Who thinks about what they’re going to talk about while standing in a queue? Do you? Do you have potential conversation topics stored in a small recess of your brain like a squirrels’ stash of nuts? Does that sound nutty? Maybe not nutty, but probably not likely to make the to-do list. On the other hand, it’s not a bad idea to have a few things stored up given the amount of time you’ll spend shifting your weight while waiting.

A day in any Disney park can be awhirl. If you’re not talking about where you’re going next and what you’re going to do when you get there, you’re reminiscing about the last thing you did and maybe what you’ll do differently the next time. When that’s the case, your bases are covered. Move along, there’s nothing to see here. However, when that’s not the case, when you’re a pro at planning to the extent you need only a few key words or phrases to confirm the advancing of “the plan,” you may find yourself lulled into a comfortable quiet—and that’s okay. Better to be silent than speak for the sake of speaking.

QUALITY TIME

Standing in a queue isn’t what most would think of as a good time. After all, we go out of our way to avoid heavy attendance days for just that reason. Standing in line is like sitting in traffic. If only we could sit in line! But that’s not the point. The point is that even sitting in traffic—if you’re with your best friend—it’s an opportunity to spend some quality time just being together, outside the day-to-day routines.

This came into focus one Disney day as we stood in a slow-moving queue for Thunder Mountain. It was toward the end of the day and our energy levels had diminished to the extent that we were content to observe the desert terrain and strain to see previously undiscovered hidden Mickeys. In front of us was a couple in their early 30s; behind us were a couple of 9-year-old boys. The boys were all about The Pirates of the Caribbean: “Okay, so if the boat stopped and you had to get out, where would you want it to stop?”

“The treasure room, duh. You could make like an igloo fort out of the mountain of gold and there’d be this dead pirate skeleton lookout dude on top so no one could get in unless they brought more gold or a treasure map or something cool like that and I’d be the king pirate—”

“There’s no such thing as king pirates!”

“How do you know?”

“Cuz duh I did a pirate diorama for social studies and had to learn all about them and stuff.”

We exchanged gleeful smiles for the young imaginations sparked by a favorite ride.

Then there were the 30-year-olds, who were all about their bathroom renovation: “I had no idea there were so many colors of grout,” the woman bleated.

We looked at each other with horror: Grout?! We mouthed the word and then snickered.

“I think we need to look at the samples together,” she maintained a bland tone. “The green grout could work with the tile we picked out, but I want you to see it first.”

Our lips were curling with queezy discomfort. “Green grout,” one of us repeated distastefully as we tried to hang back a bit to create some distance.

THERE’S A TIME AND A PLACE

As we poured out of the ride and made our way to our “second-wind” espresso, we had to jettison the negativity in order to move past it: “Grout?! Who thinks about grout at Disneyland?! Who even says ‘grout’ at Disneyland?! Oh my god, how boring can you be in real life if you’re talking about grout at Disneyland?!

The venting session ended over espressos, as we listened to Minnie Mouse take a piano lesson in one of the charming “residences” lining the quaint cul-de-sac off Main Street: “We’re never going to be that couple,” we took a solemn oath. “No matter how old we get or where we’re at, we’re never going to be the grout couple.” It was so observed by one of us—the more mature, far-thinking one of us—that we could never be that couple.

Years later, when we finally knew what grout was, and were even in a position to think about it, we’d joke in particularly slow, syrupy queues: “Wanna talk about grout?” And that was our way of renewing our vow that we would never be those people at Disneyland (or any Disney park).

QUEUE THE DIALOG

So, what have we learned? We’ve learned that whatever you say in a tightly packed, slow-moving line can be overheard by your neighbors. But more than that: what you say that can be overheard is part of the Disney experience—yours, and your queue neighbors’. And what every Disney goer has in common is the desire to have a day like no other and that in no way resembles “real” life. When you’re living in the Disney moment you’re adding to it. Be those people. Be the 9-year-olds.