It’s no secret that I go on some spectacular business trips, but the truth is that even the dreamiest tropical island or snazziest hotel can be lonely (and I daresay boring) when you don’t have anyone fun to share it with. I know, I know, you’re playing the world’s tiniest violin because you feel so sorry for me. It’s not like I live in a cupboard under the stairs and he-who-shall-not-be-named gave me a burning scar on my forehead – I hear you, I’m blessed! Can we go back to the story, please?
The week after my failed high school reunion trip, I unpacked, washed clothes and repacked for Florida once again. The occasion? The best work trip of my entire life. Instead of taking my Nimbus 5000, I hopped a JetBlue flight for Hogsmeade (Orlando) for grand opening of the Bleeping Bleep of Bleepy Bleeper.*
Instead of going it alone, this time I had enough colleagues with me for a whole Quidditch team. We didn’t know much about what we were getting into before we arrived, but after a three-hour briefing (complete with themed notebooks with our names in magical font – MAGICAL FONT!), we were ready to launch what would become the biggest travel story of the year (so far – we have a few more tricks up our sleeves.)
As Dumbledore is my witness, after flipping through my personalized magical binder and noting the schedules for the once-in-a-lifetime events that week, I had to bite my lip to prevent myself from crying happy tears right there in the meeting in front of the clients I’d just met. Would I admit to such pathetic behavior if it weren’t true? I couldn’t let on how ecstatic I was, but I felt so much joy that I could’ve exploded like Zonko’s fireworks. After two days of hardcore media relations, I had more brilliant events to work than I ever could have imagined - red carpet with the whole cast in attendance, fireworks show on the castle, John Williams in person conducting the score from the movies, national morning shows in attendance…
I died and went not to heaven… I went to Hogwart’s.
After the initial briefing, the clients asked if we’d like to go inside the Bleeping Bleep to check it out. I blurted, “YES” a little too eagerly, but recovered my steely professional NYC persona quickly. Moments later, I was exploring the magical village, wand shop, joke shop and school grounds with my colleagues, giddily pointing out every detail I recognized to those who had never seen the movies or read the books.
Pumpkin juice! Butterbeer!
Until that moment, I wasn’t a massive fan – or perhaps I just didn’t know I was. I haven’t even read all the books, only the last three per RaeRae’s request. I have seen all the films and I braved the opening night crowds in Times Square with Lauren and Jorel for the last movie. But, superfan? Not me.
But… no one else (edit – no other adult) was skipping around the park with a big goofy grin. I usually only get this way at the Magic Kingdom! You know the expression “like a kid in a candy store?” That should be amended to “like BAA at the Bleeping Bleep of Bleeping Bleeper.”
The best part of the entire week (aside from karaoke and piano bar shenanigans with various Weasleys in attendance… or watching England’s World Cup game at the same sports bar as the cast… or seeing the elusive author on the red carpet…
or escorting Harry, Ron, Dumbledore, Professor Flitwick, Neville and multiple Weasleys to their media interviews… or laughing my face off at the press conference… or riding the state-of-the-art new attraction a dozen times… or drinking gallons of Butterbeer… or casting a spell with my wand and watching Hogwart’s come to life…
Borrowed from CNN.com. Can you see me? I'm standing right there!
or hearing the remarkable John Williams conduct his brilliant score live… or meeting fellow College of Journalism Gators at various media events… or riding The Hulk with my soon-to-depart-NYC roomie/colleague Erica)
...was that I was able to share it with Monga and RaeRae. They drove down from Jacksonville midweek and participated in some of the festivities, and I think they were even happier than I was.
Don’t be fooled by my giddiness - not only did we work hard and do a killer job, we worked anywhere between 12 and 18 hours a day for a week. If air could bubble and boil, it would have while we were there. I’ve never worked such long hours in such hideous heat, and my hair reminded me why living in Florida is not a good idea for me.
I can say without a doubt, if I hadn’t had my colleagues there for support in the heat and the long hours, I still would have had the best time ever! Hello – I’m Floridian. Theme parks are my thing. Would I have run wide-eyed around Hogsmeade, fist-pumping and giggling, drinking Butterbeer and swooning over Weasleys? Yep, I definitely would have done that, too.
BUT, I couldn't have kept my happy theme park grin plastered on for seven days in the sweltering heat, on my feet for 12 hours a day without the gals there to commiserate the lows and celebrate the highs. Experiencing the Bleeping Bleep with them was as close as I'll ever come to being a true Gryffindor, and I wouldn't give up that magical experience for all the Butterbeer in the world. (Or would I? I really love Butterbeer.)
*Legal disclaimer: due to laws and documents and stuff, I am not at liberty to actually say where I was. So figure it out!