True story, just happened ten minutes ago.
"What you want is for kids to come in. As many as possible. But you've got to keep track of them."
"Hrm," his table companion said solemnly. "It'll be tough to charge them admission and whatnot. I mean, how do you price the use of a skate park?"
"What's more," he said, "is that you've got to make it affordable for kids."
There was an uncomfortable silence among the pair of rather portly men as they let their brain cells, what few remained after years of smoking weed and playing Magic: The Gathering, had begun to tumble on the problem. These men, I realized, were not accustomed to problem solving. They could weasel their way out of a Manna turn, but when it came to Real World issues, they were dead in the water, beached whales of intellect, stunted.
I had been listening to them for the last twenty minutes discuss this idea of theirs: to build a skate park and make it work in the Nashville area. There wasn't a lack of skaters, nor was there a lack of desire for one, but so far no one has managed to make it work for a lasting period of time. The main issue had always been costs and the ingenuity of kids, their uncanny ability to find nefarious ways around fees and usage costs. Skaters, more than any other subset of teens, are reknown for bucking "The Systems" which had been devised by adults.
I was tired of this, frankly. These guys couldn't reason their way out of a wet paper bag. I shared neither their enthusiasm for starting up a skate park nor their interest in turning a handsome dollar- for every dollar you have, you inherit another headache. All I wanted was some peace and quiet instead of constant pontification over a problem they were hopelessly and clearly unfit to resolve.
So I turned around in my bench and said, "Numbered Arm bands."
The smaller of the pair (which isn't saying much as both men looked to weigh significantly over 400 pounds), blinked stupidly at me. "What?" he asked.
"Arm bands," I repeated. "You want to charge the kids a fee for using your skate park, if indeed you ever get one started, right?"
"Well, yeah," he said, obviously slow on the up-take.
"What you do is charge them five dollars at the door and issue them either velcro or elastic arm bands, numbered, have as many as is allowed for your facility's maximum capacity. It's easy to get a computer program which can keep track of time usage- bowling alleys use them all the time and so do hourly-wage corporations and such. Whenever you issue an arm band to a customer, you log it in the computer, which is hooked up to a large-screen TV. The kids can monitor the screen themselves or you can just call the number out over a PA. Charge them five dollars every hour or whatever floats your boat. You see a kid in there without an arm band-" I chucked my thumb over my shoulder to illustrate- "they're out the door, baby. Finito. Gone. And if someone doesn't pay up within ten minutes, you seek out the bearer of said arm band, same result: right out the door... unless, of course, they cough up the dough in a timely fashion before they meet the egress in rough terms."
I now had the rapt and undivided attention of both men. The smaller one, the guy who seemed like he had the better portion of intellect between the two, looked down at his lap for a moment in deep contemplation. After a short pause, he looked at his friend, his eyebrows arched. "Damn. That works perfectly. And... fuck, it's cheap."
"Better than cheap," I added. "It's reusable. You could get arm bands made of paper, but why waste the money? Money saved is money earned. Velcro or elastic works just as well. And the arm bands will be inobtrusive to the skaters while they do their thing. You can have different colored bands for VIP's, guests and other special... uhm... dignitaries, though I don't generally classify any kid as anything close to dignified." They chortled. "Anyway. The concept is easy for kids to understand. They pay up when their number is called or on the board. Safe as kittens; smart as mice."
"Thanks!" he said brightly. "You're smart."
I shrugged. "I've been accused of worse," I said. "Glad I could help." Glad I could get them past that hurdle just to finally shut them up about it, truth be told- but I didn't tell them that. I had been rude enough by listening in on their conversation, having nasty personal thoughts about them and stealing their thunder by solving their problem for them. They laughed and began to collect their things, now that they no longer had that singular problem hanging over their heads. I inwardly heaved a sigh of relief. Peace at last, O Lord. Peace at last.
I don't mind helping people. That's true enough as far as it goes. It just grates on my nerves when such simple solutions to simple problems are apparently beyond simple people.
I now have the distinct feeling that I just missed the boat on a fairly lucrative idea.