Several days ago I had two different contests of wills with patrons at opposite ends of the age spectrum.

First I dealt with a senior citizen who was upset about how he’d racked up overdue fines on his DVDs once again (the last time he complained I’d shown him some mercy and waived them, but this time I wasn’t budging).  He kept saying that we were like a bookstore, or a bank, or a business (disgusted emphasis his).  He said that all we wanted was his money, and that he couldn’t AFFORD to check anything out from us anymore.  I said that you can check DVDs out from us for free for a week (which is better than a video store or a bookstore) and that we only charge you fines if you bring them back late (so if you return them on time you won’t owe us ANYTHING).  Now just put that conversation on a loop and repeat it over and over and over again until smoke comes out of your ears.

A few hours later I had another similarly frustrating  conversation, except this one was with a little kid who wanted to come to my teen gaming program.  The issue wasn’t so much that it was about a kid wanting to come to a teen program, because that happens all the time.  The real problem was that this kid in particular is used to getting his way (either because he’s cute or because he’s persistent) and he gets VERY frustrated when I don’t budge.  You see, because we’re in a shiny new building now, we had a short-term increase of funds to get cool stuff and we also have secure areas where we can actually keep the coolest/priciest stuff under lock and key.  So what that means is that we now have not one but TWO video game systems.  We’ve been using the XBox Kinect system for our teen programs (officially open to ages 12-18) and the Wii system for our children’s programs (officially open to ages 5-12).  We will also be starting a Wii Bowling program for adults (read: probably senior citizens) very soon.

Anyway, the kid in question tends to ask for something he wants once, and then if you tell him “no” he jumps into overdrive and starts blinking at you with his big brown eyes, whining, and going from staff member to staff member until he finds someone who will say “yes” or even “maybe.”  My previous experiences with this kid have let me to understand that if you give him an inch, he’ll take two miles.  So I am absolutely sure that if I let him come to even one of my teen programs, that he’s going to try to come in every single week.  So when I say “no” I mean it, and I won’t back down.

Now, in case you’re wondering why I’m being such a hardass about this, I have two reasons.  The first reason is that my XBox program is just one hour long, and even though the teens play in pairs it’s very hard to give everyone a chance to play before the time is up.  Sometimes there are delays because the kids want to change games, or because they want to watch the tutorial of a game they haven’t played before.  Sometimes the kids choose one of the longer games, like the “track and field” option in the sports game.  And sometimes the teens bring their younger brothers and sisters with them — I usually tell them that they can stay in the room with their siblings just to watch, but sometimes I decide to show them a little mercy and let them play.  Anyway, all of these things add up, so what has happened on more than one occasion is that I have to tell the last teenager, who has been waiting almost an hour to play a game, that he has to pick a game that will be over in four minutes because that’s all the time we have left.  And that really sucks.

The second reason I’m being a hardass is because this little kid whines all the time and LIES all the time, and that really gets under my skin.  As in, during the course of our discussion about whether or not he can come to my program he tells me that he’s eleven years old (FWIW, I suspect he’s really ten), he walks away from me, comes back ONE MINUTE LATER, bats his big eyes at me, and says, “I’m twelve!”

*SIGH*

Anyway, during a conversation in which I said NO six ways to Sunday, his reaction went something like this:  But I don’t LIKE Wii games!  I wanna play XBox!  What if I just came and watched?  You can’t stop me from watching!  What are you gonna do if we show up?  Can I come?  Can my brother come?  Can my cousins come?  THAT man over THERE said I could play if you had extra room!  [Oh, no … he got a “maybe” out of one of my colleagues!]  What’s gonna happen if we play?  Are we gonna DIE, or something?  Why not?  Why not?  Why not?  Why not?  It’s not fair!  Why can’t I come?  What if I just watched?  IT’S NOT FAIR!!!

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

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