I’m a Chuck E Cheese virgin.
At least I was until we finally went this past weekend.
I had no idea what to expect. I mean, I guess I sort of did because of the commercials. Some cartoon rat would bounce around the screen in front of games that lit up and a cacophony of children would sing, “Chuck E Cheese’s! Where a kid can be a kid!”
Tommy had been begging me to take him.
So we finally relented and said we’d go. He was ecstatic. Even Tom seemed to be a little excited. He had gone several times as a kid and bragged about how good he was at certain games.
When we first walked into Chuck E Cheese I was confused as to why this woman was stamping our hands with numbers.
“Why is she branding us?” I hissed to Tom.
“Our number matches our kids. That way someone can’t walk off with them. Because you just let your kids run and play in here,” Tom explained knowingly.
Um. Unattended children? That didn’t seem safe. But wait. The stamp number thing. I guess it made sense.
“Does that mean that random kids will be bugging us?” I wondered. And to prove my point, the second my hand was stamped a little boy ran up, stuck his tongue out, and scurried away.
“An unattended child just made a face at me!” I said to Tom indignantly. “Children should not be left unattended even with numbers. Kidnappers could probably manage to take a kid. They could—oh my God, Tom. What is that?” With a shaky finger, I pointed to a giant Chuck E. Cheese walking around. I do not like giant characters when you can’t see the face of the human that inhabits them. It’s probably why Yo Gabba Gabba terrifies me so much. “What kind of place is this?” I demanded.
Tom sighed beside me. “It’s just Chuck E. He won’t hurt you, I swear.”
But you never know what’s going on underneath the costume. That’s why I don’t like it when I can’t see the face. They could be LEERING at you or something.
“I don’t want to go near it,” I said, huddling up beside Tom. Another unattended child raced past.
“Look, we won’t go near it.” Tom rolled his eyes. “I’ll get a table, you get the pizza.”
I kept my eye on the giant rat. He was across the room, thank goodness. “Okay,” I said, and joined the line for our food. I had a coupon that I printed out and thank goodness I did because we would have paid nearly $15 more for a pizza and drinks. Plus my coupon included 40 tokens. I wasn’t sure what they were when the lady pushed the cup towards me.
“Gold?” I frowned.
“First time?” she asked. Her expression was all, “Holy crap, lady.”
“Those are the tokens to play the games,” she offered politely.
“Oh. Thanks.” I grabbed the tokens along with the plates and number for our pizza. Several unattended children nearly collided into me. I wanted to yell, “Where are your parents?” But then I remembered. It’s Chuck E Cheese. Kids aren’t attended here. I surveyed the room and found parents sitting at booths having adult conversations. Oh, how nice. I was beginning to understand this place. Too bad Natalie was too young to be left alone.
“Now what?” I asked Tom, dropping off the stuff.
“We play!” Tom grinned. He grabbed some tokens. “Come on, Tommy.” They started to walk off.
“Excuse me!” I called out. “What do I do?” I gestured to Natalie, who kept trying to walk away towards the blinking lights of some car game.
“Whatever you want,” Tom said unhelpfully.
Okay. I took Natalie’s hand. “What do you want to do?”
“Horsie!” Natalie said, pointing to a giant horse that looked as though it had seen better days.
But okay. Horsie it was. We got in line. It was our turn but then an unattended child cut in front of us and climbed up on the horse.
“Um,” I said. “It’s our turn.”
The kid looked to be around six, so he knew better.
“Sorry,” he said but didn’t sound it at all. And he didn’t remove his ass from the horse. I was about to remove him myself but then the GIANT CHUCK E CHEESE came up behind me.
“EEEEE!” I went, shielding myself with Natalie.
Giant Chuck E seemed amused. Or really, how would I know because I COULDN’T SEE HIS FACE. For all I knew, a chick could be under there.
Natalie liked him. “Hi!” she said and even gave the creature a hug. *Shudders*
Then Giant Chuck E held out his hand. What did he want from me? Was he trying to swipe my purse? Was he coming on to me? WHAT DID HE WANT?
A high five.
Natalie happily gave him one. Then Giant Chuck E stuck his hand out towards my face. What, he expected ME to touch him? I gave him a half hearted high five and prayed that he’d go away.
He did. A group of unattended children surrounded him, saving me.
“I go der!” Natalie said, pointing to some plastic tunnels attached to the ceiling. It looked dangerous but what do I know? She easily climbed up and I watched as she crawled through the tunnels.
Then she refused to come down.
Tom and Tommy joined me. “Where’s Natalie?” Tom asked.
I pointed up. “She won’t come down.” I was beginning to panic. What if she refused? Would I have to climb up there? What if I got STUCK and the fire department was called to get me UNSTUCK? Oh, the humiliation. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten all those Ding Dongs.
“Mommy? I scared!” Natalie called out.
“Then go down the slide. Do you see the slide? GO DOWN THE SLIDE!” I yelled dramatically.
Tom gave me a Look. “Calm down.”
But I couldn’t down. My child was SCARED and I was just STANDING THERE.
“Mommy will come get you if you need help. Did you hear me? MOMMY WILL COME GET YOU!”
A few other parents stared at me as though I had a neon pink bra wrapped around my head.
And then the giant rat started coming closer again.
“Tell it to go,” I said to Tom as I struggled to find Natalie in the colorful tubes.
“Um, you can’t tell it to go. This is technically his place,” Tom reminded me.
“I don’t care, I want it to go, it freaks me out. NATALIE! Can you hear Mommy? Can you—” Then I realized Natalie was climbing back down. Phew. She hurried over, I scooped her up and got as far away from the rat as I could.
Our pizza arrived soon after that. It was pretty good. Though in the middle of eating, an unattended kid came and stared at us with his mouth wide open for a few minutes.
I was about to tell it to shoo but he abruptly turned and went to gape at another family.
“This place is strange, Tom,” I said, sipping some Diet Coke.
“Nah. It’s great. Look.” Tom dug in his pocket and produced a long trail of tickets.
“How did you win that?” I was impressed. It looked like a lot of tickets and at Chuck E Cheese I knew the tickets helped the kids win a prize.
“Oh. I have skills.” Tom blew off his fingers like he had just accomplished a major feat.
After we ate it was time for more games. Or in my case, avoiding the giant rat. Why wouldn’t he leave? Didn’t he get a break? Then as Natalie hopped on another ride, a bunch of giant puppets started to sing on a stage.
“What the hell?” I said, shrinking away. It looked like there was a giant chicken up there strumming on a guitar. What was it doing? Why was it singing?
“What’s wrong?” Tom asked, coming up beside me.
I jumped. “A giant chicken is SINGING!”
Tom chuckled. “That’s what happens. Like every half hour. For the children’s amusement,” he added. I think he believed that I thought they were singing to terrify me.
A frightening place indeed.
We finally used all our tokens. I rocked at Skee Ball. I won a total of five tickets. But still. I was impressed. This kid totally tried to take one of my balls and I was all, “HEY! MINE!” I think I scared him. But unattended children need to learn some manners.
In the end we had 97 tickets and the Chuck E Cheese worker kindly let me round it up to 100. So Tommy picked out a foam rocket and all Natalie wanted was a Chuck E Cheese balloon.
“Are you sure?” I didn’t really want that smiling rat in my home.
“BALLOON!” Natalie insisted. She stomped her foot down for emphasis.
So fine. We got her a balloon.
Before we left the numbers that had been stamped on our hand were checked. I almost forgot this and when the woman tried to take a peek at my hand I thought she was coming onto me and was about to swear off Chuck E Cheese forever. I mean first the giant rat, then the unattended children and now some stranger was pushing back the cuff of my sleeve?!
Then I realized what she was doing.
And then we went home with Tommy gripping his prized foam rocket, Natalie with her balloon, Tom feeling a high because he had performed well in games, and myself, who was slightly worried that the giant rat was going to follow us home.
He didn’t, thank goodness.
Well. In a way he did because look: