Sunday, February 1, 2009


We took the twins for their first visit to Chuck E. Cheese this afternoon. For thirty bucks, we got two soft drinks, mediocre pizza, twenty game tokens, and priceless people watching. Granted, the food is not the number one draw of this particular establishment, rather it's the twenty-five cent video games and the allure of winning tickets and then redeeming them for utterly worthless prizes that you would never allow your children to buy with real money.

Although the concept remains the same, today's modern Chuck E. Cheese is not what I remember from my youth. It's too slick and technologically advanced. Gone are the stage and animatronic animal band, replaced by a wall of flat screen TV's playing MTV-like videos of the new incarnation of Chuck E. Cheese. I remember waiting with nervous anticipation for the curtain to open and Chuck's band to rock the stage. Sure, their moves were limited and they only knew a few songs, but those cats had soul. Now, the soul is gone, and Chuck is limited to two dimensional status. It's a shame, really.

The only thing better than watching the kids enjoy all of the games and flashing lights was profiling the parents. You can learn alot about a person inside a Chuck E. Cheese. For instance, there is the dad playing arcade basketball. He's the competitive type, the kind every carny on the midway looks for. He'll spend every cent he has until he has won the prize, even if it means his poor kid has to stand by and watch until he is bored to tears. There is the loving mother who tries to make sure her child enjoys the experience, trying to teach him the joys of SkeeBall even though he can barely roll the ball. She knows it's not about winning, it's about spending time with your children.

And then there is the lottery mom. She's my favorite. She's thirty pounds overweight, smells like tobacco, and her kid is nowhere in sight. You can't miss her. She's the one standing at the Wheel of Fortune yelling, "Lee! I hit the jackpot! Two hundred and fifty tokens!". What she won was actually two hundred and fifty tickets, not tokens. Two hundred and fifty tokens is worth about sixty-two dollars. In this economy, I might get excited about that, too. But two hundred and fifty tickets at Chuck E.Cheese doesn't go that far. Best case scenario, you get eight stickers, four temporary tattoos, a giant plastic cockroach, and a pair of chineese fingercuffs. Not a bad haul, but go to any dollar store and buy those items, and you'll save about fifty-eight bucks.

Nevertheless, the twins had a great time. There were buttons to push and games to play and lots of room to run around in. They weren't really interested in lunch as there was way too much stuff to distract their attention. Although there wasn't much stuff for kids their age, it was still fun trying to teach them how to play classic games like Whack-A-Mole. And the best part? They took a two and a half hour nap when we got home. That alone was worth the thirty bucks!

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