I've recently enjoyed our 4th trip to Disneyland Paris in 4 years, and I've finally learned the art of looking the other direction to the main queue when we board a ride or approach a character to meet.
We usually wait a lot less, we often have cover, and we often have seats. And at least some of the time, the guests waiting in the main queue will witness it all.
I used to be drawn to seeing the other faces of the queue. But I no longer do. I used to feel bad, feel apologetic, feel guilty. Because usually, there will be a good handful of disgruntled folk, many of whom would have children who perhaps aren't adjusting well to the queuing nature of a theme park trip, or have been exposed in the sun a little while perhaps, and might be aggravated to see us 'queue jumpers' apparently swimming through effortlessly.
Even folks who might usually be very understanding find themselves searching us for mobility aids or other 'evidence' and when they don't find it, we can be treated to some impressive glares and grumbles, even if we're not close.
I was asked recently if i feel the need to wince, or limp more or 'play it up' a bit to substitute the lack of more obvious ails. If i feel eyes on me, sadly, I actually do. That's the truth. I feel the need to meet the needs of the piercing, searching eyes, to justify the assistance that the park gives me.
Isn't that sucky?
On top of the legitimate, crappy state of my body and brain for even attempting the holiday, I feel the need to 'act it' sometimes too? Ick.
But rarely any more. Now, I don't look, because the healthier emotion I can encounter at that moment is GRATITUDE. Here's why.
Day to day, in order to get by and be mum, wife, home keeper, home educator, dog lady, self carer, business owner and creative, I have to be immaculately careful with every step I take.
For example, I can't spend one whole Sunday morning showering, dog walking, light gardening then taking the bus to church, and expect to get home afterwards and cram in a couple of hours of work in the office and or at the table doing home ed experiments with Leo, or playing in the garden with Leo, to then make dinner.
That seems doable, right?
There's enough hours of the day to stretch to those activities, surely!
Nope. Not for us.
We can't measure in time, (and by we, I mean disabled folks who have similar conditions to myself.) We have to measure in strength and energy used.
I get a lot less done in a typical day, than a typical person would, because i have to be so careful. Resting in between, organising everything in my day in order to try to hold life together takes careful orchestration. It's critical to chugging through, and it's vital to my health. Otherwise, the sofa and i get to know each other reeeeal well for a few days, along with a whole host of assistance for improvement and recovery.
The same goes for while we're away.
Vacations are HARD for disabled folk in all variations of challenges, but speaking for myself, just because you see me walking up with a smile on my face and without a walking aid sometimes, there is a WHOLE FLIPPING PLAN to making it happen, and Disneyland Paris make vacations feasible for many folks, myself included.
They recognise how impossible it is to plan a trip to some parts of the world sometimes. Unpredictability can screw us over. We need to know that there will be as few challenges against our health as possible, and that we're close to some where with medical assistance if it all gets too much or we can't control a symptom without qualified attention.
We have the shuttles to the parks and hotels to eliminate some of the walking, and the train and stations within the parks to get from land to land.
The terrain is mostly flat or near flat. No up or downhill struggles to put more strain on our muscles and joints, and much easier for wheelchair users as you can imagine.
There are benches and points to perch yourself everywhere.
There are eateries and places to buy drinks everywhere, which is important for blood sugar, fluid intake, and food assisted meds.
They have some options for free from dining, it's not terrific, but it's there.
There are toilets at relatively close intervals. Incredibly important for many of us who have challenges specifically in those relevant regions.
There are medical centres in both parks which are well kept, well manned, well maintained and no questions asked.
They have a good system for all taking care of guests with all manner of health difficulties which means we don't have to explain everything to every castmember, as we can produce our blue badges, benefit papers, doctors notes or any other relevant documents at the City Hall and get a priority pass which explains anything a castmember will need to know in a single flash when we board a ride or queue for a show, which believe me, can be unpleasant to have to recount too frequently.
We're pretty well taken care of right? So why would be we need to be a 'priority' for boarding rides and accessing shows and parades?
Because even with all the above, we are going around contending with absolute agony, with our eyes on hundreds of symptoms which are threatening to bust out and make life even harder at all times, and honestly,
I wouldn't last one day in the park if I tried to queue.
Because if a symptom related to using the toilet suddenly threatens us, we have to sacrifice the ride to go and deal with it. This can be anything from caring for stomas, to muscle reactions, to cystitis or other infections which some of us can get simply with the hard hit of moving more in a differing temperature than we're used to.
Standing can make our joints ache more than you may even comprehend. Muscles can give way entirely if they're not actively moving or well supported while lying or seated.
Standing can also cause havoc with neural difficulties, orthostatic and tachycardic systems, causing vertigo, migraines, neuralgic skin and tissue pain, and processing difficulties to name a few.
We're sheltered and sometimes seated in those waiting environments, because they know what else we're contending with, and it's within their power to eliminate some of the trials.
And guess what, there are a ton of rides that aren't suitable for us, even some we can't ride just in case there's an emergency and we may not be able to evacuate safely. I could explore it further for guests who have all manner of health predicaments, but I think you get the picture.
So, when you see me coming up to a ride, waiting for 5 minutes out of the 20 you've been waiting, smiling with my son like I haven't a care in the world, please know, I am in agony throughout my body, I have a pill organiser that isn't even rattling because it's that crammed with medications, a backpack full of water and emergency remedies that I will almost certainly use at least one of each of at some point in my visit, that immediately after that ride, I have to recover and plot out what else i can push my abilities for for that day, and probably opt out of even being in the park for a good chunk of the day to make sure I can manage the rest of it. I'm smiling because I actually get a vacation where I feel safe and taken care of, and at a stretch, I can manage it.
I understand that queuing is a bummer.
The kids whine, your legs ache from standing, it's frustrating seeing the clock tick by while you feel like you're barely moving, but my dears, I hope it doesn't compromise your actual health and whole trip, as much as it could for some of us who hold the priority passes.
We don't think we're special and deserve to hop ahead of you. It's just the safest route for us, and we are unbelievably grateful to have the opportunity to even participate with our trialing load in tow.