Monday, February 9, 2009

Where a kid can be a kid. And get the Ebola virus while he's at it.

Yesterday was J's first outing to Chuck E. Cheese, for a birthday party. I was hoping he'd never know about Chuck E. Cheese until he was way older. Like old enough to take his own kids there. You see, I can't stand Chuck E. Cheese or any place like it. Neither can TH. I don't know why, it's a little irrational, but I really despise going to these places.

Maybe it's because when I was a kid, we NEVER went to Chuck E. Cheese, or the equivalent when I was growing up in Denver, Showbiz Pizza. I didn't even know about it until I was 11 and I was invited to a birthday party there. And even at 11, it just wasn't for me. The food was craptastic. Half the games didn't work. There were too many kids there, and even as an 11-year-old I was grossed out by the grime on everything and the way my shoes the...floor. Chuck E. himself was extremely creepy with one eye that didn't move while he was "singing." I mean, he's a rat, for God's sake. Who wants to play with a giant rat? To top things off, after 2 hours of struggling with the dirty, broken, inane games, all my zealously hoarded tickets got me was a plastic spider ring. It didn't even glow in the dark.

So when my friend T told me that she was having her kids' birthday party (3 kids with birthdays in one week - a 2 year-old and twin 1-year-olds, do the math on that one) at Chuck E. Cheese, I wasn't exactly thrilled. When I told her J had never been to Chuck E. Cheese before, she was completely astounded. "Are you kidding??" she said. "My kids have been there dozens of times already! We LOVE Chuck E. Cheese!!" At that point I started to wonder if maybe I'd been unfair to old Chuck, based on a bad experience at an admittedly, um...ghetto Chuck E. Cheese when I was a kid. So TH and I decided to just suck it up and see if Chuck E. Cheese is someplace we could be taking J on slow nights when we can't figure out an activity not involving walking through a casino. When I told J about the party, he was somehow already well-versed in what goes on at Chuck E. Cheese (it's scary how well commercials and marketing work on these guys at such a young age.) I'd barely gotten the words "and it's at Chuck E. Cheese, do you know what that is?" out of my mouth before he literally started jumping for joy, telling me, "Oh,YEAH!! It has games, and birthday parties, and ice cream, and a party and balloons and-and-and games!! Yeah, CHUCK E. CHEESE!!! BIRTHDAY PARTY!!! LET'S GO NOW!!!" and then he almost hyperventilated with the ecstasy of it all.

When we got to Chuck E. Cheese, we were pleasantly surprised - at first. It was a lot cleaner than what I remembered from the ghetto Chuck's when I was 11, with only a little bit of floor-stickiness. Chuck E. himself was neither broken nor especially creepy, although J wisely kept his distance (he's still a giant RAT, people). The food was better than I remembered, not great, but no worse than alot of pizza joints around here. J of course did not eat anything except ice cream and a bite of cake--even the joy of being at Chuck E. Cheese couldn't entice my picky eater to touch pizza. J was pretty well-behaved, but he was almost vibrating he was so amped to start playing the games. The lights! The sounds! The tickets shooting out! No wonder so many people are hypnotized when they enter a room full of slot machines.

When we got to the games, it was the same old disappointment all over again. Half of them didn't work and just ate our tokens, and the other half were either way above J's age level or in various levels of disrepair. The whack-a-mole only had 1 out 5 moles that would actually pop up. When we tried to play skee-ball (one of my favorites) only one ball came out and then it disappeared after the first roll. Admittedly it was funny watching him and another 2-year-old playing mini air hockey. J was just like me when I play, yelling things like "YEAH, BOY!" or "ha-HA!" when he made a shot, which was surprisingly often.

Things started to fall apart when J bravely entered the tunnel/spiral slide/ball pit thingy which required the kids to climb up the inside of an enclosure and crawl around in a maze of tunnels to reach the slide. As I watched J climb to the top I was so proud that he was hanging in there with the big kids, until he made a wrong turn and got stuck at a junction of tunnels. I could see him through the little submarine-hole bubble window, his face pressed to the smeared-with-God-knows-what plexiglass looking down at me, crying and mouthing, "Mommy." After 5 minutes of me and TH trying to pantomime which way he should go, he gave up and just slumped against the side of the tunnel crying. TH looked at me, I looked at him, and like all good parents we rock-paper-scissored who would have to climb up in there and get J. TH lost. After they made their way out, J was smiling and saying, "Did you see me? I got lost!" and TH looked thoroughly disgusted. "I've got to a find a restroom RIGHT NOW," he said. "I slipped when my hand went into some kid's snot!" That was it for me. We used up our tokens, collected the tickets (which bought us one measly orange crazy straw that made J insanely happy) and got the heck out of there.

I'm sure J had a FABULOUS time, and the first words out of his mouth this morning were, "Can we go to Chuck E. Cheese now?" But as for TH and I...sorry, Chuck E. Cheese. Maybe in a few years.


Maria said...

I seriously laughed out loud when I saw the title to this post. I HATE that place. It is like the germiest, most petri dish-like place ever. My Dh loves it there, but I cringe when he mantions going there. The kids, of course, love it. I find that usually within days one or all of them have gotten sick. Our friend says that it smells like "hot sick" there. I totally agree with you. It is YUCK!

Steph said...

You can add me to the list of non-fans of Chuck E Cheese. Being a germophobe, I get grossed out by the sticky floors, germs, etc. I cannot bring myself to take Cooper yet, although I'm sure one day we'll make it there. However, that doesn't stop Cooper from being able to identify the place whenever we see one.

Joanna said...

I've never been, but it has always seemed like it would be a nightmare to me. I'm hoping to avoid it as long as possible.

LOL about the Rat. I love the fact that you have actually saved real rats lives, and yet still despise the fake one.

LauraC said...

Another set of Chuck E Cheese haters here.

I did laugh bc you are SO lucky you can rock paper scissors things like that. Since Jon's 6'4" guess who gets to do that?? The boys climbed to the top of one of those play areas at Chick-fil-A on our Florida Thanksgiving trip. Guess who got to climb in and pull out two crying toddlers?

And then they did it AGAIN on the way home!!

deebo47 said...

I'm with you - I seriously hate Chuck E Cheese and all places like it. That's why we've never had any of the kids' birthdays there. We've tried to get creative and go to lots of different birthday joints, but I will never plunk down my hard-earned money on this one. Just thinking about going there gives me a headache. TH likes taking the kids there but I can't hang at all. I don't even like McDonaldLand (after working at McDonald's in high school and seeing what goes in the ball pit, all I can say is: Don't do it - moms, keep your kids outta there.)

Julie said...

I gagged a little when I read about how TH slipped into some kid's snot! Yuck! Did you shower with Purell when you got home?

-Bridget said...

Ooh! Ick! I hate Chuck E Cheese too. We've taken Reagan once. Fortunately, it traumatized her as much as me so she's in no hurry to return again.

Mel said...

Your post was so funny!! I totally agree! HATE Chuck E Cheese. Analese has gone to a couple of b-day parties there lately and she has even randomly requested to go. NEVER!!