The Cost of Things
“Yes, I did it!” I thought, after a successful phone interview for my first full-time job. “I’m moving to New York!” This was followed by another thought: “Oh no, I’m moving back into women’s housing.”
I want to tell you about my things, specifically how they’ve held their value and what they’re worth to me. From big-ticket items and impulse buys, down to a pen or cat toy, I’m fascinated by how everything holds some degree of value over time.
Over the course of the last seven years, I have applied for and been granted five different visas; I’ve bought my life here piece by piece, six months, a year, two years at a time. And I’m lucky, not only because I was in a position in the first place to be able to do this, but also because, in spite of a few minor administrative hiccups, my path to settlement has been relatively smooth. I haven’t been detained or deported, haven’t had to appeal decisions or pay hefty legal fees or endure long periods of separation from my partner, or face the reality of restarting our life elsewhere. At times I’ve lived in limbo, but it’s a comparatively cushy limbo. So I’m keenly aware of the privilege of this particular kind of voluntary mobility, and I also think this is precisely why it’s important to publicly examine the cost of it.
The first and last item in a category on the menu sell the best.
Bolt Bus ticket, Seattle to Portland: $25.00
“Rent” in the Starbucks that substituted for a bus station, necessary to stay off the 30-degree sidewalk: $6.45
He didn’t steal my brown purse that night.
The New Yorker is as angry as that sedate, patrician magazine gets in this screed about the state of the travel industry, specifically airlines, and how their intent is to make us deliberately miserable:
The fees have proved a boon to the U.S. airlines, which will post a projected twenty-billion-dollar profit in 2014. To be fair, airlines are not just profiting because of fee income. Reduced competition, thanks to mergers, helps. There is also the plummet in the price of oil, which the airlines seem to have collectively agreed is no reason to reduce fares or even remove “fuel surcharges.” But for the past decade it is fees that have been the fastest-growing source of income for the main airlines, having increased by twelve hundred per cent since 2007. …
the fee model comes with systematic costs that are not immediately obvious. Here’s the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as “calculated misery.” Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that’s where the suffering begins.
Extortion! Sadly, even longtime holdout (and my up-to-this-point favorite airline) JetBlue is in getting in on the action.