Vacation 1984: The Epcot realization

Epcot opened at Disney World in October 1982 -- eight months after we visited on our first big vacation. I had taken a brochure about the new park on that trip and still possessed it two years later when we went back to Florida. I also had a bigger guidebook I'm guessing my dad ordered for free when getting info about or impending vacation. It was probably the part of the trip I was most looking forward to. The day after visiting the Magic Kingdom, we went to Epcot and it didn't disappoint.

I'm not sure what the park is like today with so much other stuff to do in Orlando, or if it seems dated the way Tomorrowland does at the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. In 1984, it seemed quite innovative. I remember a panoramic movie experience in which you stood in the middle of the theater, leaning against railings, and watched the film all around you.

There was an exhibit that had those needle features in which you pushed your hand underneath to see the needles create a three-dimensional image. I tried pushing just one needle up and ended up pricking my finger.

In the international area, we watched a street show with audience participation in which the performers asked for a young virgin. One of the troop picked out Jenny and got yelled at picking someone too young. He then picked out a senior, much to the laughter of the audience.

And on Spaceship Earth, the giant iconic globe that is a ride taking riders through the history and future of human development and communication, I had this unsettling epiphany that someday I was going to die. So much for the happiest place on Earth ...

Again, I was 13 and had kind of a rough, gloomy winter. There was about a two-year stretch when the Cold War was at its bleakest of any time of my life, and it just happened to coincide with hitting my teen years. So I guess I was kind of primed for this sort of anxiety at some point, the kind you feel and get over just by not thinking about it or realizing there's really nothing you can do, so why stress out? It just happened to occur on an Epcot ride.

The cars had stalled, actually, and we were stuck on the ride for a few minutes, which I wonder contributed to my brain taking this sharp turn (if we had kept going, would I have even gone there?). Maybe it was the knowledge that the people referenced in early human history were all gone -- and someday I would be too. Anyway, I don't remember much of the ride after that, only that I made an uneasy peace with myself by the end that it was how I lived my life, not the terminus. It was uneasy, to say the least -- I was still sort of in a daze when we went to Red Lobster for dinner afterward.

The anxiety aside, this might have been my favorite part of the trip. Looking back, I think my mom and sisters were bored -- after all, we left DisneyWorld to go to dinner. I kind of want to return to see what the park is like now, three decades later, and how it's reflected the technology and innovation that has emerged across the years. It might be a tall order -- even if we did go to Orlando, there's so much more the boys would want to do. And that's fine, because they should look forward to their own vacation memories. I drag them to enough of mine as it is.


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