Monday, February 22, 2016

All in all, there's just too many kids on the wall

Hold on; let me get my cane so I can wave it over my head while I rant.

My gym has been taken over by kids. In fact, both the places I pay (rather steep!) membership fees at have gone in the same direction; increasingly limited access without any corresponding cut in fees.

And there's no reason for these two businesses to care if members complain, even if the members leave; the businesses are too busy milking the new cash cow.

It's something theater groups discovered a long time ago. Children are money. Offer something that adults can take their kids to...or better yet, drop their kids off at...and you rake it in. This happened a few years back with Makers Faire; it used to be a get-together and networking event for people who, well, made stuff. Now that networking and that sharing takes place in short harried conversations behind the scenes, because the structure of Makers Faire now is to put lots of eye candy out to where it will draw the children, then sell them (rather, their parents) lots of crap that pretends to be about what they just saw.

TechShop has added so many outreach classes and after-school programs and STEM/STEAM auxiliaries it has gutted the originally core business of renting machine time to small business. Entire floors of machines are closed off for weeks at a time with little or no notice so they can do a new round of classes for young people...and nary a whisper of recompense for the wasted membership fees.

And my gym has followed suit. It is nearly impossible to climb there anymore; it isn't so much that it is crowded, but the kids (as great as many of them are) simply aren't mature enough to read a wall. So instead of waiting in, they'll jump on any random route that looks open. I've had to bail multiple times rather than being able to finish a tough problem because some tween couldn't read the wall and jumped on a crossing route after I'd started.

Yeah, sure, children are our future and all that. But adults are our present and sometimes there need to be places for them, too.

But, really, I don't think this is about a generation divide. It is, like so many other things, a class divide. Because the kids don't come themselves. They don't apply for memberships. Their parents take them. Which is to say; people who have "made it," who have achieved relatively comfortable lives and now have disposable income, see something else they can buy for their children.

It is in a way like the loft wars (part of the gentrification wars); people with lots of disposable income and relatively pliant day jobs were attracted to these cool little semi-industrial areas where artists were living cheap by living in their workshops (and vice-versa.) And after purchasing a stake in this Bohemia, the yuppies realized that paint smells and metal workers will hammer at odd hours of the morning, and they chased all the artists out. And then wondered what happened to the charm they had meant to purchase.

So these same walking checkbooks are coming into the places where people like me are hoping to work on the stuff we define our lives around; the self-run businesses, the replica props and cosplay circles, the small theaters, and the places where people like me are trying to keep our bodies in good enough shape to keep doing that kind of work, and they shit a wad of cash across the landscape, destroying most of what was good about it in the first place.

And in this arena, the colonialist troops are children. Like I say, I like the kids. Individually. As a mass, as an effect, they are taking away things I enjoyed and things I thought I needed and things I am really wondering why I am continuing to pay good money for.

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