I visited Florida over the festive season and spent two days in the theme parks of Orlando.Orlandois a town dedicated to the fun industry. It’s a serious business and only a fool would ignore all the invitations to contribute to its well being so I obligingly donated the contents of my purse to Universal Studios and Sea World. Bright sunshine and warm temperatures helped significantly in making the outlay. I wouldn’t say I was determined to have fun but I didn’t want any trouble with the fun police so I set my body to “hot diggety dawg!” mode and hit the pedal. I ate the hot dog and bought the T shirt. I didn’t accept the challenge of a one hour queue for a spine jerking ride on a roller coaster or a 2 hour queue for magic at Hogworts but I did delegate queuing for butter beer to my partner. Talent was abundant; the décor exuberant and favorite childhood stories entertained my imagination all day. I did my best but after 8 hours of solid fun I felt depressed. I took a pain killer, slept for another 8 hours and braced myself for more excruciating fun at Sea World. But…….And…..I fell under the enchantment of dolphins, sharks, whales, seals, cats and dogs. I was wonder struck by the beauty of their choreographed performances. I laughed at their antics, admired their trainers, sauntered along an underwater alleyway of fish and watched performing street clowns. Fun bombarded me from all sides. I crawled into bed at the end of the day overwhelmed by the cost of having so much fun.
What a relief to get back to France where no one exhorts anyone to have fun. Poking fun might be a national sport but having fun is not part of the national burden. Fun is a freely available and spontaneous event in France. I got back from the States about the same time as a massive cruise ship was sinking off the coast of Italy. More than a dozen lives were lost in a disaster that challenged the imagination with its stupidity. In the midst of the drama, I went to see a film on the Champs Elysees. A full house erupted into spontaneous applause and gales of laughter when an advertisement inviting people to buy a luxury cruise on the Mediterranean flashed across the screen.
Bad timing, bad taste but an impeccable sense of the ridiculous!
Not so long ago I was travelling south on the world’s fastest train when it stopped, albeit, in the middle of a magnificent Burgundy landscape. An apologetic voice announced that there was a horse on the track and everything possible was being done to remove it. I instantly found myself connected to a carriage full of natural comedians. The client I kept waiting for over an hour has since adopted the phrase “horse on track” to euphemize any impediment to a desired outcome. So much fun and all for free.
With a presidential election only three months away in France, the fun has really begun. There’s at least one show a night broadcast live across the nation, featuring trained seals, spectacular aquatics and a few street clowns. The antics are really fun to watch and if there weren’t so many damn horses on the track – to mix my metaphors – we’d be rolling in the aisles. 48 hours of prescribed fun in Orlando was exhausting enough but 3 months of non-stop political entertainment should guarantee that voters will be worn out by the time they go to the polls for the first round of voting in April. Whoever wears the T shirt with Mr. President on the front in May will more likely have pain killers as a part of his mandate rather than fun.
Joking aside, it has occurred to me that we may have had too much fun for too long without it costing very much and that maybe the show is over. I belong to a generation that has lived at such a level of material comfort that it is sensitive to privilege and immune to misfortune. Change may be something it wouldn’t willingly vote for. The very nice thing about a theme park is that you can go home at the end of the day remembering only the dolphins. They don’t allow horses on to the tracks in Orlando.
And are you having fun yet?
Make the most of February