Headmaster’s Thoughts – April 2013

“We strongly recommend that you arrive at the airport three hours before your international flight!”

With this command, the airlines have created a new center of commerce and salesmanship: the airport concourse of shops. Trapped in an abundance of fast-food purveyors and mall-type chain stores, with the oppressiveness of our boredom and nervousness, we frequently capitulate to the feelings of “need to do something” and browse the available products and even buy them. This book, that snow globe, those muffins; none of which we need (particularly the snow globe!) except to convince ourselves that we are busy. We are taken advantage of ruthlessly. Bottled water that costs a dollar outside the airport becomes suddenly worth far more (four dollars and two cents at the American Airlines Terminal on March 16 to be precise) once you have proceeded through security. The two cents means that you now have ninety eight cents of change; just what you needed. And of course, the bottle of water is always of the largest type, never a small and easily carried one. Why do they do this? Because they can! At what point do we rebel?

Travelers of the world, unite! We have nothing to lose but being overcharged for junk. Whether it is an inedible hot dog (that will be four dollars and fifty cents plus fifty three cents in tax… got to get that loose change) or stale and fatty cinnamon rolls (also for odd amounts of pennies), we are forced into a purgatory of bad choices which is fueled by our natural anxiety of travelling on airplanes abroad, and empty time to build on those anxieties. The airlines know this. The stores know this. The airport knows this, and we know this. We do nothing. Like sheep, we get herded around. Baa! Baa!

Some day, I would like to call very late at night the owners of those vile institutions that robocall us during dinner with suggestions for cutting our energy costs, or speeding up our internet, or some other such nonsense. In the same spirit of frustration, I would like to force-feed with hot dogs and Fiji Water (Fiji? I mean really?) all the airport store owners who have ensnared us, as well as the airline CEOs (“No, we do not give out pillows and your bag is too big to put in the overhead bin so that will be twenty dollars!”) and the airport managers who have rented out their shoddy malls to the lowest common denominators of merchandise. Baa! Baa!

Duty free is another scam to lure us. Why should going through a security screening mean that we do not pay any tax on a Rolex watch but do have to pay tax on Fiji water? How is this possible? No tax on Hermes ties but a tax on chocolate bars? Is this explainable? And, of course, when you are bored and anxious is probably not the best time to buy a really expensive item like a camera or a piece of jewelry for your loved one. And yet buy we must because the shops get bigger and glitzier and tackier each time we return to the same airport. And airports are expanding all the time (“we apologize for the inconvenience”) just to put in more stores. More room to ensnare us into parting with our cash. Because they can. Baa! Baa!I have no solution to this problem. I am not seriously advocating revolution or a mob attack (much as it might appeal to some). We are stuck with this abomination. And I baa along. I just think that it is good for the mind and soul to let loose every so often with invective at perceived annoyances.

“We recommend that after you read this, you take two aspirins and lie down! Turbulence may occur.”

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org 

“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section More News. You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.