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Friday, March 7, 2008

Lunch at School

Had I taken a photo of this scene upon arrival rather than eating first and clicking later, you would see a big crowd! In fact, it wasn’t easy finding an empty place at a table for the soup and salad lunch, an event put on by the senior class to make money for their senior trip to Chicago. The small gym, set up with tables and chairs, was packed with students, parents and grandparents, along with plenty of local people like me with no family members in school at all. It turned out that Ryan Blessing, the senior who had come down to the bookstore on Monday to see if Dog Ears Books would contribute a prize for the raffle (yes, of course) had made the soup I chose, which was different and delicious, and if I can get the recipe from him, I'll share it in some future post. It was fun to sit with friends, fun to look around the room and see so many happy, familiar faces.

Yesterday’s lunch reminded me of the annual senior project night and graduation and all the other school events and how well attended they are by the entire community. I’ve never lived in a place where what happens at the local school is such a matter of vital concern to just about everyone in town! Some residents don’t do all their regular shopping here, and they go to any one of five different churches or none at all, but the little public school unites us. It really is the heart and soul of Northport.

When I arrived back "downtown" the sun was breaking through the clouds, and I felt much more cheerful, settling into a red leather chair (Sarah in the other) to look into an absolutely fascinating book on behavioral economics, PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL, by Dan Ariely, which presents a story, as Duke University puts it, “’predictably irrational’ but highly entertaining.” Here are a few of Ariely’s experimental observations: We’ll pay more just to get something (else) “Free!” We’ll pay more to avoid the cheapest of something but go for a cheaper whatever if we can compare it to another that costs a lot more, and we’ll hesitate to buy at all in the absence of any way of making a comparison. In the throes of passion, prior reasoning and resolution go out the window. Once we’ve committed to anything—bought it or even just bid on it—somehow making it our “own,” its value goes up in our eyes. (Ah, this explains the browsers who complain to me from time to time that I have a book priced too low! No one who tells me I’ve priced a book too low ever buys the book, though you’d think they’d scent a bargain and snatch it up. But no, since they paid more elsewhere, they want to go on believing that what they paid somehow represents the item’s “real worth.”) Impersonal market exchanges and personal social exchanges can be at odds with one another in surprising ways. Halfway through this eye-opening book, I already have a lot of new ideas to juggle.

And the sun is shining again today!

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