By Ken Ripley
Where do you go to take a vacation from a vacation? After almost four months of enforced idleness and vastly limited options of what to do and where to go, that’s not all that odd a question with summer officially in full swing.
I’ve discovered that a big drawback of staying at home if you’ve been “furloughed” or some level of retired, when most or all of the meaningful work you do as a worker or even a community volunteer has been curtailed, is trying to figure out exactly why you need a vacation.
After almost 50 years of producing some kind of newspaper, ingrained in the rhythms of publishing cycles instead of natural seasons, it’s been a real adjustment to go from the ebb and flow — and sometimes heavy pressure — of meeting deadlines to sleeping late, leisurely scanning the news and deciding what to watch on television.
As a person of limited mobility and unsteady health, sports and outdoor activities are no longer an option even in the best of times. An unreliable energy level makes full- or part-time jobs a daunting challenge and older workers are less in demand than the younger candidates. So my days in good times were spent in a few doable volunteer activities I enjoyed, church ministries, lots of reading and watching, a few errands, eating out, going to movies and petting the dog and cats. Exciting.
And now, restaurants are just beginning to reopen a little bit, movie theaters are still closed, all the volunteer work and much church ministry is still on pause, the government and a healthy sense of self-protection keep me isolated from groups of people, the dog is avoiding me and the cats are bored with all the petting. And it’s not a lot of fun go to shopping in the stores that are open when you have to pay attention to whether the aisle you’re going down is the right direction and need to keep pushing your cloth mask back over your nose when it slips off.
So, I ask again, how do you take a summer vacation from not doing much in the first place?
And, perhaps more importantly, where you can you go? Almost all festivals, arts and group activities, except social justice protests and Trump’s virus-trap political rallies, have been canceled. Museums and other cultural attractions are either closed or sharply limited. The Mudcats and other summer sports are canceled. Amusement parks are closed.
Travel is a big risk; airplanes and trains are risky because of the virus and groups of people, and car travel is risky because of the shortage of open bathrooms. The cruise ships are either docked or floating around at sea like virus-bergs. And going to the beach is depressing and dangerous because of all the stupid people there who cram together like sardines waiting to be canned — nature’s version of voter suppression.
The irony of all this is that many of the businesses that are shut down or have reduced operations want their idled employees to go ahead and take their summer vacation. I realize it has a certain logic from the businesses’ point of view, but workers get the short end of the stick considering their lack of desirable options — and reliable finances — at the moment.
So, since Disney World isn’t opening yet after all, thanks to the surging pandemic cases in Florida and 30 other states, I’m going to imagine my own Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for my summer vacation. And my park will be free because it doesn’t cost anything to dream.
In my mind, the Magic Kingdom is also conveniently divided into sections of interest. The park’s Main Street is still lined with shops, but half of them have limited hours, the restaurants are take-out only and Netflix is running the movie theater. Stop by Fantasyland where you can ride Donald’s Emotional Roller Coaster and in the Fictional Forum, read every one of his speeches. The newest ride is the Monument Square Tug of War, which allows teams of players to pick which historical figure they want to topple.
In Frontierland you can enjoy climbing on the Mexican Border Wall or practice target shooting at the Native American Rifle Range, sponsored by the NRA. Adventureland features the Pirates of Wall Street boat ride where everyone gets soaked, and you can dine in-person and without masks in the gigantic Coronavirus Cafe. Liberty Square offers the Haunted House of Congress, carefully designed to be half comedy, half pure terror.
Best of all is Tomorrow Land where you can race mechanical horses at Reopening Race Track to see which parts of the country recover first; experience the 3-D ride Developing A Vaccine for COVID-19, hosted by an animated Dr. Anthony Fauci; or visit the Trump Tower of Terror, a scary journey through the president’s mind scheduled to be replaced in November by a genuine wishing well.
Well, I can dream. And if nothing else this summer, for a vacation I can always spend the day in a different room of my house and give the pets a break — if I can stand the excitement.
I wish your vacation, if you get one, all the best.
Ken Ripley, a Spring Hope resident, is The Enterprise’s editor and publisher emeritus.