I read an article recently that explained how the face of Chuck E. Cheese is changing. If you have children, you know the place. It’s that building where they serve lousy pizza, take your money for game tokens in exchange for paper tickets, and repay you by rewarding your child with toy trinkets that you will find under your car seats long after your child has started college. Apparently the old mouse is being replaced with a new mouse. A more hip, more cool, and more trendy mouse.
I can speculate that Chuck’s business model is struggling to survive and this change is the result of some recently promoted hot-shot who thinks he can build a better mouse trap. Ok, maybe that’s not the right analogy. Accurate perhaps, but not appropriate. Well see now I have this vivid picture in my head of the old Chuck E. Cheese character bleeding from the eye balls trapped in a humongous mouse trap clamping down on his neck while the new mascot stands in the background shaking his head slowly. And it would have to be a humongous mouse trap—have you seen the size of that rodent’s head?
It’s been years since I was subjected to Chuck’s mad house since my children are a bit older now. But, when I saw the “mascot changing” news story, the memories flooded in. We would always happen pick the day where every single parent in the entire state would show up. The place would be jammed. There would even be a line at the entrance where the incoming children and parents would have to wait for the same number of crying children to exit the building. No one ever leaves Chuck’s house without crying a river.
The wait to get in was no doubt due to fire code and building occupancy rules, but I’m also sure the teenager at the door failed to keep the correct count. While waiting for our turn to enter, I would be observing absolutely no space to walk from one side of the room to the other. This will be fun. Pictures of abducted children running through my head.
Once we passed the entrance queue, my little young boys would love to crawl around in that very complex maze of plastic sewer pipes. That is exactly what they were—raw sewage pipes. Children see this structure as the greatest indoor jungle gym ever assembled. As a parent I was appalled–watching the not-quite-sick-enough-to-stay-home children with their faces just oozing out snot crawl around through the same tubes that I was about to send my children into. It simply looked like a raw sewage system. You know why those slides are so fast and fun? They are greased down with several different bodily fluids from multiple children.
Regardless, I would follow my children on my hands and knees through the endless miles of muck filled tunnels and slides. I think good old Chuck could have made an extra fortune by renting knee and elbow pads to the adults. My knees and elbows would be raw and bleeding as I desperately try to keep up with my children who were short enough to simply walk through the tunnels. “Oh crap! My boys just went in two different directions!” Maybe one day I’ll be reunited with them again, I think to myself. Maybe one day.
There was this over-sized ball pit filled with colored plastic balls that my boys loved so much. It was this large area where kids would romp and play and giggle and laugh. They would also take turns throwing the balls as hard as they could at each other’s heads. A wonderful playtime experience.
Once, my son yelled out a very happy noise as he stood in the middle of the ball pit, jumping up and down,waving a ten-dollar bill high above his head that he just fished out of the bottom of the ball pit. How awesome is that? Without hesitation, I dove in head first to join him with dreams of recouping some of the college funds that I wasted on Chuck E. Cheese’s institution. Picture this crazy man sitting in the ball pit among several small children frantically scouring the bottom of the pit with both hands. And then I hit the jackpot! I felt a papery object, raised it high in the air, and exclaimed, “I got one!” Only I was holding a used tissue.
The following noise I made was not a happy noise. I grabbed my children and flung them and myself out of the ball pit, never to return again. I think the “E” in Chuck E. Cheese stands for “Effing”. If it wasn’t a place for children, the business would have been Chuck F. Cheese.