THE SONIC BOOMER
How long has it been since you’ve gone to Chuck E. Cheese’s, that children’s den of iniquity? For me, it had been 25 years… until Sunday.
On Sunday, Mark and I packed up my grandson Skippy and his six-month-old sister and headed over there.
For the uninitiated, let me explain. Chuck E’s is basically Las Vegas for tots. In one building, they have managed to install all the lights and noises of the strip, all the food of a low-cost buffet, and all the joys and sorrows of gambling. For many adults with a gambling addiction, it may well have started here. There are technically no slot machines, but every machine has a slot, nonetheless.
First, we bought our pizza. Pizza is not required, but if you want the true Chuck E experience, you’ll need to get one. We ordered a medium pepperoni for $24. Of course, that included 20 tokens… and the tokens are the real reason any of us are there.
But Skippy (our requisite little guy… you don’t want to be there without one) had never been led down the game room path before. When he was handed his little cup of tokens, he handed it off to me. Oh, such innocence. It will not last.
It only took one trip to the diminutive merry-go-round, one lesson on putting a token in the slot, and one jerky start on that wild ride of pleasure, to transform wide-eyed little Skippy into a slot-stuffing Pavlov’s dog. He ran from the merry-go-round to the squirt gun booth; from the basketball toss to the whack-a-mole game.
He was having a good time, but I was having a great time. While Mark sat serenely in our booth, munching pizza and watching the baby play with a soda straw, I was hurriedly tracking what could well have been a hyperactive chipmunk on a sugar high. He was here! He was there!
And then he spotted the bumper cars.
I don’t remember bumper cars from the days when I took my own children to Chuck E. Cheese’s, but here they were — all chrome-shiny and tempting. Skippy just had to ride one, but they cost four tokens each, which was all he had left. He also was about two years too young to be driving any kind of vehicle. After all, we had just come from a video race game where it only took him two minutes to demolish every palm tree, construction barrier and innocent pedestrian along his route. But Skippy stood at the bumper car booth so long, with his hopeful little face pressed against the fence, that the attendant let him in.
I didn’t think he would get it. I didn’t think he would he would be able to figure out that you have to push the bar forward, then backward. And he certainly couldn’t hear me coaching him over the din. But Skippy wiggled the handles a bit and the car wiggled. Sheer delight! Then he noticed the other kids pulling the handles back, so he did, too. Scoooot! Back he went, at top speed, successfully bashing himself against the back wall. Hahaha! Then scoooot! Fast forward into the little red-haired girl. The fiendish delight! The unmitigated joy!
I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t see.
And then the ride ended, and it was time to go home. We had both had a wonderful, most non-educational time. But that’s OK, because on Monday, we went to the zoo.