Before you had children, you might have thought Chuck E. Cheese was a TV game show or possibly an expensive organic cheese flown in from Vermont.
How wrong you were.Chuck E. Cheese is a place where kids go to have their birthday parties. The colors are garish, the games are loud, the pizza is greasy … the perfect place for six-year-olds. Chuck himself is a giant smiling rat (maybe he is trying to be like Mickey Mouse?) who wanders around, shaking everyone’s hand. There are games at Chuck E. Cheese’s, pinball games and loud simulator games, and tubes to crawl through—tubes that no one since the beginning of time has bothered to clean. Oh, yes, it is a given that if you go to Chuck E. Cheese, you will get sick. Within 24 hours. You have never seen so many nasty vile visible germs congregate in one place, sort of a worship hall of disease and pestilence. (And as a side note to the Chuck E. Cheese legal department: you cannot possibly sue me for saying that. Because it’s true.)
Why do children want to go there? Why indeed? Who knows? They just do. And some hapless parental type has to take them there.You should avoid all things Chuck. Just never talk about him, and instead hope and pray that your children will forget who he is. The problem is: other kids. Other kids who are friends with your kids and are nice enough (mean enough?) to invite your sons to a birthday party at the Rat Palace.
When your kids receive a Chuck E. Cheese invitation in the mail, they can practically taste the high-fructose corn syrup. They wanna go now! This is when the intense negotiations between parents begin:“I took him to that Bounce House party two months ago. That was a 45 minute drive each way. It’s your turn.” “No. I chaperoned the zoo field trip for the school and had to stand in the snow for three hours with a bunch of kindergartners and make sure none of them wandered off. Your turn.” “No. I did that Chuck E. Cheese party last year—remember, the one where that kid threw up on my new linen jacket? You have to go.” “Argh! Rock, paper, scissors?” “Deal.”
This devolves of course into two out of three and then seven out of ten. If you are the losing parent, you will cry (no fake tears necessary) and then proceed to bribe the winning parent (“I will wash the dishes for two months AND change the cat’s litter box every day,”). This type of negotiating does no good, as the winner knows exactly what he is avoiding. The winner says a little prayer of thanks to the Gods of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and gives the loser a kiss. “Don’t bother bringing me a slice of pizza,” says the winner, grossly overstepping the boundaries of appropriate gloating.Walking in the door of Chuck E. Cheese is like buying a one-way ticket to Migraine-ville. The only question being: Will this migraine wear off later today or will you be stuck with it all the way until tomorrow?
You sit there, as the losing parent, watching your children race around like crack addicts looking for their next fix. You desperately try to access that happy place in your brain, the place where all this melts away. That is the precise moment when the waitress appears and you remember the only decent thing about Chuck E. Cheese when she asks you,“Can I get you a beer?”