I could see signs of the frustration that visitors who came to the park in years past might have experienced. To enter every attraction, I first had to traverse a set of switchbacks usually packed with families putting in their hours before being ushered into a mine car, jolly boat, or spaceship and sent off on their adventure. To walk past the haggard ghosts of these families felt like cheating—which is to say it felt like a magnificent relief, almost enough to make me forget that the cost of this convenience might be a permanent loss of some lung capacity.
Disney has, in case the crowds return, marked queues with floor tape, to remind you where to stop to avoid impinging on the space of your fellow guests. But I rarely encountered a serious line. To go on Splash Mountain, one of the more popular rides in the Kingdom, I waited exactly eight minutes before I was loaded into a hollowed-out log and sent downstream.
One irony is that, in pre-pandemic times, you had to wait in line outside in the heat and breathe with relief upon entering a cool, dark building (a dungeon for Pirates of the Caribbean, a Gold Rush mining house for Big Thunder Mountain), where you boarded the ride. Now the outdoors feels safe, and when you get indoors you start wondering whether the air is circulating fast enough for you to inhale safely. On some rides, like Epcot’s Mission: SPACE, announcements dating from before the pandemic warn you that you should skip the ride if you dislike “enclosed dark space.” Now the fear of enclosed spaces applies to all sane people, not just claustrophobes. Epcot also warns that the ride can induce vomiting. As it whirred into motion, I considered what it might be like to puke up $11 worth of corn dog into a mask strapped to my face, and I thought: At least I didn’t have to wait in line for this.