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Friday, June 19, 2009

The $613 Vacation - Why

$613. It doesn't sound like much. It really isn't much. But it's how much we have for a local vacation activities this year.

During the school year, our kids earn a day pass from the local theme park, Three Circles Over Hades. They do this by reading for 6 hours. It is not a strenuous proposition, considering the eldest is supposed to read 30 minutes a day as part of homework. They also earn a coupon for an individual pan pizza from a leading pizza chain, based on their individual teacher's requirements. They also earn a pass to the local minor league baseball team's "INSERT NAME OF SCHOOL HERE" Night. For making As and Bs or the equivalent, there is the major baseball league's INSERT NAME OF SCHOOL HERE" day, with the child's name flashed upon the Jumbotron.

The problem is not children earning something by studious actions. The problem is the sad fact that while the child earns a pass, the parent does not.

Take the pizza chain. The kid gets an individual pizza. The kid does not get a drink, not even a small one. Water is no longer free. The coupon states the child must order in the restaurant, no take-outs, no drive-thrus. This means at least one parent must accompany the child. Any other child who earns a pizza certificate also gets an individual pan pizza- no drink. Who is going to sit there and watch the children who earned this consume it, while dining himself? What started out as "It's absolutely free" becomes "That'll be $32.78 plus tip".

The minor ballgame produces the same problem of the parental ticket, plus interest in the game. A child under the age of 10 has a rough way to go to sit for an entire nine-inning game. Baseball in itself is no longer the key interest. Between every single man at bat, it seems, there is a number called from the scorecard. T-shirts are shot out of canons into the audience. People, adults and kids, are called down to run the bases. What could have been an enjoyable Saturday afternoon winds into a four hour pile of ads, gimmicks, and giveaways. Combined with parking, the extra ticket and food purchases, it is a waste of a good afternoon. The only difference between the minor league and major league park is things are more expensive at the major league park, and the major league team's park is in an area where people should not go without an armed escort.

But the absolute worst of the inducements earned by young students is Three Circles Over Hades (like that Dante theme). A child's day pass currently runs $35 or so. Not so an adult day pass, which runs $35 before July 11, and for the rest of the season cost $55. Two adults, as in two parents, cost $110, unless a couple can meet the stringent requirements to qualify for something cheaper. The parental jobs usually take precedence over Three Circles.

There is no point in not buying the keys to successfully maneuvering Three Circles Over Hades, the front parking pass and the line jumper pass. Unless one wishes to re-enact Moses' trip through the Sinai with some very crabby substitute Hebrews, get the parking pass. The lot is hotter than any desert, and twice as humid from the engines of the cars as well as the spots of blacktop (Watch your head for the seagulls, who think they are skimming water). Just to park the family bus cost $15, so go ahead and ante up the additional $10 to park as closely to the gate as possible. The line jumper pass will mean you still have to wait behind the other line jumpers, but not nearly as long as those who decided the option to wait was a waste of money or simply wouldn't do anything. $156, please, paid by the number in one's party.

One can dine on one's own cuisine in the Three Circles' spacious and blistering parking lot. Some people bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the hot asphalt and burning gravel. It's against the rules to bring food and beverage from the outside world into Three Circles. Ticket holders are wanded and frisked, so even chewing gum is suspect. Expect to pay 3-4 times the cost of the restaurants just outside the Three Circles' gates. Do not expect children to be content to simply have a drink out of the water fountain, not that most parents would allow them to use the water fountain. The buffet of boxed mashed potatoes, smoked butt passing as ham, dry chicken, lettuce, and postage stamp cake pieces starts at $18 per person, drinks extra. There is a drink canister that can be refilled for $1.50. The canister cost $15.

We will not discuss the souvenirs, except to mention they took everything the kids earned in allowance as well as budgeted "fun" money.

But the real reason for not going to Three Circles Over Hades is the sad fact that these children we have do not like amusement park rides. They shudder at the mere mention of the names of certain roller coasters. They refuse to even consider the "tea cup" style rides. Last year, the eldest barely met the height requirements to enter the area really designed for kids under six. We spent over $350 to sit in what amounted to preschooler paradise for three hours, then eat lousy food and buy expensive gedunk and junk. We also rode one real ride each, and drove the faux antique track cars. It was hot, sticky, and filled with adults also on their last nerve.

This year, two children will be too tall to stay in the safety of the shaded airplanes and elephants. They are not short in any event, and seem to have acquired a tall gene from someplace. We are feeling way too old and way too impatient to attempt it this year. Hades will have to do without us.

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