Every August our family, along with the family of my good friend Jodi, makes a pilgrimage to San Diego where we sit by a pool for four days and then, on the fifth, get up off our lazy asses and spend some QT at one of the local parks. Last year was Sea World, and the year before was the San Diego Zoo. On the agenda for 2007: Legoland. Now, the idea of a crowded theme park in the heat of August with two kids does not hold much appeal for me in general, but a) it’s tradition at this point and b) poor Jodi is eight months pregnant with her third child, and since she wasn’t complaining about it, I certainly couldn’t, either.
But at breakfast on Day 4, we ran into someone we knew, and it turned out that she had just been to Legoland the day before. And, she whispered, Legoland has a fast pass. It’s expensive, she explained, but you don’t have to wait in any lines. At all. In fact, her family had used it and they got through the whole park in less than two hours. We were intrigued. No lines? Two hours? We took a quick vote. The fast pass won, four to nothing.
When we arrived at the Mecca of Lego, we discovered that the fast pass, or the Premium Pass, as they call it, was not advertised, nor was it for sale at the regular ticket booths. Apparently, you had to know about it in order to get it. When we inquired, we were sent to a special customer service line where, in exchange for double the price of admission, we each received a red wristband and some vague instructions to stand by the exits of the rides.
Thus armed with our red badges of elitism, we pushed our double strollers to the Lego Safari. The line snaked around seven or eight times, but we walked right past it to the empty area by the gate marked “Exit.” I was expecting to see a separate, shorter line marked Premium Pass or Red Wristbands Only, but there was nothing like that, and so we just stood there, wondering how this would work. But suddenly, the ride guy appeared out of nowhere. How many? he asked us. We told him we were eight. As four cars stopped in front of us and their passengers disembarked, he ushered us in through the exit door and motioned for us to get in the now empty cars. Three feet to my right were the people who were first in line, watching us step into the cars that were rightfully theirs. I didn’t dare look at them, but I could sense their anger and confusion about what had just happened. After all, nobody seemed to know about the red wristbands but us. I felt like the biggest jerk in the universe.
The next ride was even worse. 90 Minute Wait From this Point, read the sign for the Sky Coaster. As we walked up the long exit ramp parallel to the line, people who were leaving kept telling us that we were going the wrong way. But we just smiled and ignored them, trying not to make eye contact with any of the people in line who so very clearly wanted to know what the hell we thought we were doing. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Harper finally figured out that something was rotten in the state of Lego. “Mommy,” she said to me, in the “duh,” tone of voice that she usually reserves for those times when her sense of direction is better than mine. “You’re so silly. The line is over there. We’re going the wrong way.”
Oh, God, I thought to myself. How am I going to explain this to her? Actually, honey, we don’t have to wait in line because mommy and daddy paid for the privilege to cut? What kind of a lesson is that? What kind of a mother am I? How did I not realize that this was a bad idea before? Thinking fast, I blamed it on Jodi. “You know what, Harper?” I said. “We don’t have to wait in line because Jodi is pregnant, and when you’re really pregnant it’s hard to stand in one place for very long, so everybody just lets you go first.” Never mind that I wrote an entire novel on the premise that nobody ever does anything for you when you’re pregnant. Never mind that I was totally lying to her in order to cover up the fact that our red wristbands went against everything I’ve ever tried to teach her about fairness and equality. Honestly, the customer service lady might as well have given me a scarlet A to wear to on my chest: A for Asshole. A for Actually the Worst Parent Ever.
Harper cocked her head and stared at me for a second, and I could see the wheels in her head spinning as she tried to determine whether she would be able to use this exception to the everybody-has-to-wait-their-turn rule on the playground. It was a very long second. In fact, I’d had no idea that so many of a person’s principles as a parent could be completely compromised in such a short amount of time.
“Wow,” Harper finally said. “When I’m pregnant, I’m going to Disneyland!” Yes, I thought to myself. And I’m sure you’ll be sixteen and have a criminal record, and I’ll have no one to blame but myself.