Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Evil That is Chuck E.

Three little syllables. Seemingly so innocent, they have the power to strike such fear in my heart.

Chuck...E...Cheese.

More dreaded than a trip to the OBGYN is the prospect of attending a children's party at this place where a kid can be a kid, and an adult can be demoralized.

If you are a veteran of the chucksters, you may want to skip this post at the risk of it prompting some sort of post-traumatic stress reaction.

For the uninitiated, Chuck E. Cheese is a horrid combination of pizzeria and arcade -- although it fails miserably at both -- which specializes in parties for the grade school set. Can you call letting kids duke it out over quasi-functioning machines a party? (If there was wagering involved, perhaps…)

Upon entry, each child is given a cup of tokens that can be used to play the various arcade-like games. The payoff is that each game spits out tickets that the tikes can redeem for quality prizes the likes of which you can purchase from the Oriental Trading Company for $5.99 a gross.

These tickets are kiddy crack and I have seen some of the greediest, nastiest behavior from children in their attempts to accumulate tickets. (Not my children of course, because I surgically attach myself to their sides in an effort to shield them from their peers.)

That said, my kids love the place. They are thrilled to be invited to a party there. After all, you can never have too many sets of iridescent press-on fingernails.

So, I sacrifice my dignity and take them if I don't have a legitimate excuse.

Here is where I suggest that perhaps it might be wise to invent a legitimate excuse if one doesn't present itself outright.

For example, it might be less painful to fling oneself down a (short) flight of stairs in order to obtain a legitimate injury that prohibits driving (to said Chuck E. Cheese) than to endure two hours of claustrophobic cacophony.

To add insult to injury, this joint can't even make the cake-eating part OK. Long lines of rectangular tables are packed tightly together with about 30cm (I love the metric system, don't you?) of space between them.

The parents are forced to stand/hover in the non-existent aisles as the children eat. I believe this is a plot to ensure that there will be no escape when the goofy pseudo-animatronic mouse figurines spring to life on the stage at the front of the room…and shortly thereafter Chuck E. himself (no doubt some underpaid and very sweaty teenager in a pungent mouse costume) leaps out (well, maybe “waddles” is more like it) from behind the stage to lead the children in a cha-cha line.

The kids go nuts, but all I see is an evil Pied Piper determined to undermine my efforts to install taste and dignity in my children. (Well, I really haven't done much to that end, but it sounds good, doesn't it?)

And then I go and buy more tokens because the party's not over yet and our cup is empty.

If there is a hell, I’m betting it’s just like Chuck E. Cheese (but probably without the cake.)

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