The Demon Nephew turned three earlier this week, so we all gathered at Chuck E. Cheese yesterday to celebrate the illusion that he was leaving the “terrible twos” behind. I can see why Mr. Cheese’s restaurant might appeal to a small child. Or a coked-up squirrel with ADD. What I can’t understand is the adults who voluntarily involve themselves in this enterprise—and that includes me.
First of all, I have to wonder what the suicide rate is among Mr. Cheese’s employees. I’m guessing the rate is a high number, like “6” or “a friggin’ lot.” If I was put in prison for an unspeakable crime and my punishment was that I had to chant that nonsense about “I say ‘Happy’ you say ‘Birthday’” I’d last about four minutes before I shivved myself. The unfortunates who can endure this ritual deliver their lines with all the enthusiasm of a stroke victim on thorazine, so they must have numbed themselves somehow.
Then there’s the parents. They plan, they organize, they make a cake. They shell out a lot of money. And what’s the upshot? The kid doesn’t want his pizza, he’s bored with the festivities, he’s leery of the mouse with the giant head, and he tears through the presents like a thing that quickly tears through presents. All he wants is more tokens so he can pump them into a machine and cause it to make sounds and flashy lights and such. The children are unanimous about this.
As for the adults invited to the party: we know it’s not about us. We know Birthday Boy likes us, but sees no use for us in a place like this, except as maybe a token source. The best we can do is show up smiling, say “Happy Birthday” when Birthday Boy’s sugar-glazed eyes pause on us, and try to keep the kids from beating each other senseless with the new toy light sabers. We fend off the headache for as long as possible and wonder why Mr. Cheese didn’t have the foresight to build a soundproof room with lots of windows (by which we can observe the chaos) and a fully stocked bar.
Because this isn’t about us, though, there’s no reason not to allow the kids a couple of hours to go Lord of the Flies on a wicked sugar high in a padded, supervised environment. If Demon Nephew gets the green cake he wanted, and he gets some books along with his new cache of trucks, and nobody gets hurt, then I’ll call it a success.
Happy Birthday, Booger.