The Writers' Room
Why I Allow Mickey Mouse to Rob Me Blind

Elizabeth Grunewald | 31 Jan 2011 19:55
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The pen I used to take notes for this piece is largely unremarkable. It's ballpoint and retractable, and the clicking mechanism is sort of nifty, but that's about it. So why on earth did I pay $5.95 for the thing?

It has a tiny Stitch on top. Oh, and I bought it in Walt Disney World yesterday.

We all have instilled in us some understanding of monetary value. Whether your parents taught you what things should reasonably cost, or you learned the hard way -- overpaying for everything until the concept of "worth" clicks -- at some point, you figure out that some things just aren't worth their price tag. Generally, I find most things not worth their price tags. I'm not a miser or anything, I'm just particular on what I spend my hard-earned Not Gaming monies.

Those financial proclivities dissolve the moment I spy that big "Walt Disney World" gate stretching over I-4 west, along with any control over my tear ducts and all claims to responsibility. I think everyone has such a blind spot, something where we're so emotionally invested that we're willing to ignore all our hard-earned budgeting know-how and spend, spend, spend. That doesn't mean we always do, but the temptation is strong.

I've just returned from my seventh trip to WDW, so this wasn't my first time at the rodeo; I know what I'm doing. I always try to plan the most fiscally responsible trip possible, avoiding visits during the busiest times of year, when prices are high; I look for deals and discount codes on resort hotels. The planning is all done with a budget in mind, but once I hit Orlando, my fiscal integrity is compromised. So I squeeze my eyes shut tight and hand over my wallet, trusting that it won't be entirely empty when they hand it back to me. They have to leave me a little, at least -- otherwise, I won't be able to come back and do it all over again sometime between 2012 and 2014. Forget why the blind spot for a minute; why do I need to go back?

The only thing I can say is that it's my happy place. On this most recent trip, I only cried five times, which is a record for me. I can't help it; being at WDW reminds me of everything good and happy in the world. You'd think it would be much easier for me, as an adult, to focus on the blatant commercialism, the aggressive marketing, the obnoxious parents and screaming children and price gouging. I've tried to notice those things, but all I can seem to muster up is a small sense of indignation when people are rude, wedging strollers or electric scooters in the way of others. When I go on vacation to WDW, my inner cynic goes on vacation somewhere far away, with no internet connectivity and spotty cell phone service.

This is probably why I don't notice that most of it isn't, on the surface, "worth it." I could have taken my six dollars elsewhere and gotten a couple pens of better quality. Our breakfast yesterday was pretty good, but was certainly not worth the over $20 per person we paid for it. If I were going to spend that much on breakfast, I could have taken my money somewhere considerably fancier. If I ignore the Disney connection, the cost-to-value ratio of the whole vacation was pretty skewed, and my traveling companion and I were taken for chumps.

So I'm a chump. The pen makes me smile every time I pick it up, and only at Disney can I have Mickey waffles while Mary Poppins, the Mad Hatter, Alice, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh weave through the room. Disney definitely alters my personal definition of "worth it," and I'm well aware of it. I also wouldn't have it any other way.

It certainly wouldn't be "worth it," to others, and I can understand that. I suspect that I'm not the only one who has such an indulgence. Do you have anything that so rocks your financial stability? Do you give in to its siren song, or do you clap your hands over your ears, secure in the knowledge that you're holding to your principles?

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categories: fantasy