Times Square is generally regarded as the “Crossroads of the World,” but the same could be said about Disney World. Over the years, I have bumped into neighbors, former neighbors, cousins, friends, and people I knew but couldn’t quite place. When you travel 1,500 miles to a place as vast as Disney World, you simply do not expect to see anyone you know.
One of the strangest encounters, or series of encounters, occurred during a week-long visit back in April of 2007. The beginning of the National Hockey League playoffs coincided with one of our non-park days, and, as Buffalo Sabres fans, we headed to the ESPN Zone at the Boardwalk to catch the Sabres’ first playoff game against the New York Islanders.
Getting to the restaurant half an hour before game time, we hovered around the perimeter of the dining room, sharking for an available table. I expected we would be the only Sabres’ fans among many loud Islander supporters. I was wrong.
Game time neared, and hockey fans began trickling in. As they did, we realized that most were Sabres’ fans and that we knew many of them. There were several guys from my golf club and their families, including people who were not even vacationing at Disney. Since hockey on Florida television is as rare as an Adventureland cast member in Tomorrowland, they had come to the ESPN Zone figuring that was the best chance to see the game. My daughters saw friends from their schools who were spending part of their Easter vacation at Disney. That night, the Boardwalk had become “Buffalo South.”
Two days later, we toured EPCOT in the evening. We had just finished an early dinner at Restaurant Marrakesh and were on the way to American Adventure when I glanced up and realized I was about to walk into my former next door neighbor, Joe, who had moved from Buffalo down to Wellington, Florida several years before. Joe and his family had come up to Disney to spend the weekend.
The irony is that Joe and his wife Kelly were largely responsible for us becoming DVC members.
Joe and I first became friends because of our shared love of golf. When we lived next to each other in our suburban Buffalo neighborhood, we played countless rounds together. After Joe moved to Wellington I began making yearly visits to escape the long Buffalo winter for a few days of golf. It was during the first of these visits that we realized each of us were Neurotic Disney Dads (back then, we just called ourselves Disney Geeks). Somehow, we had never before discussed our shared passion.
Joe and Kelly talked about how becoming Florida residents had fueled their passion for Disney. As Florida residents, they were able to spend many long weekends at Disney World. They freely admitted that one of their first purchases as Floridians were Resident Annual Passes. It was not long before they became DVC members, as well. Over the course of several visits, Joe and Kelly convinced me that my family too should become DVC members.
Our frequent trips to Disney World screamed for DVC membership. Joe, an accountant by trade, explained how I was throwing away money paying peak resort rates year after year and told me that I would recoup my initial DVC investment in just a few years. Kelly, the nurturer, appealed to my emotional side and described how DVC ownership would provide a way to continue the tradition of Disney vacations with my grown children and, someday, grandchildren. I was sold!
That evening at EPCOT, Joe was on his way to the ESPN Zone to watch Game 2 of the Sabres-Islander series, and he suggested I join him. My wife and daughters, sensing an opportunity to tour EPCOT for a few hours without my neurotic Disney touring self, encouraged me to go.
That vacation’s odd convergence of Buffalo and Disney somehow reaffirmed that at Disney, I truly am “home.”
Contributed by: John Marchese (NDD#172) John is the DDL Media Relations Blogger.