I'm not sure how it happened.
Maybe it was a weak moment brought on by my proximity to a sentimental place. Maybe it was a desire to be involved with collecting something with my kids. Maybe a giant stick bug crawled into my brain.
Whatever caused it, and the thing I can't explain, is how I recently found myself shopping for lanyards at Disneyland.
Once you cross that line, there's no going back.
A lanyard is one of those official-looking things that goes around your neck and usually holds a transparent card-sized sleeve in which you put something official, then walk around pretending you're important. I've used these things for years at media events where some sort of official piece of paper or ID for journalists is required.
I noticed lanyards started appearing at Disneyland a decade or so ago, especially for people who needed quick access to tickets so they could use Fastpass on various rides. And Disney, having the brilliant marketers who somehow made a rodent the most recognizable symbol on Earth, started making lanyards for just such a purpose -- and the pins to decorate them. Pretty soon, touristy people with their shirts tucked in too tightly were walking around the Magic Kingdom weighed down with as much neck jewelry as Mr. T.
Those people, I thought, were the real Disney nerds, ignoring the approximate $3.7 million I'd spent in Disneyland the past 30 or so years. These people needed to get real lives, I thought, ignoring how many Mickey Mouse Pez dispensers I owned. How uncool, thought the aging rock guy who once owned a pair of Donald Duck earrings.
Through various media events over the years, I obtained a couple of Disney pins. For some reason, I grabbed one before we went recently. Then I found out one of my kids already had a Disney lanyard. Seeds were being planted, and I was unknowingly sprouting into some sort of lanyard-pin-collecting guy.
Then came match to gasoline: I started reminiscing like some old guy who starts buying collector's pins and pricing RVs.
I heard some guy talking about the shooting gallery in Frontierland, which was a place I went with my grandpa when I was a kid. I thought about all the Disney trips I'd been on and all the people I took them with, then figured it might be nice to have a little commemoration. And it might be fun to share with my daughter.
Suddenly, my kid and I were shopping for "New Year's Eve 2013" pins.
A family collection
I thought it was just the two of us in the store -- yes, they have at least one store dedicated to pins and lanyards -- until I turned around and caught the whole family behind us. Before I knew it, I was buying pins and lanyards left and right.
Somewhere, a stick bug was laughing.
But then I started noticing something else. It wasn't just the elderly tourists from the Midwest or the obvious young Disney nerds sporting lanyards. Apparently they have so many styles of Disney lanyards now, it's become an accessory type of thing for all kinds of people. I saw a punk rock guy with a mohawk and the typical anarchist ramblings scribbled on his clothes, and he was wearing a lanyard. I saw hip-hop guys wearing lanyards. I saw a couple of gangbanger-types wearing lanyards.
Or maybe I just starting seeing them because I needed some reassurance. Either way, it looks like we've become a nation of Disney lanyard-wearers.
Which is fine -- until I catch myself tucking in my shirt too tightly as I walk into Disneyland. Then it's on to another hobby.