Complaint About Airport Food Makes Twitter Fun Again

New York Times columnist David Brooks complained about his meal, and the internet went to town.

"This meal just cost me $78 at Newark Airport," New York Times columnist David Brooks posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday. "This is why Americans think the economy is terrible." Accompanying the post was a photo depicting an unremarkable hamburger, some crinkle-cut fries, and a drink, as if to demonstrate how little one's dollar can stretch in Biden's America. The problem is that no one rises to a dunk contest quite like X users, and within hours Brooks had become Twitter's Main Character for the day. Perhaps the week.

The reason for everyone's mockery was that the drink seen in Brooks' photo appears to be a large glass of whiskey on the rocks—and however much airport food is marked up, airport booze is another category of highway robbery entirely. Internet sleuths quickly deduced which Newark Airport restaurant Brooks was likely patronizing, then cross-referenced his stated total with the menu prices. The conclusion was that the burger and fries cost somewhere around $17-23, and thus his whiskey must have cost at least twice that.

Not to say that this ought to be the case, of course. In New York, the Port Authority even began an audit of LaGuardia prices in 2021 after a traveler posted about a $27 pint of Sam Adams Summer Ale, the result of excessive COVID recovery fees being erroneously applied at high percentages to various menu items. Airport booze is costly for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is that businesses know we're pretty much trapped in the terminal, unable to seek alternative options. This objectively sucks, but it doesn't necessarily paint a picture of the American economy writ large, as Brooks might have been attempting to demonstrate. It's fair to say that this $78 bill scenario—which, again, was more than 70% whiskey cost—is at least somewhat specific to David Brooks.

While many X users began gleefully pointing out the obvious flaw in Brooks' lunch order (help me budget this, my family is dying), an unlikely series of replies came from writer Joyce Carol Oates, who not only pointed out that the meal was possibly paid for by the NYT expense account, but also jokingly speculated that Brooks did not leave a tip, retweeted others who dunked on Brooks, and even recreated Brooks' original post using her cat as a stand-in. Okay!

Anecdotally, I'll say this: You can grumble about the alcohol markup at bars and restaurants all you like—I encourage it!—but those prices are made clear prior to ordering (or should be). Last week I went to a concert where my party of four ordered three beers and a double whiskey on the rocks. The total bill was a whopping $65. There was some sticker shock, to be sure, but our response was to stick to one drink that night, not take our complaint to an audience of 250,000 followers and try to say What It All Means for America. To each their own.

The real takeaway here, though, is that after months of speculation that Twitter/X is on its last breath, one overpriced airport whiskey was enough to make Twitter feel like its old fun self again. The platform's liveliest debates, or sometimes just its biggest ones, have always revolved around food, and we're hoping that whatever social media platform replaces it someday allows for that same kind of unhinged discourse. Sorry about your bill, Mr. Brooks.