Saturday, April 5, 2008


So a co-worker of mine hooked us up with some freebies at Chuck E. Cheese, but we figured we'd never use them since we live 30 miles away from the joint, it's at the moribund South Hills Mall, and overstimulating Noodle and Beast while jamming them full of heinous pizza and high-fructose corn syrup drinks was not anybody's idea of fun.

On the other hand, it was free heinous pizza and high-fructose corn syrup drinks, plus just enough game tokens to suck us in. And as it turns out, Noodle needed eyeglasses, and they were ready to be picked up today, and since the eye doctor is just a few miles from Chuck's, well...

The first thing that surprised us was that the place opens at nine in the morning. To get the brunch crowd, don't you know. I'll tell you momentarily why opening at nine is a fantastic idea. The second surprising thing was that they serve wine. It's not like there's a wine list. The's just two small taps behind the cash registers, one marked red and the other marked white. Can anybody help me out on which one goes with cheese-and-tomato-flavored cardboard?

We got there at 11:00 when the place was still all but empty, and by 11:10 the Beast had taken so many rides on the Chuck E. picture-taking car thing that it ran out of paper, and aside from that his ride of choice was the Bob the Builder bulldozer, during which he would proclaim to all and sundry that I AM BOB THE BUILDER. I AM. Meanwhile, Noodle had racked up 79 game tickets cheating at playing Whack-A-Mole. I think you need two thousand tickets to earn the two-inch-tall plastic dog from China with a missing leg and enough lead in it to stop a charging Cape buffalo.

By 11:30 the place was jammed with people and kids arriving for the first parties of the day, and as it turns out one of Noodle's nursery-school classmates was one of the party-goers, and talked Noodle into being brave enough to climb up into the crawling maze that looms over the play zone and is actually very very cool for four-year-olds.

And then it got more crowded. Which brings us back around to my point about it being a great thing that the place opened at nine, because by noon Her Awesomeness was on the verge of hooking one of those wine taps up to a funnel and making like it was a Friday night in Plattsburgh some time in the early nineties. With Chuck E's first stage show of the day about to begin and suck the kids in for another half-hour of token-sucking hell, we fled in slow-motion like the crippled Enterprise trying to limp away from Khan's ticking-time-bomb ship in the Mutaran Nebula, hoping against hope that we'd get out the door before they saw anything and started howling. Her Awesomeness was magnificent as Spock bringing the mains back online just in time.

Next time, we're coming early so my darling wife can mix Chuck E's wine with some OJ and have herself a proper brunchtime modified mimosa. Even with the freebies it cost us 35 bucks. When you've got kids, the Man will win one every now and again. You cannot stop him. You can only hope to contain him.

Did I mention the godawfulness of the pizza?

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