At Coney Island on the last weekend of my kids’ summer vacation, we rode the Cyclone, which has been operating under electric power since 1927.
When we started our long journey home, it was on the subway, which has more than a century of electrically powered travel under its belt.
From there, we got on a Metro North commuter train, another shining example of electric locomotion. Our car was in the parking garage at the station in New Haven, waiting to carry us on the final leg of our journey.
But alas, the last bit of our electric journey was ill-fated: our little ’02 Prius, reliable in its first decade and, thereafter, in its first year with us, greeted us with a dashboard full of automotive alarm. The central feature was an icon of an exclamation point inside the silhouette of a car. Traditionally, this symbol appears as a very small light on the dashboard of gas cars and means “check tire pressure” (even though it seems like it should mean, simply, “Car!”). But in a Prius, according to our owner’s manual, it means, “Hybrid system error. TAKE CAR TO TOYOTA DEALER IMMEDIATELY.”
My children are seven and 10 years old, and in teaching them to navigate the world, I find myself swimming against a great tide of distrust in the world. Despite data to the contrary, the prevailing notion among the middle class parents I meet through my kids’ suburban school is that children today simply cannot do the things that we did as children because there are too many lurking perils, principally in the form of bad people who will do bad things if given half a chance. I try to counter this notion, urging my boys to go outside, to explore the blocks surrounding our building, to make the world their own. Of course they know not to get into a stranger’s car, but I think they also know that most strangers are just people like us, people with kids of their own and jobs and places to go. Even when we talk about the people I represent in court (children charged with crimes and adults accused of abusing their children), I try to put bad deeds in the context of complex circumstances: “People are generally good,” I always tell them.
But then this: the 10-year-old is playing some seemingly innocuous game on the iPad when he asks, “Dad, what’s your email address?”
I start to tell him, then hesitate. “Why?”
“It says that if I sign up to get some emails, I can get free points in this game and…”
“Forget it,” I say. “It’s a scam.”
“What do you mean, a scam? They just want to send emails! And it’s the only way to advance to the next level!”
Of course. He thinks people are generally good. What could be the harm in sharing my email address with the folks who already proved how thoughtful they were by providing us with a FREE IPAD GAME?
So that is the dilemma: In everyday interactions, most people are good and kind. But when they organize themselves into corporations, most people are trying to get over EVERY TIME.
As promised, my little family hit up Coney Island this weekend for some sun, fun, and bruising brought on by the Cyclone, one of America’s oldest and ricketiest wooden roller coasters. Here’s what we spent and an analysis of whether each purchase was justified:
+ NYAquarium tickets
COST: $24 for two adults. Babygirl got in free.
WORTH IT?: Mostly. Did you know there are penguins in South Africa? Warm weather “jackass” penguins! They are small and adorable; in the water, swimming, they resemble ducks.
The aquarium is pretty small. A good chunk is still under construction, post-Sandy. Babygirl enjoyed trying to catch the tiny, iridescent fish in the tanks and was less enthusiastic about the sea lion show: she shrieked in terror at the sight of their sleek, monstrous bodies emerging from the water to clap their fins. Overall, it was a fun family outing, though I wouldn’t rush to do it again.
+ One Cyclone ride
WORTH IT: Ben emerged battered and hoarse with a huge grin on his face. Unequivocal yes, says he.