We have returned to the scene of my wife’s childhood psychological violation.  Many people can empathize, but not many can understand it on a visceral level. I know I can’t. All I can do is hold her hand while she’s drawn through an inexorable maelstrom of insane colors and noise.

We’re riding the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney World.

She handled it magnificently, considering the trauma she experienced as a little girl. Back then, her parents and brother boarded the big, dumpy boat with her, along with a dozen strangers, and they eddied into the plaster tunnel at bayou speeds. The little cosmopolitan robots were cute, and the song was perky. It was tingly fun for a little girl. It looked a lot like this:

Then the ride broke down, somewhere in Scandinavia. The polite Disney cast members assured everyone that they were safe, things were under control, and the ride would resume soon. Ten minutes later everyone was fidgeting and bickering. Someone asked if the music could be turned off, since each section of the ride plays just a small part of the song over and over. In ten minutes the words “…that is time we’re aware, it’s a small world after all…” had been sung by chirpy kids without stopping about 120 times. No, they couldn’t turn the song off.

Thirty minutes after the breakdown, the arguing and muttered threats began. An emergency exit stood no more than ten feet from the boat, which was now stinking of frustration and fear. Couldn’t the cast members let the guests leave by that door? It’s only ten god damn feet away, for cripe’s sake! No, they couldn’t let the guests out. It wasn’t safe. The guests implied that it wasn’t safe to keep them in the boat listening to this relentless gush of sugary crap, if you know what I mean. A security guard made himself evident a few minutes later.

An hour after the malfunction, the weaker specimens had broken. Whimpers crawled up from the floor of the boat as children clutched their parent’s trendy bell bottoms or hairy legs. The kids who clung to their faculties learned a lot of bad words listening to the adults. They also heard about a lot of creative techniques for killing shitty little high school dropouts drunk on their own pathetic power.

When the eight infuriating, sanity-shredding bars of “It’s a Small World” had played about 1,000 times, the boat jerked, clanked, and slogged forward. The guests exited the ride like G.I.s wading out of a stream in the Mekong Delta. Thanks a hell of a lot, Mickey.

Today my wife drove a spike through the chest of the “It’s a Small World” ride. She sat tall, gazed at the horrible, wiggling ambassadors of world peace, and even laughed at the llama with the giant teeth. I consider it a mighty accomplishment on this, our first day at the Happiest Place on Earth.

And yet, in the seat behind us a little girl moaned, much like a distressed elk, “Out… out… out… ” Her mother soothed her and comforted her and promised that it would all be over soon. Nothing eased this child’s pain. It was like, you know, the Circle of Life or something.