Due to my recent trip to sunny Orlando, Florida for a business conference at the House of the Mouse.
Because the drive would have been about 9 hours, I broke one of my own rules and flew a commercial airline to Orlando. My choice was Southwest, based on a number of things, ranging from price to the availability of a non-stop flight at a reasonable hour at an airport relatively close to my home. The fact they fly larger planes and have a really good reputation didn't hurt their chances at getting my business, either.
I was really prepared to have a crappy trip, based on all the horror stories I've read, followed by a miserable time at a conference a long way from home with a bunch of people I didn't know and probably wouldn't like. I was wrong on both counts. The trip was pretty much painless--even the TSA personnel at the airports were pretty much polite and efficient without being overbearing or humorless. Southwest lived up to it's billing as a great travel value, and in Orlando, Dollar Rent-A-Car had my car, a Chrysler Sebring convertible, ready and waiting to take me to Disney World.
And yes, the top was down and the radio up. You think I'd have it any other way?
I was really wrong about the conference. Not only was it full of the information I needed (a rare occurrence at conferences from my experience), but we had plenty of time for getting to know each other and having some fun. I'm happy to report that I met some very bright and interesting folks, and maybe even started a new friendship or two.
I'm not going to go into the conference material, mostly because it's high computer geekery, and probably boring to most of you. I'd like to focus on the fun parts.
This was my first time visiting Disney World. If you've never been, let me tell you you've missed experiencing some world-class customer service and an incredibly well done tourist destination. Everything is exceptionally clean and well maintained, while the people are so intent on going that extra step that it takes to give great customer service that you have to wonder where they find them all. I'm not all that easily impressed with the service I receive most times, but I was very impressed this time.
I had planned on attending this conference before my Mom's recent illness, and I really wasn't very interested in going, all things considered. However, things on the home front went well in my absence, and I was lucky enough to get dragged into a considerable amount of after hours fun. For this, I owe Fran, Bryce and especially Melissa a debt of gratitude.
The conference planners also deserve a big "Thank You" as well, as they set up a number of events to keep us occupied and out of our hotel rooms as much as possible. Smart thinking.
Sunday, it was desert and drinks and a time to meet people before the evening fireworks at Epcot. It's hard to be too bummed at a fireworks display.
Monday evening was a trip to Pleasure Island, where we had the exclusive use of the Adventurer's Club for 2 1/2 hours, along with the complete attention of the entertainment staff (and an open bar to boot). If you go to Disney, let me warn you--the entertainment is participatory. But if you have the right attitude, you're going to have fun--the Disney staff will see to it.
After the Adventurer's Club, we were given armbands good for admission to all the nightclubs on the island. I wound up at 8 Traxx, which is a 70s and 80s music disco sort of place. I really didn't intend to; I had figured on doing a little shopping for Mrs. Freeholder and the kids then heading back to my room, but I was "drafted" by Melissa, who it turns out works at an place relatively near me, and who, after having seen my name and employer on the attendee list, had been looking for me. This is where I also met Fran, Bryce, and a lot of other conference folks. It seems we're all of a certain age....
We all had a great time, Melissa especially. The lady likes to dance, and she isn't shy about dragging guys to the dance floor. After my second round of dancing with her, I asked her if she was like this all the time. "Sure am!" she replied. I told her I felt sorry for her husband, who must be in a state of perpetual exhaustion just trying to keep up with her. She seemed to find that quite humorous.
Even though that was fun, it was more fun watching the women who came into the club. I'm convinced that the Disney researchers have found the Fountain of Youth that Ponce de Leon missed. Most of them were in their 30s or 40s, but within 5 minutes of entering, they had shed 20 years and acted like they were 20 again. It was an amazing transformation, and I had to smile watching them--it was that much fun to see. I was reminded of the Heinlein quote "there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart".
Apparently, a smiling and apparently unattached man, even when he's older and rounder than he was 20 years ago, was attractive that night. I didn't lack for dance partners, and didn't manage to crawl into bed until 1:30 AM.
Tuesday, several of us blew off the afternoon agenda and top down, headed to the Disney/MGM portion of the site. Another rollicking good time was had by all.
However, all good things must come to an end, and at the end of the conference I returned home to The Freehold and the family, and the yard which needed mowing and the gutters that needed cleaning.
I wonder where next year's conference will be?