I recently attended my granddaughter’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. I anticipated this event with as much glee as I did for my last prostate exam.
My memories of Chuck E. Cheese are saturated with visions of children, out of control, running through the endless maze of loudly clanging rides, demanding more tokens all the while riding a Coca-Cola sugar high that lasts about two months. I remember parents with the look of doom hopelessly trying to keep up with the adolescent frenzy of movement that soon blended into a whirlwind of sound and movement that left young mothers with the look of a strung-out meth queen.
Even though I was not part of the first line of defense for my granddaughter’s birthday party, I cringed as I drove in the pouring rain — perfect weather for such an event. The parking lot was full. I could see the movement inside. There appeared to be two thou— no — 10,000 kids running amok, as if dancing to some evil sadistic ritual, probably circling the parents who appeared cornered like Custer at his last stand. Adding to my dismay was the fact I had forgotten my flask! Damn you, evil children!
The token-operated rides were clanging and bells were ringing and kids were running in no particular direction as I entered. I didn’t dare go into the pit of hell where the rides were for fear that I’d be sucked into the vortex of child madness. I flanked them to the right, making my way along the wall to the concession stand. I surfaced at the counter and came face to face with a young man with a Chuck E. Cheese name tag. He looked at me, but he was looking past me with a thousand-yard stare into hell. He had been on the front line too long. Don’t they give these kids furlough??!! The whole scene was overwhelming. I could feel only panic on the doorstep of my sanity.
And then it happened.
Who knew you could rent sanity for less than $3?
As the screeching from the pit of hell grew louder, I turned away in horror and, in that moment, I read the menu on the wall. I looked and looked away. Then suddenly, as if struck by a rock, I looked again:
The earth stood still. The skies opened and the rain instantly ceased, giving way to the sound of a choir. The music filled the room, replacing the screaming, shrieking noise of the demon children.
I couldn’t speak. I just pointed to the sign, looked over at Detective Sandy and excitedly exclaimed: “Chuck E. Cheese has beer!!”
It was true. We jumped up and down like two giddy school girls and pointed to the menu and pleaded: “THAT! PLEASE!! NOW!!!”
I just stared at the beer, feeling that somehow we could now move forward. We waded among the children as they frantically buzzed past us like a demented herd of 3-foot-tall wildebeests. Slowly we crossed passed the spaceship ride and alongside the jumping pit of colorful balls, careful to hold the beer high and out of harm’s way. We made camp at the second row of booths, behind the birthday celebration tables.
There we would be safe.
The afternoon went by much faster. We even enjoyed the entertainment as Chuck E. Cheese danced onto the stage, surrounded by five kids wanting to pull his costume to shreds. We smiled at the disheveled soccer moms as they tried to ration the pizza, only to find most of it thrown to the floor.
Detective Sandy and I looked at each other and smiled as we knew this was their time to fret and worry and chase the demon children around the now pizza-ridden floor. But for us, we could sit and watch and be thankful that all we had to do was just sit and watch — and drink a beer.