Several years ago, I was part of the California Authors exhibit at the California State Fair. This one evening, I was seated next to my friend Phil Silver, a children’s book author who had two small books for sale. At one point, a man and his son (maybe four years old) stepped over. The man picked up one of Phil’s books and flipped through it. Then he turned to his boy and said, “Hey, would you like to get a book?”
The son seemed fairly disinterested, but the father continued to leaf through the pages before saying, “Are these free?”
Phil and I sat there in shock for a moment before Phil advised him that, no, they weren’t free, but seven dollars each or both for twelve (or something to that effect).
The man looked absolutely incredulous and said, “Seven bucks? For a book?”
He said this in all seriousness, then put down the book and escorted his son away… carrying a can of beer that I knew was selling at the fair for six dollars.
I regularly tell this story as an example not only of a massive parenting fail, but of society’s misplaced sense of value. A man will pay six dollars to enjoy a beer for maybe fifteen minutes, but be utterly appalled at the suggestion that a book was worth seven, even though it would likely give his son many hours of enjoyment.
This could not be more backward. I admit that the concept of “value” is somewhat subjective, but only a person dying of thirst should find more value in a beer than a book.