Legoland, Windsor

'Guest services'

'Guest services'

It is better to be on the move than to arrive. Never has truer words been spoken than when applied to a theme park.

You invariably wait in a queue of people for one and a half hours, only to ‘arrive’ at a ride that will last approximately two minutes and will produce at best a sensation of disorientation, and at worst, nausea. Theme parks must be one of the most curious and perverse creations that has resulted from the human mind’s unnatural pursuit of profit. The fact that they make a profit at all is testament to the elasticity of the human consciousness in its ability to reconcile harmful ideas as good.

On entry, you are greeted by signs that refer to you as a ‘guest’ but guests are generally welcome visitors that are not expected to pay for any hospitality given. So in Legoland, where you are not ‘welcome’ if you do not have any money, you are not a guest, but a cash-cow that it intends to milk mercilessly until your teats are dry of any liquidity or succour. The complete one-sidedness of this arrangement is beautifully demonstrated by the penny franking machines all tourist attractions seem to have. These are machines that ask you for good money—a penny, which they will then destroy for you by franking their own advertising logo onto it. Not only do these machines destroy your good money, but in order to allow you to advertise their profit making enterprise to others on your ruined penny, they ask you to pay one pound. And some people agree to pay this! I felt like a sane man inhabiting an asylum.

Let me destroy your good money

Let me destroy your good money

It also has a class system in place. If you are rich, you can avoid queuing by buying a special pass. It was strange seeing the endless lines of humanity waiting for a ride, like so many desperate refugees waiting for transport away from their hell, and then see a privileged member of the elite walk straight to the front of the queue and usurp the seat that someone had been waiting hours for. There was something feudal in the act.

People waiting to be processed

People waiting to be processed

As the day progressed, I became aware that  all the parents I encountered seemed to be of a similar disposition as me, that is, bored, fed up and spent up. That means that fifty percent of Legoland’s visitors must be unsatisfied with the product. What other service or product could survive such an atrocious customer satisfaction survey?

My only explanation for theme parks existing is that parents have been inculcated with the idea that they have to sacrifice their lives for their children—if the children are happy, nothing else matters. But why can’t parents share their lives with their children? Why aren’t there theme parks that engage the adults as much as the children? And even if the their children’s happiness is paramount, any father knows that a lake of mud with a shower attached is all they need to be entertained.

Capturing a child's imagination.

Capturing a child's imagination.

As we strolled around mini-world, a land of miniature buildings and scenery all built out of lego, my son, in an unguarded moment, let slip that he considered this part of Legoland to be the best bit out of all the attractions. Maybe it has something to do with engaging a child’s imagination…

At the end of the day, my wife saw my distress and granted me leave of absence from doing any more theme park duty for the rest of my life. At least something good came out of it then.

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