Dear Gravy Train Dan,
I am a piss poor single mother trying my best to raise my little Johnny on my own. Johnny has started noticing that we always get hosed by the rich. He's been asking me difficult questions about class warfare. I want to be honest with Johnny, but he's only six. Is it too soon to start talking to him about class warfare?
Piss Poor in Peoria
Dear Piss Poor,
Not too soon at all! Little Johnny's feelings are natural. Class warfare is everywhere. And it's a tough subject. But if you avoid talking to little Johnny about it, he's just going to learn about it from the Internet, in-between searching for porn. You need to be proactive about helping Johnny understand all the ways in which the game is fixed. Johnny needs to know that, as a poor six year-old, there's pretty much no possible way he's ever going to have a fair shot at a prosperous existence.
Kids pick up on class warfare at a very young age. Why just this past weekend I saw some outrageous class warfare at place built just for kids - Six Flags.
What kid doesn't love Six Flags? The thrill of the rides. The fun and games. The treats and prizes. A day pass is $39. A little steep, but even the most Dickensian little Oliver Twist can usually cobble together some change from his paper route and treat himself to one thrilling summer day at the park. And you'd think that, once your little guy bought his ticket, he'd be able to frolic with kids from all walks of life - rich or poor.
Turns out, that's not the case.
I'm a Big Brother Big Sister volunteer, and when I took my pals Spectaculario and Stupendizoid* to Six Flags, we checked in at the front gate, ran straight to Goliath, one of the massive, towering twisty-twirly roller coasters at the park and..... realized that the line was over an hour long. About half an hour into the line, I saw the first advertisement for the Flash Pass, some kind of "preferred" admissions ticket. By the time we got toward the front of the line, I realized that what our $39 ticket really bought us was the right to wait in lines for 97% of our time at the park, and go on maybe four rides during an all day visit.
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of children who would be devastated if they ever had any idea what was going through my mind for the 9 hours I spent waiting by the exit of amusement park rides.
So I ducked out of line and went to the Flash Pass office to learn more. Turns out, Flash Pass is just a way to pay more for the right to cut in line. For $30 per person (silver) you get some priority. For $55 per person (gold) you can go straight to the front of the line of all rides but one. And for $85 per person (platinum!) you can cut in every line in the park. I'm not a one percenter, but I'm fortunate enough to be able to drop an extra $110 (I got gold passes for my buddies, not one for me) to make things more fun for my friends. I didn't even have to run it by the marital finance committee.
I met Spectaculario and Stupendizoid back at the Goliath exit and told them the great news. Remember that one hour line you just had to wait in? No more! That line is just for poor schmucks who can't afford gold-level Flash Passes. For the rest of the day, kids, you go to the special entrance on the side just and march yourselves right the fuck up to the front of the line!
I've heard that Disney has this same system, but that they do a better job of hiding the rich kid lines so that it's not so obvious to the poor kids just how screwed they are. But at Six Flags, it's all right out there in the open. The unwashed masses have to wait in the endless, boring zig-zagging line while, right next to them, the rich kids saunter on by, straight up to the front of the line, onto the ride and back again, over and over again, as many times as they want. You can see the anger and frustration in the poor kids' eyes. Those guys cut in line! It's just... not fair! Why do they get that special treatment? Because they could afford the Flash Pass? Because they're rich?
Real class warfare requires more than just grumbling and dirty looks. It takes organization and hard work and Molotov cocktails. But the seeds were there at Six Flags. Brewing and fomenting in all the kids who used to think that all kids, rich and poor alike, were equal at Six Flags.
Six Flags isn't doing anything wrong, of course. It's just a business, trying, like any other business, to separate a few suckers from their dollars. It has no civic duty to provide everyone with the same level of service. And, for a poor kid, waiting in the long lines at Six Flags is good practice for going out into the real world. Government programs may get slashed, but there's still a nice a la carte menu of services available to anyone who can pay for them. Limited health care? Crappy schools? Speeding tickets? Minor felonies that require a good lawyer? No abortion providers in your state? Meh. Those are all just problems for the poor, minor inconveniences as long as you have the funds. You can walk right past the line and get on the ride.
So, Piss Poor, little Johnny probably already has a sense of how crappy it is to be poor, and how many problems can be avoided by having a rich dad. But if there's any question in your mind, how about a trip to Six Flags? It's only $39. Well, actually, if Johnny brings a friend, with $20 parking, $12 chicken fingers, $4.99 fountain sodas - unless you buy the $13.99 value jug, which gets you unlimited $1 refills - maybe a $19 tee shirt or something, and, of course, the $85 platinum Flash Pass, you're looking at more like $450. But it's a small price to pay when you consider what a first rate education in class warfare little Johnny will get.
Yours in brutally honest child rearing,
Gravy Train Dan