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Looking back in Tomorrowland

Sixth in a series of articles about the reactions of everyday people to the 2000 presidential election. The series was reported and written before Sept. 11.

Aaah, Tomorrowland! Silver and shiny with spires and spaceships. A place where you can encounter aliens around any corner, travel through time with automated creatures, take an "exhilarating spin around the planets" inside starlit Space Mountain.

Or rest in the shade while the rest of the world whirls by.

It's early September and Christopher Scriven is sprawled on a bench, chugging water, trying to recover from his intergalactic adventures. He and his wife just helped their 6-year-old son defeat the evil emperor Zurg. Their two teenagers are in line for Space Mountain again.

"I'm all parked out," Scriven says, his shaved head sweating in the afternoon sun. "This is our sixth day doing Disney. I can't take any more."

You think saving the galaxy is hard? Try keeping up with three kids at the Magic Kingdom.

Scriven is 37, a fire alarm installer from Jamaica, N.Y. He has flown his family to Florida for one last hurrah before school.

George W. Bush brought them here. Sort of.

"We haven't actually seen the check yet. But this trip will pretty much take care of that tax return he's been promising," Scriven says, sliding over for his wife, Alice, to sit down.

"You kidding, baby?" Alice asks, laughing. "We spent more than that just on passes to get in here. You have to add the plane tickets, hotel, food, T-shirts _ that fancy water they got us buying. That check's not going to cover half our Disney stay. It's the rich folks that's going to benefit most from George Bush's return, not average families like us, like all these folks here."

"Well, I'm skeptical about that tax return anyway," Scriven says, suddenly serious in the surreal world. "Is this going to hurt everyone five years from now? Is all my Social Security going to be gone?"

He wipes his brow with a soggy Mickey Mouse napkin, shakes off the worry. Might as well spend that check on $20 plastic ion blasters and $15 disposable cameras and (as the commercials urge) priceless smiles.

Scriven hands his son $5 for ice cream, gives his wife the $2.50 bottle of water, says he voted Democratic last fall, as he always does. For 10 days he watched the news, hoping Gore would win. Then he lost hope, and interest.

"A lot of people didn't know who Al Gore was, what he was about. Clinton should have helped him more, put him out there in the spotlight some. And Gore should have campaigned more. A lot of people didn't know Lieberman, either. But they knew Dick Cheney. A lot of people I know in the military voted Republican, even though they're Democrat, just because Cheney's military."

"Were votes thrown away?" asks Alice, fanning herself with a wrinkled Disney World map. "I mean, what happened here in Florida? First they said Gore had it. Then they changed their minds."

"Don't blame it on Florida," Scriven says. "Gore didn't even win Tennessee, his own state. It's like boxing: If you knock the other guy out, you don't have to let the referee decide."

Scriven doesn't care about a ballot recount. "What are you going to do, kick out Bush now?" he asks. "It's over. He's in. That's it."

Just then, his two teenagers come running back, their faces flushed from their third flight around the universe. "It's not too scary for Christopher, Dad," says his daughter. "We want to go again. It's our last day. Let us take him with us this time."

"You want to wait in that line again?"

"I want go! I want go!" the little boy cries, reaching his arms up to his sister.

Scriven shrugs, looks at his wife. It might be nice to sit still for a few more minutes. He slips his arm around her, pulls her into the shade, nods.

The kids disappear into bright, shiny Tomorrowland, where anything can happen _ and today is all that matters.

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