Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chuck E. Cheese.

Did you ever wonder what the the "E" stands for?
Elastic would be appropriate. The cheesesticks are stretchy...that's all I'm saying. Maybe the "E" stand for Extra as in extra cheesy. Maybe it stands for Everything needs a token to work-go ask daddy for more tokens.

There is an apostrophe at the end, like it's an initial but I just don't see that rat having a middle name like Edward or Ethan. Unless there was a rat uncle who left them the money to start the whole pizza video game empire and the family felt obligated to name a child after dear old generous Uncle Ezra.

The reason I bring this up is that I'm going to Chuck E. Cheese's today. It's my girlfriend's niece favorite place to go for her birthdays. And when you're turning 3, you really should go where you want to go and do what you want to do. And when you're turning 3 and you went when you were 2, it's really the only place you know. It's your place. It's the place where everybody knows you're name...and they sing to you and put an inflatable crown on your head, and for a brief 30 minutes you are the king or queen of the universe. You are the center of the universe...until everything is packed up and you go home and you become the center of the universe. Yeah. It's great being 3.

We didn't have Chuck E. Cheese when I was a kid. We had the kitchen table in our house or maybe if we were lucky we had grandma's house...and then we partied in her kitchen. We never had clowns and we never had photos on ponies. We certainly didn't have video games or giant singing rodents. And maybe that's a good thing. I still have nightmares from the lady next door who had false teeth. I can only imagine what images will have these kids screaming in the middle of the night. The singing hound-dog? The break-dancing weasel? The bug-eyed chicken creature?

There are two types of little kids at Chuck E. Cheese.

First there are the little kids who love all the excitement and hoopla. They love for people to sing Happy Birthday to them and they clap along with the song and as the part where everyone sings Happy Birthday to whatever their name is, they shake all over with anticipation. This is their moment and they are gonna milk every last drop out of it. These are the kids who are gonna love college and office parties when they get older.

Then there are the little kids who seem embarrassed that people are making a fuss over them. They just wish the whole damn experience was over with. They have that "Just give my presents and let's all go home so I can go to my room and be in peace" expression on their little faces. They hide their faces and fold their arms and sure...they'll eat some of the cake with their name on it...but they're not going to enjoy it! These are the kids who will grow up to be CPA's and toll booth workers.

The types of children can be divided much easier however. The first type of child is the child doesn't even blink when the six and half foot rat walks out from the back and approaches them for a birthday hug. These children will one day grow up to be federal prosecutors, fireman, 911 operators, and hostage negotiators.

Child Number 2 is the child who will freak out totally when they see the guy in the rat suit coming their way. And it doesn't necessarily have to be a guy in a rat suit. It could be a person dressed as Nemo, or Goofy or just their Grandpop Fred decked out in beach shorts and a dickie.

These are the children who wet themselves immediately and go into a catatonic state when anybody but Mommy or Daddy come towards them. We all know these people as adults in our every day lives. It's Claire in Accounting who has 11 cats and smells of liverwurst and it's Jim at the hardware store who is 43 and still lives with his the same bedroom he had as a the same airplane bed.

Chuck E. Cheese, or rather the concept of C.E. Cheese, started as a sit-down family pizza restaurant with some video and arcade games. As a person who considers himself a pizza connoisseur, I can tell you the pizza at C.E. Cheese is not pizza. It's a distant cousin of pizza and it lives on the same street as Tombstone Pizza and those pizza eggroll things. I guess though when you're under 6, it doesn't have to be good. I guess when you're 6 and your daily diet consists of dirt, boogers and anything else you might find under the couch, it really doesn't matter if your pizza is good or not.

I'm sorry, I hope this doesn't offend anybody, but the animatronic performers at C.E. Cheese (sounds like the more upscale location at the fancy mall) are a little creepy. It's like someone found a dumpster full of body parts behind Disney World and scurried off to some workshop in the middle of the night with their found treasure. They are a hodge-podge of furry and feathered animals...characters....things....who knows what-the-Hell they are?! They move with herky-jerky motions and if their eyes blink, they open and close mechanically with the beat of the music. I can certainly see, and appreciate, the influence they must have had on a young Lady Gaga, but they're still creepy.

There is one character who is without question a hound-dog playing a banjo. Just because he is easily recognizable doesn't make him any less creepy though. All I will say about Jasper T. Jowels is that if Ned Beatty saw him, he'd probably shit a brick and faint.

Chuck E. Cheese is Vegas for the 5 and under crowd and it is a little unsettling to see toddlers staggering using their cuteness to beg tokens off of complete strangers. Some sit bleary-eyed, clutching their ropes of pink and green tickets, hoping that just one more lucky whack of a mole will win them the tickets they need to win that whistle they've had their eyes on.

Just like Vegas its all about distraction and disorientation. There are no clocks on the wall and there is only one exit. It's flashing lights and ringing bells and any kid with ADD would implode after only a minute of entering the place.

But it's not about or for adults. C.E. Cheese is for the kids...the little ones. Sure the parents pay for everything, but it's for the children. They are our future. At least Whitney and I believe it to be so.

and that's Jody with a "y"