Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Gift Economy

August 18, 2008

I’m glad for my new friendship with Jason, but it’s not without is downsides. The dude is so thoughtful and insightful in his comments that you can’t just walk away or go on with your life. To wit: going to the county fair used to be all fun and fried food, but not anymore. Now I take notice of the fact that they are setting up a kind of economy, exchanging currency for paper tickets to the rides and games. Standing in line for the exchange, I was taking an adversarial stance, deciding exactly how many tickets I needed to buy to give my Girlie the minimally acceptable county fair experience: 2 carousel rides and a corn dog seemed about right. But as I was standing there scheming, a woman walked up and asked me how many tickets I was planning to buy.

“Oh, just about 5 dollars worth,” I said, keeping my cards close to my vest.

She hesitated, then said, “Look, I’ll sell you $20 worth of tickets for $10. We’re leaving right now, and I don’t want to waste them.”

Quickly realizing that this was a gift, and imagining my buddy Jason smiling from his giant Burning Man station wagon, I gave her a ten and tried to avoid eye contact with the ticket agent in the tiny booth as I scurried away.

So what would have been a stingy hustle though the fairground was transformed. Instead of two rides carefully separated by other (free) distractions, we wandered everywhere, and put the kid on any rides that seemed like they wouldn’t kill her or scare her half to death. And if we weren’t sure, I went ahead and rode with her, unconcerned if the ride operator seemed inclined to charge both of us. When we got in line for the little petting zoo, I was even a little disappointed that it was completely free. Then we got that corn dog and rode the carousel one last time before I went back to the line for the ticket exchange and handed the family waiting there the same number of tickets I would have bought to begin with.

Posted in:

Leave a Reply