“How was your trip to Cancun?”
“Great, look at this key chain I got there!”
The gift shop, how do we know we’ve had fun if we don’t get to buy something plastic and gaudy? I’m not saying Asian made crap isn’t fun, it’s just that we are so conditioned to be attached to “stuff” that we sometimes feel compelled to buy trinkets to validate our experience. That walk in Florence doesn’t really count unless we buy the David tee shirt, the stroll through the redwoods simply must be commemorated with a recycled yoga mat koozie or we just can’t prove we were there. Memories are nice, but let’s make sure we don’t forget!
In 1966 my Dad and Mom took us from Rhode Island down to the New York World’s Fair. A trip I remember to this day. So, as a Disney annual pass holder (I live outside Orlando, literally an orange grove away from the Magic Kingdom) I frequently take a ride on the Disney Carousel of Progress, one of the original World Fair rides that still operates here in the future. Disney, testing interest in their product in the East, had several exhibits at the World’s Fair, It’s a Small World among them, which is also in the Magic Kingdom (although the original is in California.)
The Carousel of Progress is more a museum piece than a ride now, it’s a commemoration of well, stuff, formerly sponsored by General Electric, back when they made appliances and electronics. Through Progress, err, stuff, we now live much better lives because of electricity, internal plumbing, refrigerators, wireless radios and finally, consumer electronics. Much better than when we had to talk to each other and spend time together! Ironically, the Carousel of Progress is the only Disney ride that does not empty into a gift shop. You come out of the ride to sunshine, no trinkets, no exhausted and crying kids extorting a plastic ray gun from their equally exhausted Grandparents.
The gift shops don’t help us to remember life, they help us replace our memories. I will always remember getting off the New York City subway to the color, crowds and excitement of Flushing Meadows and the World’s Fair, ultimately it is experience that gives us memories and our life meaning, not souvenirs.
This piece really isn’t about souvenirs or theme parks, it is about attachment.
The more we hang on to stuff, the less we hold onto life.