Ironically, my son learned a hard fact of life in one of the happiest places (for a 12-year-old boy) on the planet – the Universal Studio in Singapore: that life is unfair.
We were there several weeks ago and because we were early, we managed to get into most of the fun rides in the amusement park fairly easy. As the day wore on, more and more visitors poured into the park and consequently, the queue for any fun rides became longer and longer.
There we were, at ‘Far Far Away’ – the corner of the park where characters from famous fairy tales reside, although strangely we only saw Pinocchio and Puss-in-Boots walking around that day; that my son decided he would stand in line for 40 minutes to get into the roller-coaster ride (that paradoxically, lasted not more than 4 minutes). It was while he was waiting for his turn in the long hot and noisy queue that he first noticed some kids holding special passes were allowed to go through a special lane and get ahead.
He wasn’t happy.
After the 40-minute queue and 4 minute ride, he complained to me about “people who got ahead because they paid more”.
“Why can’t we all be in the same queue?”, he asked irritably.
“Well, they did pay more to get that privilege”, I replied.
“In that case, why can’t we all pay more?”, he asked again.
“In that case, they will have to make a special express lane for the express lane, for people who could pay even more”, I quipped.
“But it’s so unfair!!”, he grumbled.
“Yes, it is. Life is not fair. People who have more money will have more privilege that those who do not’, I said.
“Well, why can’t the conductors allow 2/3 of the express lane people to go and 1/3 of the normal lane people to get onto the ride at one time?”, he offered, in my opinion, a thought well ahead of his age.
“I think that is what they are doing, but there will always be more people in the normal lane and there will always be people who have special privilege simply because they are richer”, I responded.
It was getting late and waiting in line for another 40 minutes for another 4 minutes ride was not a pleasant option. We decided to move on to the next attraction, which was Jurassic Park and found, to our utter chagrin, that the waiting time for the rides there was between 1.5 to 2 hours long!
Anyway, we spent the rest of the time loitering in souvenir shops looking at nice things that we could not afford.
I felt a little sad that day as we finally left the park – that one of the happiest moment in my son’s experience was tainted by one of the hardest reality of life – that wealth instead of merit brings privilege. I only hope that he would also realize that he, being able to go to the Universal Studio in Singapore, was a privilege that many kids his age would never have.