my phone recently is that I don't know quite how to use it properly (and also it runs out of battery so quickly- another point for Nokias), which is perhaps why I have found 'these situations' occurring so much more recently. 

Having said that, I have found that since I got my posh phone I have already got worse. I am determined not to turn into one of Those People but I have found myself checking Facebook when I really don't need to. And so much concentration is needed to text that when my phone does have battery I definitely do not offer eye contact to anyone. In fact I have walked right into a few unimpressed people...

The ultimate wake-up-call for me came when I found myself taking a picture of my Starbucks cup. Starbucks looks the same everywhere- why would anyone ever want to see a picture of my cup? 

Now I do understand that they are amazing for a lot of reasons too. I can take pictures of useful things now- like...well I'm not sure whether a picture of me meeting Mary Poppins is actually useful but at least it's a photo worth taking. One that I wouldn't have had before my posh phone. (Because I also don't have a camera.) It is useful to be able to get on Facebook when I'm out of the house sometimes so that I can be in contact with home or people who don't have any kind of phone at all here (ahem, you again Merida). 

But I feel like I need to strike a happy medium. 

As I mentioned earlier, my hero Miranda put technology into Room 101 for this exact reason, and she also started a campaign in her autobiography to get people communicating in and enjoying the real world again. 

So this is it. I am carrying out an intervention for myself before I become one of those people. I will enjoy technology and all its wonders- but I will also continue to enjoy the bare necessities- to look out of the window when I'm on public transport, to look at my surroundings when I'm walking (for safety apart from anything else), to make eye contact, speak to real people and make random friends in random places....and if I stick to all of those things, continue to find myself in 'these situations' and allow my imagination to run riot, maybe I'll be the new J.K......

Here's hoping :) 

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