Coerced Into Chuck E. Cheese’s Dungeon of Fun

So the oldest small child had a birthday recently. There were dooms and portents written in the sky the weeks before. Flights of swallows flew south, jinked north and then were messily eaten by hawks. The oaks dropped their acorns early. I should’ve paid attention and escaped to Patagonia, but I didn’t.

Instead, I ended up at the local Chuck E. Cheese’s dungeon of fun, dazed, confused, blinking under the assault of strobing lights and endless cheerful noise. In the back of the room, the giant-sized animatronic version of Chuck E. Cheese (harbinger of evil himself) twitched and fidgeted and hollered out vaguely incomprehensible slogans such as “Have fun, kids, or else!” or “Let’s dance NOW!” or “The pizza probably won’t clog your arteries!”

My kids, of course, loved it all, but they are still too young to comprehend the nature of evil and moral consequence. They flitted from arcade contraption to arcade contraption, feverishly dumping in tokens and staring goggle-eyed at the flashing lights. In return, they won tickets that they could exchange for small plastic toys made in China (such as the Jumping Frog, the Strangely Boring Bracelet, and the Comb With Highly Breakable Teeth). They also, I’m convinced, probably picked up about fifty million different germs from all the other shrieking kids that were happily rioting in there. If the Black Plague starts again, it’ll undoubtedly be headquartered at a Chuck E. Cheese somewhere.

The Chuck E. Cheese company (headquartered, I think, in Sicily and run by the Gambino Family) has a curious motto that I’m still trying to comprehend. “Fun for all. Fun for less.” I’m not sure what this means. Does it mean that they have figured out how to do fun on a very tight budget? That their pizza-like food is actually extruded from pizza extruders in their private back rooms, mixed together from buckets of lard and small, lonely onions? That their arcade contraptions are combinations of baling wire, duct tape and hope?

Fun for all…now that is certainly hopeful.

At any rate, the ordeal is over for now (until next year) and I hope to stop twitching fairly soon.

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