I had a funny experience the other day when I was trying to buy a plane ticket to visit my friend Ram in Thailand. My friend Julie booked a ticket too, and we were going to be on the same flight, but then I found another one that was literally $500 cheaper. $500!
I hemmed and hawed. I had previously told her I’d book the same flight, but I wondered, would she mind if I took the $500? I’m going to spend a week in Thailand with her; surely there’s nothing we could talk about in 20 hours on a plane that we couldn’t catch up on in Thailand. Furthermore, we’d be taking different flights back anyway. And what do you do on a plane anyway, sleep?
But I’m sort of insensitive sometimes, so I didn’t know if this was one of those cases where I was being totally a jerk for even considering it. I have money; isn’t a good experience with a friend (or a so-so experience; we’re on a plane after all) worth more than money? And, I don’t know, landing in Thailand at midnight is undoubtedly bewildering and confusing (if landing in Delhi is any indication); would we be better off facing the madness together? If I asked her, would she be offended that I insinuated that our friendship maybe wasn’t worth $500?
Of course our friendship is worth more than $500! I’d say $550. Maybe even $600. ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Of course our friendship is worth more than $500! A true friendship is priceless.
But there’s the thing: it’s priceless, but it’s not infinitely valuable. If I had to spend $10000 extra to fly on the same flight as her, well, obviously I wouldn’t. So does that mean 20 hours of friendship is worth less than $10k? Does my hemming and hawing mean 20 hours of friendship is worth less than $500? Maybe there’s marginal utility: if I hadn’t seen her in years, the first hour would be worth a lot, the second maybe a little less, and so on, until we’re sick of each other and the next hour is worthless. But no, even then, you start putting prices on hours you spend with someone, and it just all feels wrong.
I guess it’s just orthogonal. You can’t make that judgment. It’s like if someone said “you can have doubled smelling power if you agree to never say the letter “J”.” It’s incomputable. You can’t hope to make the best choice in this case. Just make one and deal with it. (duh, right? guess I passed this voight-kampff test.)
Anyway, in this case, hilarious conclusion, I tried to book the cheaper flight, and it didn’t exist. Curse you Travelocity/Expedia! So now we’re on the same flight, and I almost didn’t have to tell her that our friendship is worth less than $500. … oops.
PS. oh by the way, did I mention I’m going to Thailand?
Ram - Feb 6, 2010
Here are some things that, had you known them, would probably have influenced your choice:
1. I am coming to get you two at the airport. So the confusing landing-at-a-new-airport thing isn’t a huge deal.
2. Five hundred dollars in Thailand is actually enough to buy roughly half of Bangkok. So it would have been an investment in the vacation.
3. You’re actually not going to hang out with us when you get here. I’ve hired a private company to take you on a tour while I hang out with Julie. Spoiler warning: your tour is 94% transsexual hookers.
4. Whenever Julie flies anywhere, she spends the whole time punching whomever’s next to her. It’s weird. There’s been some police action about it, but it’s always been settled out of court.
Now you know.
Dan - Feb 1, 2010
1. Aww, I was kinda hoping to get scammed by a taximan. I guess I’ll accept your meeting us at the airport.
2. Right, right? This fact that I was considering this gets even more ridiculous if you translate it into baht.
3. I hope you mean “your tour is hookers”, each of which is 94% transsexual. Also, we need more companies that you can hire to take someone else on a tour without their knowledge.
4. It’s cool. Whenever I am in Thailand, I spend the whole time punching people too. Although I guess this is more of a problem for the hookers.
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