The price we pay for ‘atmosphere’


There’s a cultural understanding that says it’s OK to spend way too much money on something because you’re paying for the “atmosphere” or the “experience” or the “ability to post annoying photos of the atmosphered experience on Facebook.”

I liked to think I would never do something like that. Those people who go to exorbitant foreign spa centers to stick their feet in pools filled with tiny flesh-devouring fish that eat their dead skin cells, for example, are nuts. I’d never give in to such nonsense.

But I do. Maybe not in such an adventurous way, but I do.

I came to this realization last weekend while standing in the dark, shivering cold and hopelessly lost. For which I paid $8.

That’s because a group of several other young, otherwise intelligent adults and I decided to visit a corn maze.

Corn mazes are touted as family-friendly fall fun by farmers who realized that they can make a whole lot more money by showing people their crops instead of actually harvesting them.

This, I believe, is known as the hybrid word agritourism.

I’m not saying such activities are bad. In fact, several weeks ago I also paid good money to enter a pumpkin patch where I had to pick my own pumpkin and then pay more good money to take that pumpkin home. And it was fun. Because I was paying for the experience.

Except then on the way to the car I realized I had lost my keys, which meant wife Hanna and I got to enjoy the whole pumpkin patch experience all over again. Luckily they didn’t make me pay to pick my keys out of the patch.

But back to the corn maze.

We got there around 8:30, well after dark. We paid our admission, got carted to the entrance of the maize—er, maze—and were set loose to find our fate.

Except it took a really, really long time to find our fate.

While it was fun at first—you know, rounding the same corner five consecutive times and laughing about how silly it was—the excitement began to wear off after two hours.

It was then in the exhausted, frigid anxiousness that out of the mist of my breath materialized the knowledge that I had just paid a total stranger to take me out into his or her field and get lost.

I get lost all the time for free.

Was this supposed to be fun simply because I emptied my wallet for the experience?

For further insult, I realized we had essentially done the same thing a few hours earlier for dinner. We went to a fancy Japanese steak house where they cooked the food right in front of us and nearly burned my eyebrows off in the process.

While we each ordered different items off the menu, it basically amounted to the chef grilling up a mass quantity of chicken and beef and splattering it on our plates in a variety of orders, which then climaxed by being charged four times as much for the same food that I could have ordered at a mall food court.

But by golly, it sure was an experience.

To ask why, contact the writer at david@hillsborofree­press.com.


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