Sunday, August 16, 2009

True Concessions

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that when you buy food at, say, a water park, the actual place that sells the food is referred to as a “concession stand.” Because it is quite a compromise when all you have to choose from is burgers, dogs, pizza and chicken fingers. I would have brought a yogurt with me, but the website declares, page after page, that absolutely no outside food or beverages are allowed.

We paid for our wristbands and lined up at the entryway. I thought the men in the hut were going to check our wrists, but they couldn’t have cared less about admissions. They were there to search our bags for food.

An oversized woman pushing a stroller directly in front of us was busted for a package of Chips Ahoys. She and her small brood moved over toward the wall and ate each and every cookie, then strode in.

My son and his friend took off right away toward rides called High Anxiety and Kamikaze. We met two hours later for lunch.

I conceded to have two chicken fingers, even though they’re breaded and fried and constitute nearly two-thirds of my Weight Watcher Points for the entire day. The boys found a table in the shade and my son gave his friend a detailed account of his recent rafting trip down the Salmon River in Idaho. It was during this conversation that I learned for the first time that my son’s kayak had overturned and landed on top of him, and that he needed to be “rescued” by the river guides. It was also during this conversation that my son told his friend that this trip was one he’d gone on with his uncle.

“Whose brother?” the friend asked.

“My mom’s,” said my son. “But he’s really cool. He and my mom are like complete opposites.”

I then made a further concession: to smile at his witticism. Even though the real truth is, I taught my brother everything he knows.

The boys went off again, waiting on lines bound for terror. I sat in a blissfully shady corner and read The Atlantic Monthly’s 2009 Fiction Issue. Most of the families surrounding me had smuggled in cut fruit and pita chips, like contraband.

I didn’t end up going on any of the rides or in any of the pools. The lines were long and hot and I don’t really like being wet. The boys tried to move me off my position, and they almost did, but the attractions I was interested in were far too tame for them. They are boys, adrenaline coursing through their veins. They are always hungry, not just for food but for adventure. They like it when The Mom is amused, but not if it means spending a precious hour on line for The Lazy River. They can’t even conceive of making those kinds of concessions.

1 comment:

  1. Very good post. Very good point. How can an amusment park be allowed to insist that you bring in no food and demand that you buy their lousy, unhealthy food? I often think how we as a culture have made concessions in all sorts of areas: Alcohol at restaurants and bars, for instance. We all know that the small amount of alcohol in any drink we order is worth perhaps 50 cents, maybe $1, but we willingly hand over $5, $8, sometimes even over $10 for a drink at dinner or a club. We have agreed to be ripped off. By contrast the big plate of food sold for $15-25 doesn't have anywhere near that profit margin. Soda too. The cola syrup in fountain drinks is only worth about a nickle but we pay $3.50 for it. Coffee is more expensive than gas in one situation and a free giveaway in another. Tubs of popcorn at the movies are outrageously overpriced. But what would a movie be without it? Hot dogs at the ballpark. I could go on and on. We have all tacitly accepted the idea that we will be ripped off in all these places. Why do we put up with it?