Monday, January 18, 2010

Suburbs of Our Discontent

I have seen the face of evil, and its name is Chuck E. Cheese. This isn't just me being hyperbolic. I'm willing to back this up with hard evidence.

First of all, if you've never been (and may you stay pure, my virtual friend), then you need to know the basic details about this place: You enter its gates, get stamped with an invisible stamp--oh my God, it could still be there for all I know--then you put money into a machine that gives you tokens that you put into game machines that spit out tickets that you put into a monster ticket muncher that spits you out a receipt and that you finally take to a prize counter so that your child can claim his plastic snake or pop rocks (which I'm pretty sure were banned a while back because they made kids' mouths explode.)

If this were seventeenth-century London, there definitely would have been a Puritan or two hanging around outside, preaching to the sinners who were about to go spend their hard-earned shillings going to a show and then seeing a bear-baiting.

And the kids do look like they're possessed once they get in there. Their eyes get a little crazy as they scurry around from game to game, grabbing forgotten tickets like junkies looking for a fix. I actually got shoved at the prize counter by a four-year-old girl looking to crowd me out; and, yes, when it came time for the ticket-muncher line, I may have gotten a little aggressive with a kid who was trying to cut. But she so deserved it.

So why would I take my sweet, impressionable five-year-old to this hotbed of sloth and covetousness? Because he had slept in his own bed without calling out for five whole nights, and this was his chosen reward. And, as my Ferber story makes amply clear, sleep-deprivation breeds its own kind of crazy.

If I'm going to hell, at least I won't have gnarly bags under my eyes.

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