Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chuck E Cheese - Why I'm not going back

Well, I have a slight rant.  It's been quite a while since my last rant, so I'm totally over due, right?  This time, I have my sights squarely on Mr. Chuck E. Cheese .  Now that I'm thinking about it, what the heck does that "E" stand for anyway?  Esquire? A quick Google search reveals that the "E" stands for "entertainment".  Hold on while I hold my sides and laugh.  Wow. Really? Okay, well I guess if "entertainment" also means the brutal, simultaneous violation of all your five senses as a parent, then, ya, I'd say the "E" is right on!

Hi, I'm Chuck E. Cheese.  I will make you question your will to live

So maybe you don't have any kids, or maybe it's been a few years since you've been forced to go to a Chuck E. Cheese establishment.  Let me paint a real pretty picture for you. Chuck E. Cheese is for kids.  It is not however, at all, in anyway shape or form, for adults. 

So your kid excitedly brings home a birthday invitation from school.  They are thrilled.  I am thrilled they are being counted as a friend of someone else in their class, enough to garner a party invite.  Me, priding myself on fun, kid-picked themed parties with all the well-planned trimmings, have always opened these invites with a mixture of hope and curiosity. Will I find a kindred spirit party mom?  Let's face it, school birthday party invites are a really great way to meet other parents and connect.  I know tons of people that just drop their kids off at a total stranger's house and come back a few hours later without a second thought in the world (what, do they have a death wish?). How can you be so trusting? What is wrong with you I want to say!  

Bye Billy.  Mommy and Daddy don't love you as much as we love shopping without you...

Well I, being on the overly-cautious side, always offer to stay, help, hang out with the parents, make sure my kid is okay and having a good time.  If I just so happens that I find a fun kindred spirit mom, or some awesome party ideas for my blog it's a win win.

Let's face it.  If you open the envelope, and get that Chuck E Cheese invite... your heart sinks.  You know... deep down...the parents have given up.  Just phoning it in, really. You might as well just buy a store bought cake, play the sad trombone sound, and call it a day.  Oh I know they make it enticingly easy there for busy grown ups at Chuckyland.  No set up, no clean up after,  and no mess. Kids like pizza.  Kids like video games.  Sounds like a winner in theory... until you get there that is.  Hey we are celebrating the one year anniversary of life of your child.  You only have one day a year to make it special.  Do you really want to hand the whole day over to a creepy bugged-eyed rat in a dirty costume? Any kid would answer with a resounding YES... but is it worth your grown up soul? (cue evil music here)

Your soul looks nice, can I... EAT IT?

That's right SOUL.  I pert near lost my soul last weekend when I begrudgingly took my excited 7-year-old to Chuck E. Cheese.  Her first time. Maybe it won't be as bad as I remember, I thought.  My older two children had been in years past and I had gone, I remember it not being fun, but it was tolerable, right? I can do it, right?  No. The Answer is NO.  The answer from this day forward will always be NO.

We walked into the dimly lit establishment on a bright spring morning. So, I ask myself, is 10am too early for brain assault and pizza?  Apparently not.  It was like coming from the beautifully smelling, cool morning air into a dank cave of despair.  Literally.  The first two smells that hit me full frontal, were the smell of piss...and burnt cotton candy.  It was overwhelming. Shortly after that, the smell of dirty socks and feet added a nice secondary wave to the olfactory invasion. I almost turned around and left, it was that bad.  How can they serve food here? It smells like a sewer!  A sewer where spun sugar is burnt mercilessly and twirled on sticks by sweaty feet.  

Don't forget the sound.  It's loud in there.  Not just loud, like, hey here's a bunch of clanging machines and screaming kids in a small confined area regular loudness, but like DEFCON ONE loud. 

It's about to hit the fan... Joshua
Like, turn everything up to 11 and pray for the best.  Jackhammers performing in unison with the Blue Angels flying in formation overhead during a 21 shot gun salute at a rock concert would be a happy, peaceful alternative to the noise level at Chuck E. Cheese.  Mind NUMBING would be an understatement.

Dirty.  Everything is dirty.  Tables are sticky, chairs are sticky, the floor is sticky.  Should a floor be sticky??  Well it should, if it's made up of carpeting possibly stolen from a Carnival Cruise ship reject pile from 30 years ago.  I can only image the layers of packed-in filth of three decades of kids running, playing, barfing, and well, obviously pissing. I know they probably say they clean it, but personally I can imagine it never having been cleaned.  Like ever.  I picture the Chuck E. Cheese vacuum cleaner covered in dust and cobwebs in the utility closet, still in the original box.  There were cups of dirty game tokens were sitting on the birthday girls' table ready to hand out.. some were actually stuck together with some unknown substance. Yikes.  I take a scan of the room, and all the toys and machines in the building I can see (I'm imagining) that are never wiped down or sanitized, and that every sick kid in town has wiped both their runny nose, or alternately scratched their backsides, and then the start button within seconds of each other.  I had only been there 10 minutes and seriously felt like I needed a shower.  Ebola and MRSA everywhere.... Where was my hand sanitizer?  In the CAR.  DANGGGGIIITTTT.

The party room is a big room, full of cafeteria tables.  That's right, hey birthday  kid, you're not that special.  We're going to celebrate your birthday with countless, nameless others strangers at the exact same time, in one big, loud, room. 

Chuck E says "You're not that special!!"
There's a large video screen in stage in front of you, and a robotic rat yells every so often that the Chuck E. dance is about to begin and a "show" is about to start.  The announcement that Chuck E. himself was coming was so deafening, I literally had to cover my ears for fear of permanent hearing loss damage.

Okay, as I take in shallow breaths so I don't have to fully taste the smell in the air... I still an trying to remember, that Chuck E. Cheese is suppose to be fun for KIDS.  I'm here for her.  My kid is so thrilled to see her friends, they head immediately for a climbing structure in the middle of the room.  

She runs back to bring me her boots.  Heck yes child.  Please take off your feet protectors and really grind your socks into that fore mentioned "carpet".  Excellent idea.  Note to self: Burn socks later. 

So we go through the whole party.  Pizza, (the kids ate it, with that smell so strong in there, I couldn't even fathom trying to eat something), presents, game tokens, and running around in socks, (if you are seven, and are so inclined).   Flash forward to the end of the party, because this is where it goes down hill quick.  About 15 minutes before the party is up (yes, I'm counting every second until we can get the heck out of there and back-timing my escape, thanks for asking), and by now I have a pounding headache, am literally nauseous, overheated, and super irritable, I'm thinking this would be a good time to cash in our tickets and stand in line for those awesome $1 store toys they have lined up as prizes.  We head over to the ticket machine, and my daughter has, I'm going to guess, one billion tickets.  Some are in sets of two, there are a few with four or five tickets attached, but most, I'm going to say 97.4% of them are individual tickets - and you are going to want to trade in a good portion of your life to turn them in here.

This handy item will gobble up tickets and print out a receipt on how many tickets you have.  Ingenious really, however, see that dark black speaker on the lower right hand side?  Well it makes a sound that I believe is suppose to be a "gobbling up" sound.  Chewing, grinding, not exactly sure.  What I DO know, is that it sounded like a demon, and was turned up to deafening levels, on TOP of the DEFCON ONE level ambiance of the regular room noise.  Here my baby is so very patiently feeding tickets one by one into the mouth of this thing, and I was of course standing right next to her, hunched over like Quasimodo (cause the ticket eater thing is 2 feet off the ground) trying to help, and this thing was SCREAMING in my ear.  I even took a video of it, because I had the time. That's right. It took her 15 minutes to feed all her individual tickets in.(Imagine you have a screaming head ache, are nauseated by the overwhelming stench of the room, squatting uncomfortably, then turn the volume up and stick your ear next to this for a while).  I'm not sure with the video compression if the loudness factor will shine through, but you get the idea.

By the end, I was sweating, shaky, so ready to punch Chuck E right in the face if he happened to dance by. 

We get our receipt of 360 tickets, and realize a giant line has formed over by the crap-o counter toys.  It's already 15 minutes PAST the end time on the invite, and now I realize I'm going to be at Chuck E. Cheese even longer than I thought I could ever stand it. While we are waiting in line there, my baby realizes she doesn't have any shoes.  Say what?  Oh, that's right (as I gaze down at her jet black - formally white socks), she took them off under the party table.  I tell her to stay in the the long line while I run over, and of course, another whole party has moved in to where our table had been.  "Happy birthday nameless other chap", I think as I walk with my head near my knees like a Romanian acrobat scanning under all the tables. Darn. No boots. Look under all tables, no boots. Stop a dazed-looking worker with a name tag, she says they have a lost and found!  Sounds promising.  She disappears behind a door.  I wait.  I wait.  She never returns.  I can't leave my baby alone in line for that long, so I run back and she's all alone crying in line because her boots are lost.  Now I'm trying to figure out how to watch her crying in line, AND hunt down her boots with the confused minimum wage workers before we get up to the front of the line so I can help her pick out prizes. Time was ticking... it was like an evil game show.  

I talk another worker into looking in the lost and found box for me, and a few minutes later, she comes out with some boots!  Hey, black boots!  Oh wait.  Not. Our. Black. Boots.  Dang it.  My baby bursts into tears and we are almost up to the counter to pick our our cheap arse toy prizes.  I decided to call the original birthday mom on my cell phone, to see if maybe she grabbed the boots and took them home with her.  As it starts to ring, I look across the room and SEE the mom at a new table on the other side of the restaurant, so I run over there and sure enough, she has our boots!  Sweet.  Bless you lil' mama. You might have just caused me two hours of mental misery, but you saved my kids boots. I'm going to call us even. I run back while triumphantly holding the boots high over my head, and I see my baby's mouth drop open in joy across the room that mommy had found her boots! Hooray!  Boots = We can LEAVE!

She had been through the line by now... but where were her arm full of prizes?  We had stood in front of that screaming demon ticket eater for what seemed like an eternity to get our 360 flippin' points, and my baby didn't have any prizes.  Dollar store crap or not, we stinking EARNED those points.  

I (I mean we) at least had a Chinese yo yo and a plastic bracelet coming our way. Three hundred and sixty points is the back row of the bottom counter baby, we could have had a clapping hand, a pen with googly EYES!  No one was behind the counter. They are lucky they were gone.  I was about to go all Chuck Norris (another famous Chuck) and roundhouse kick someone into next Tuesday.  My baby's receipt was all gone, and she was holding... a miniscule bag of cotton candy.  She had traded away all of her ticket points for the only thing she wanted... and she was happy.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that sneaky Chuck E. Cheese lady had pulled a fast one over on her while I was running all over the world to find her boots.  "Let it go" Elsa would say.  She was happy.  She loves cotton candy.  She has been having a great time today.  Chill out mama.  But that screaming demon ticket machine ... my ears are still ringing... Let it GO... So - Speaking of going....

Well the best news of all was that we could GO.  I am sorry to say I had to spend an extra 43 minutes inside the hellmouth that is the chuck e cheese (I really don't feel like I need to give it the capitalization anymore, it doesn't deserve it) and we were high-tailing it for the door. We come squinting out into the beautiful sunlight and I start to deeply breath in the fresh, sunny spring air with all my might.  The first non-piss filled fresh air I have had in 163 minutes.  Hallelujah.

Funny screen shot:  I actually have a screen shot of my text message to my hubby when everything was going down on that day, it cracks me up now:

Ooo Bonus story time!!  We get out to the car, and I realize... my phone is still connected with someone.  Oh that's right.  I unknowingly have been leaving a 10 minute muffled message on the host mom's voice mail.  Holy buckets.  I was so grumpy at the time, who KNOWS what I mumbled while we frantically searched for boots, got ripped off at the prize counter, and escaped into the bright noon-day sun.  I pray with all my might she realizes it was a butt dial call and deletes the message and doesn't listen to the whole thing.  Please dear Lord.

I walked in the door when we got home. Totally spent. Like I had run a marathon, or had just been to Haiti on an oppressively hot day. I slumped down in a chair, took one look at my husband and I said... "never again".  If we ever get another chuck e cheese invite, you are going.  He calmly agreed and gave me two aspirin he had waiting for me in his hand... Oh yeah, also we need to burn some socks.

The End.

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