Saturday, October 08, 2016

I Went To Chuck E Cheese Twice In A Month As An Adult And Lived To Tell About It.

Yep. You read that right. Twice in a month. My nephews are getting to the point where they actually want to spend some time with me, so we've been having a few days where, no matter how ill-advised, my step-sister entrusts me with her children. This month, I thought it would be fun to go pick out Halloween costumes, and then let them pick an activity. I took the six-year-old first. I knew there was going to be no way in hell to escape Chuck E Cheese as an option, because it was directly across the parking lot from the costume store. The ten-year-old, though? I was trying to sell him on going to jump on trampolines instead, but his mind was cemented in: his brother went to Chuck E Cheese, so dammit, he was going to Chuck E Cheese.

Walking though the front doors, the first thing I noticed is how they've turned that place into Fort Knox. There's only one way in and out of the building. You get stamped with invisible ink as you walk in, and they check your stamps with a black light as you leave. I'm sure they are trying hard to shake that "Best Place To Attempt a Kidnapping In America" label. Once you're in, hold on to your fucking hats, because you are about to be engulfed by one million children, and they are stoked to the nines. They are crawling on every ride, every game, every table. They have even built a series of hamster-style Habitrails in the ceiling in case there wasn't enough space for kids go get buckwild.

As a child, I was not aware that Chuck E Cheese was a choice for a Saturday activity. I though the only choices were always swimming, a bike ride, or a walk (side note- great parenting move there, mom and dad). Thus, my experience with the food at Chuck E Cheese was slim-to-nil until this month. We went to a birthday party or two there, but the cuisine would have been the last thing on my mind with all of the aggressive blinking lights. The 'serve your own' soda option seems like a poor move at a children's establishment, but I'm sure all the single dads hunkered down at the table watching action movies on their iPad might appreciate it. Here's the real stunner of the day: the pizza was wildly good. I wouldn't call this an authentic Napoletana experience, but if you get down with a slice of greasy pepperoni now and again, then make sure you don't skip the pizza. It just might save your sanity down the line.

In 2016, Chuck E Cheese decided to switch up their on-stage entertainment, and moved away from the animatronics of yesteryear, favoring on-screen skits on TVs placed around the establishment, and lots and lots of time with the big guy himself. Every five minutes or so, children and adults alike would be serenaded by the single song that the Chuck E Cheese bigwigs apparently threw all their capital into: "The Happy Dance". Imagine, if you will, that someone's dad who used to enjoy Good Charlotte back in the day, and someone's dad who dearly prizes his cassingle of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" that he bought back in '02, were tasked with writing a Chuck E Cheese theme song. The sound they seem to be going for something like the quasi-inspiring, pushy background music of an Isis recruitment video, or something that Vin Diesel might play as he does a 360 into the parking lot of his kid's daycare. Just as I was trying to tell myself that children would never, ever fall for such an oddly marketed attempt at getting their attention, my nephew interrupts me: "I LOVE this song". You might be curious at this point, but don't say I didn't warn you. One listen, and you're still going to be giving yourself a high-five three weeks later. This song is probably the sole reason they started serving alcoholic beverages to parents, but be warned: no amount of booze can erase the memory of a dirty costumed mouse playing air guitar.

We ate pizza, ran around like total dicks, and played lots of games. Some of the games give you tickets, and some of the games are useless. If you really want your children to understand how the economy works, the Chuck E Cheese is not a terrible place to start. Why? You put in a whole lot of time and effort and when you take those tickets up to the front, what do they tell you? You can only get the crappy Kanye shutter shades or three stale Airheads. Those prize wall folks are the REAL heroes, because they've got a million grabby hands coming at you at all times, and you just have to stand there all mellow and crush tiny dreams. "No, the giant stuffed Slimer is for people that LIVE at Chuck E Cheese. You can only afford a postage stamp and half a peanut".

Along the way, I found some allies. I made eye contact with a grandma that had almost passed out in exhaustion. A dad that had just played skee-ball 40 times in a row gave me a sympathy nod when he saw me being dragged over to the Batman game again. Walking out, I saw the pure joy on my nephew's faces. I contemplated the reality that, minus the giant mouse and all the flashy games, this is what parenthood is all about. Then, I dropped them back with their mom, counted my blessings and gave my pets a kiss, all while that fucking angry mouse song played on a continuous loop in the back of my head.

~sarah p.

Jams Of The Week (RIP Kashif Edition):

~sarah p.