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Paying Extra to Butt in Line: Is it Fair?

paying-to-cutt-in-line-amusement-parks-la-timesI’m not much on doomsday scenarios. They’re a tad overblown and logically never really work out. I generally think (hope?) that we as people will self-correct just enough, before it’s all too late.

Instead, I think our society is slowly going to Hell in a hand-basket, one teeny, tiny step at a time.  Like, for example, premium passes at amusement parks that carry with them the benefit of butting right to the front of the line. Those, to me, are the epitome of much of what’s wrong in America.

And exactly the opposite lesson we should want to teach kids.

LA Times columnist Sandy Banks writes about her encounters with Legoland-sanctioned line- cutters on a recent trip to the Southern California amusement park with her nephews.

The three stood in a slow-moving line, giddy and excited for the thrill-ride that awaited. After an hour (an hour!), it was finally their turn. Or not. From the side, an entire family was ushered in. They’d have to wait a little longer.

Waylaid, as Banks said, by the Premium Play Pass.

It was a slap in the face, she said, “a jarring note on a nearly perfect day.” But does Banks begrudge the line cutters, who, after all, merely exercised an option that was available to them and that they could afford? No.

I can’t. Because I remember how good it felt when my girls were small and Mom could still make miracles.

Small miracles? Cutting in line — not matter how you do it — isn’t a miracle. It’s a big ol’ middle finger to those who waited their turn.

Banks also says driving home from Legoland, as she zipped into the fastlane — a privilege only bestowed on cars carrying one more passengers — they all realized that they, too, finally got a chance to butt in line. Even Steven.

Or not! The fast-lane was a strategy to unclog the California freeways and to encourage the car-dependents of this state to ride together. You can’t buy a fast-lane pass. The fast-lane is as available to the couple in the Prius as it is to the family in the Expedition and your neighbors in their beater.

You buy a premium pass. Money talks.

Know where else in the U.S. you can buy access? Right. Politics. You pay to get heard. Oh, we all bemoan this, and those benefiting deny this, but money in politics takes you to the front of the line.

You can pay your way to better schools, either by paying to live in a better neighborhood or going private — and, in some cases where admission is selective, cash gets you a premium pass to the front of the class. (And you get to think it was all that hard work.)

One could equate the premium pass with bigger airplane seats in first class or better theater seats at the opera. I’ll grant that it is slightly analogous, but here’s the deal: flight times are flight times, curtain call is curtain call. The first-class passenger isn’t wasting my coach class time. The orchestra pit seats don’t throw off my back-row mezzanine plans for lunch!

Sure, a business has the right to squeeze every last wad of cash out of us. I’m not calling for regulation or organizing a boycott. I’d just invite people to think twice about the messages their sending to their line-cutting progeny before plunking down the extra fee, perhaps not letting it go to their heads. “Remember, kids, we’re no more special than those poor, sweating line-waiters. No feeling extra powerful!”

Have you ever been stung by premium pass holders? Or, go on and admit it, you’re one of them. One of “them”!

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Photo: LA Times

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