Thursday, March 17, 2011

Park Slope Extortion


We have a mini stroller now, but one thing has still been an object of yearning for Lucia lately: a new ball. “Ball” is one of her very favorite words, used to refer not only to actual balls but to pictures of anything round—the Earth on Atlas’s back, polka dots, a full moon. And at the playground, she is fixated on balls—the basketballs being tossed by the teenagers on the basketball courts and, of course, the many different balls carried around by other children. “Ball, ball,” she always says, pointing. This afternoon at the Tot Lot, she made off with another child’s dinosaur-printed ball. Well, “made off” isn’t a very Lucia action; she saw it, picked it up, and clutched it to her chest for pretty much the rest of the time. She, too, had a ball with her—her spiny purple ball—but what she wanted more than that was a smooth ball printed with some sort of picture.

And so this afternoon we went to a nearby toystore and I bought her a ball, which she held tightly the entire way home. The point of this post is not to announce that I’ve bought her yet another toy, though that is an interesting point to make. I find I’m quite susceptible to her plaintive pointing and mewling of “Mama? Mama?” when she sees something she yearns for. I’m counting on it being less cute when a teenage Lucia says, “Uh, Mom? iPad? iPad?” But really, a little stroller…a little ball…I don’t see the harm.

No, my point is that this ball cost $7. Seven dollars! A five-inch-diameter rubber ball. This strikes me as some sort of Park Slope extortion. Every child at the Tot Lot will want a ball, so why not charge $7? Lucia is my first baby, of course, so maybe I’m just woefully out of date when it comes to the price of balls. I may not have actually ever bought a ball before today. Aunt Molly bought her the spiny ball, also $7, which seems steep but understandable. But a plain rubber ball? Really? It’s an item that seems like it should cost about $2. I will have to do some reconnaissance next time I’m at a Wal-Mart.

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