Today we had a very interesting day at one of the local theme parks here in Orlando, FL.
We have had FL resident passes to this park for the last 12 years that we have lived here in central FL. We’ve been on all the rides and have seen all the shows, but it can still usually be a relaxing way to spend a day on the weekend…. ‘usually’ is the key word here.
For the last month, they have been having their special spring programs oriented around gardening. They have doing this every year for quite a few years now. As part of the celebration, they have several groups and individuals from the 60’s and 70’s perform some of their hits. They also have guest speakers on gardening and related topics. So since we have ridden all the rides and seen all of the other things to see, we often go for just these special events, which is what we did today.
The one presentation we attended was conducted by Gary Alan. Gary had a show on HGTV a few years back on landscape designing. We thought it would be interesting and it was. (Thank you Gary). But one of the things that Gary did was to show his little trick of how to step on the blade of a shovel to cause the handle to rise and then catch the handle. (This saves stooping down to pick it up.) He asked for volunteers from the audience to try it, so my wife Sue did.
After a few tries, she got it, so Gary said she could keep the shovel and he signed the blade with a marker. Then he invited others from the audience to try it, and they too got to keep their shovels. In all, he gave out about 10 shovels.
At first, we thought it was kind of weird to have to carry a shovel around the park. Let me first say that we never swung the shovel, raised it to hit someone over the head, or did anything intimidating with it. In fact, I took care to ensure that the shovel blade stayed close to the ground as I carried it by my side. I also made sure that the blade stayed parallel to my leg so that it would not hit anyone we passed. In any case, it was still awkard to carry around. As we walked over to the other side of the park to listen to the concert, several people we passed remarked about our shovels. We got a bit tired of explaining so we started telling them things like:
‘Yeah, it was a long shift.’
‘There are 9 other shovels in the park. Can you find them?’
‘Yeah, they told us that if we wanted a good seat at the concert, we would have to clean up the trash afterward.’
Anyway, while we were standing in line waiting for the concert seating area to open, we were surrounded by not one, but three of the park security guards and a senior manager who wanted to know how we got a shovel past the security people at the gates. We tried to explain to them that we had won it at a seminar, but two of them continued to argue that security was not told about anything like that so we must have somehow gotten the shovel into the park.
They were treating us like criminals or worse, terrorists who managed to bring a deadly shovel into their park with the intent of using it to harm something. (It was never clear whether that something was other people or just their plants.)
In any case, other people started to gather around to listen to the three stoogies interrogate us about how we managed to be sitting there in line waiting with a shovel. Now please understand, this is not a small hand shovel. It is a large flat blade shovel with a 5ft handle.
By this point, I had about enough of it and started asking these guards who obviously were oblivious to what events were going on in the park that if I or anyone else could sneak a 5ft shovel through the security at their front gates that their security was a laughing matter that probably wouldn’t notice someone driving an Abrams tank through the gates or maybe even a missile launcher. I also suggested that if they thought we could walk past their fellow security officers at the gate with a shovel, that they did not think much of them and perhaps I should tell those security guards on the way out what their ‘friends’ on the other side of the park thought they were blind and stupid.
Ok, before some of you say something like, ‘How could you make fun of them. Security is an important thing especially after 9/11.’ To that I say, ‘Yes it is, but these guards were making fools of themselves as everyone in line around us attested to.’ They insisted that they take the shovel to security and that I would have to stop by the security office after we left the park to retrieve it. However, they refused to give us a receipt for it.
(Note: When asked, they said that they did not believe that an umbrella could be used as a weapon or that a person could use a set of keys as a weapon, or that a CD snapped in half could be deadly. But this shovel was apparently the next weapon of choice for the future terrorist. They also said that they did not see any other shovels in the park, and this was about 2 hours after the seminar was over. Therefore, we obviously had to be lying.)
After the concert, when we exited the park, we first stopped one of the local county sheriffs and told him about our problem. He was amused. He said it was not the first time that the park police over-reacted. He directed us to the park police and we were able to retrieve our shovel. We then insisted in talking to someone higher. At that point we were able to talk to a person in management of the park operations and told him how the park police over-reacted and made us look and feel like criminals. We also mentioned how they did not even know about what events were occurring in the park and how they failed to ‘notice’ any of the other shovels. I guess the other 9 people were a lot better at hiding a 5 foot shovel under their shirts.
Furthermore, we suggested that if security had such a shovel up their pants about this incident, that maybe they should have done something ahead of time instead of intimidating the guests that won. At the seminar it was other park employees who helped pass out the shovels. At least one higher level manager was there to present the speaker with an small plaque. So to say that the park was ‘unaware’ of what the speaker did was a lie. Perhaps the park staff could have offered from the very beginning that anyone who won a shovel, that they could pick it up at customer service as they left rather than making us carry it around all day. The fact is they did not choose the most simple and obvious solution.
I guess it is another case of a little power and a uniform going to someone’s head. But it is not over yet. I will be contacting the presenter who thought this would a great give-away (and it was!), the nation-wide home and garden store who gratiously provided the shovels (thank you), the park officials who need to keep all departments in the loop on all events (not our problem), and maybe the vice president of the company that runs the park because the guest is always right. Finally, it might also be an interesting article for the local newspaper.