A few weeks ago, my family made our annual trek to the County Fair. Now, while our trips to the fair have always been wallet-draining experiences, this occasion was even more so; I don’t know, maybe it’s the economy (funnel cake inflation?), or maybe it’s just that this is an election year (and what’s more American than price-gouging?), but all of a sudden it felt like I was shopping with dollars in a euro world.
It started before we even got in, with ten dollars for the “premium” parking a few steps closer to the gate. I pass on this option, not so much because I’m cheap (I am), but because I know that I’ll need to park the car in Phoenix to run off that deep-fried cookie dough I’m planning on having anyway. Also, resisting this first temptation will give me the moral ammunition I’ll to need to say “no” when the requests start coming in from the shorter members of the family.
“Can I go in the bounce house?”
I have always been leery of bounce houses, ever since I bounced out of one myself at a young age (ok, I was in college), and landed head first onto an asphalt parking lot, but I could have been Vice President of the International Bounce House Booster Society and I still would have balked at the price I saw on the one at the fair.
“Six dollars? Are you bouncing in it, or buying stock in it? I don’t think so.”
Next comes the food venue, with its seven dollar ice creams, four dollar ears of corn (I don’t think we can blame this one on ethanol) and six dollar fries, the last being the most important, since over the course of the fair Clementine will be eating no less than four servings of cheese fries. (I could have attempted to hide from her the fact that two of her favorite foods–french fries and nacho cheese–were together at last, but it would have been pointless; no matter where we have traveled in the world, no matter how far off the beaten track, Clementine has always been able to sniff out the local fry stands (or chip shop, or frites stall, or vlammes haus–whatever the local option is called). In fact, she is so accomplished at “fry” detection that I have no doubt that if we were someday to travel up the Amazon and discover an unknown tribe, ten minutes out of the boat Clementine would be standing in line for the local version of “fries.”
Here at the fair, though, her quest for fries led her not to a new tribe, but only to the Commercial Building (a place which, judging by all the hard-selling take place within it, should probably be named the Infomercial Building). Fortunately, due to a bit of misdirection on my part, I am able to steer us away (“Look kids, it’s a root beer garden–oh, my mistake, it’s just regular beer. Well, as long as we’re here…), but unfortunately, this now puts us in sight of the fair’s biggest big spender temptation: the Carnival.
I’m sure that most people could easily spend their entire lives without once thinking to themselves: Gee, if I only had a giant inflatable hammer…, but yet, let them step two feet inside a carnival and suddenly–even at $5 a pop– it becomes a “must have.” Same thing with the shoddily-made stuffed animal knock-offs from another era (George Jetson? The Roadrunner? Nemo?), as well as the ever popular fish-in-a-bag. (What kind of karma do you have to have to come back as one of those?)
The end result was that by the end of the day everyone very full, a little nauseous, and flat broke. Again, I blame it on this being an election year: after all, what could be more American than that?