I try very hard to be an open, tolerant person. I have no quarrel with those who don't seek to do me or my family harm, be they scary gay people, or folks with different ethnic backgrounds from my own, or the one percent. I think most of this blog's readership skews the same way. So it is with no small amount of chagrin that I come before you this beautiful autumn day to confess a very specific failure. I may, sadly, be racist. Or at least religionist.
My family spent an absolutely fabulous five days in the Mouse's embrace last week, returning home from Disney last night exhausted but completely thrilled with the experience. We visited all of the major Disney parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios) in addition to Universal Islands of Adventure. We rode everything time permitted, my daughters reveling in the fastest coasters and most bone-rattling simulations. (Unlike, it seems, Sentence of Dave.)
Our final evening in Orlando found us in Hollywood Studios, in line for Tower of Terror. Ironically named, as it turns out. As the four of us stood in the final queue to enter the faux elevator car that comprises the ride, the attendant called out to the crowd for a single rider to fill the last open spot in our number. The crowd moved aside to let a lone rider join us.
He was in his mid-to-late twenties, dressed in a loose-fitting t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. Nothing about him was out of the ordinary, except for the heavy, full beard that marked him as Muslim. As much as I resisted the urge, my first thoughts went exactly to that place. I smiled at him to no real response.
We boarded the car and I tried to push the fear from my mind and attend to my kids. He sat in the seat directly across the aisle from mine in the front row of the car. I casually scanned him for signs of agitation; was I ready to jump on him Underwear Bomber-style if it came to that? Would I throw myself on my kids to protect them?
As the ride commenced, I focused on the tableau in front of me, and as we prepared for the ten-story plunge that constitutes the ride's 'terror', I was enjoying myself. I even looked over at him with a smile on my face to see if he was having fun. And to make sure he wasn't pulling any funny stuff.
Needless to say, nothing happened. The only damage done on the ride was to my sense of self-worth. As we walked out of the ride into the vestibule where riders view pictures of themselves, one of the images stood out. 17 of the 18 riders in the car looked straight ahead with a combination of joy and thrilled horror. One rider looked left at the guy in the seat next to his.
At least I was smiling.
I'd like to apologize to that dude, so I hope he's a reader. By extension, I'd like to apologize to all of our Islamic friends. I've got some work to do on the shit we don't like to talk about at cocktail parties.