I seem to remember a point in my life where I would have KILLED to have my birthday bash at ChuckECheese's. This was an especially appealing idea because my little sister absolutely refused to come within seventy feet of anyone wearing a large character costume, thus she wouldn't be present to ruin said party. But now I wonder if she didn't have the right idea all along. Case in point:
- Those creepy people in large character costumes. My head says that they are unfortunate employees who are paid far too little for the indignity, but I can't help but wonder who exactly is behind that furry smile and mesh eye-holes...and why do they want to hug my baby?
- The animatronic version is no better, with jerky movements choreographed to terrible music (about bellybuttons, hot sauce, and SPF no less!) - I was just waiting for its head to slowly spin around to look at me with red glowing eyes.
- All the employees have a glazed-over look in their eyes, kinda makes you wonder what it's like from their side of the counter.
- All those surfaces, do you think they're sanitized............ever?
- The person at the front door who stamps your hand with the same number as your child's - to be checked when you leave. Is this because I might steal someone else's kid, or better yet forget which one is mine? (not such an outrageous assertion given the sheer number of them running around without leashes)
- The fact that you can buy the prizes!!! They have large signs that say "1 Ticket = 1 Cent" prominently displayed where anyone with rudimentary reading skills might comprehend its oh-so-complex meaning. I know that you have always been able to pay for the prizes, but seriously?! When I was little we were told to save up our tickets until we had enough to 'buy' our dream prize ourselves. It taught responsibility, patience, and money management skills (since you also had to figure out which game was the best value for your token). And so what if the ticket price was astronomical, after a few visits your parents could always slip the cashier the difference when you weren't looking (especially effective if the child is very young). But this way, it's letting them know upfront that all the work they put in will only get them a cheap non-denominational plastic dradle, unless Mommy & Daddy cough up some cash. The larger prizes didn't even have ticket prices anymore, only $$$!
Mom, was it like this for you when I was little? Is this simply disillusionment on my part? Do I remember it with the rosy glow of childhood, or has the establishment deteriorated that much?
(On a side note - despite this wandering theorization, we did actually take Gilli and cousin Marlee to ChickECheese's the other day. They seemed to enjoy it as much as any play area they've been to, and the food was decent. We'll probably take them there again, but next time I'm thinking about paying a kid some money so I can see what the employee at the door would do when I leave with a child that's got a different number.......and so the kid can use the $$ to buy that Hanna Montana purse of course!)
(click to enlarge)