Every parent knows them. The rides placed strategically in shopping centres. Whether Play School or Frozen or some anonymous horse or firetruck, they have a hypnotic power over children. As soon a child sees one, it begins.
“Mum! Look! A ride! A ride! I wanna go on a ride! Mum! Mum! Mum! Mum!”
Even though the rides move at approximately the speed of a giant tortoise, to a kid, it feels like they’re racing in a Formula One Grand Prix.
It is their thrill of the week. I remember one mum guiltily admitting that she’d dislocated her daughter’s elbow while trying to drag her off a ride that wasn’t even moving.
For all the years that my kids were young enough to want rides, they cost two dollars. Shopping trip after shopping trip, the question would come. I shovelled my fair share of $2 coins into them over the years, but I would only do it if I had a $2 coin on me. It was part of the ritual.
“Oh, you want a ride? Well, let me see. I might have a $2 coin. No, I don’t think I do. Oh, wait, I have one. So you’re lucky. You can have a ride. Just one ride. Only because you’ve been good today.”
Of course, because I was the one holding the wallet, only I knew whether I had one of those rare $2 coins or not. If I didn’t have a $2 coin, there was no chance for a ride. End of story. End of whine.
But times have changed. Tap-and-go technology has caught up with those dinky little rides. Gradually, all around the country, rides are accepting payment by cards, not just coins. The impact on parents is horrifying.
No longer can parents claim they don’t have a $2 coin on them. Children have seen their parents tap cards to pay for a purchase, and they know that their parents always carry those magic cards with them. Always. That means unlimited rides are sitting right there, in their parents’ wallets.
Oh, and the price has gone up too.
So how can parents stop their kids from going on and on and on about wanting a ride? Keep a useless card in their wallet so they can tap it and then look shocked when it doesn’t work? Claim that they’ve used up all their money buying food for the family and have less than $3 left in the bank till the next payday? Explain that the truest pleasures in life don’t involve spending anything?
I guess there’s always, “No.”