I might have to change Internet providers. Comcast’s spam filters obviously missed the piece of email with the subject line “Opportunity.” They normally get deleted but this one was from my sister, and I was curious if she had discovered a way to make big bucks from home or found a cheap source of Viagra or Cialis so I opened it up. I can always use more money and better erections, although buying boner pills from my sister seems a little creepy so I was hoping for the former. Turns out the opportunity was for a free meal. Of pizza. At Chuck E. Cheese. For my niece’s 4th birthday party. With about 25 other four-year-olds. And my two-year-old nephew. I was getting hives just thinking about it. However, my sister and her husband have always been hospitable and generous to us, so me and the missus agreed to help out. Well, the missus agreed to help out, and I felt guilty since it was my family so I agreed to go along.
The party was scheduled for 10:00 a.m., with pizza and cake at 10:45 and evacuation orders for 11:30. How hard could it be? We were instructed to meet at my sister’s house at 9:00 a.m., but I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was just in case one of the kids got caught in ductwork or Krazy Glued themselves to something. I guess they weren’t feeling too creative that early in the morning as neither scenario was the case. From there we received the second part of our mission – follow my sister to the party palace to set up. I had thought that’s what you paid Chuck for, but my family has a habit of overdoing everything party related. Upon arrival, my sister popped the trunk of the sedan and we were directed to unload the 25 colorful beach pails full of party favors with each invitees name written on them. After several trips past Chuck’s velvet ropes all the pails were inside and it was time to arrange them on the designated tables taking into account personalities, rivalries, alliances, political preference, gang affiliation and a software program designed by eHarmony for pre-schoolers. Next, twenty tokens were counted out and delivered to empty cups at each place setting. And finally, in a gesture of never-ending hope, anti-bacterial wipes were set out at the end of each table.
The finishing touches were in place a few minutes early, so I stole some tokens from the cup of a likely brat named Gavin and, before the paddles got covered with kid spit, I demonstrated some mad air hockey skillz with a 7-3 schooling of the wife. Niece and nephew showed up while I was in the breakdance portion of my victory celebration, which was interrupted by the next part of our mission. My sister and the Mrs. took the birthday girl and her tokens to the game area, while dad and grandma did the same with nephew. That left me happily unassigned so I quickly volunteered to stay behind and use my imposing 165 pounds and menacing presence to guard purses, cameras, baby seats, diaper bags and unclaimed tokens. I thought this suited my anti-social personality until I realized I had also inherited the responsibility to greet lost-looking MILFs, relieve them of any gifts, show them where to secure game tokens, and get them to the games so I could return to my peaceful post while sipping Powerade. Some of the church friends seemed to know who I was and said they were praying for me. I wondered if this was because of my recent illness or some implied moral depravity, but instead thanked them without inquiring any further. The plan was working swimmingly until 10:45 when our host/server announced on the PA that all the germ-ridden rugrats should report to the seating area for bad pizza and lemonade. Unfortunately, they listened and my Walden was quickly transformed into a mash-up of an ecstasy-fueled rave and carnival funhouse.
An automated Chuck E. Cheese came alive and lip-synched to seemingly anachronistic classic rock groups like the Doobie Brothers. Accompanying videos of Chuck and his posse played on monitors throughout the room. And scores of children bounced around the room like moths in a lightbulb factory. After each of the kids nibbled enough pizza to satisfy their parents, the Hello, Kitty cake was presented and the host/server led the official Chuck E. Cheese birthday anthem with admirable enthusiasm. Soon after, the cake was cut and doled out to the waiting sugar addicts whose juice boxes had run dry. Next, the curtain closed around the automated Chuck E., and the live in the snot-crusted fur Chuck E. appeared from backstage. The children all gathered around as he prepared to do some sort of performance, and video camera duty was suddenly thrust upon me. I raised the camera up high to capture the action and started to praise myself as the Scorcese of children’s parties when I was unexpectedly relieved of my duties by my exasperated yet polite sister who confiscated the camera, claiming that she could get a better angle as she moved in and took a place atop the back of one of the sturdier children. I happily slinked back to my station guarding the remaining cake and stack of birthday gifts and sipped my Powerade as I rested my arm. Eventually, the formal portion of the event wound down, but the kids did not. Grandma was exhausted by this time, and dad had gotten distracted by his Blackberry, leaving an unattended 2 year-old nephew unexpectedly as my charge. I panicked and called the Mrs. to help as I chased him into the gaming area where I caught him climbing up the side of a Spongebob machine.
Since, we had a climber I relocated him to the playground area where he could climb up this fort thing and then slide down. This lasted quite a while, and the low-maintenance and simplicity of the activity pleased me. He then sprinted to the assorted “rides” – one-seaters in the form of a train car, airplane or bulldozer that would gently rock back and forth after being fed a token. However, he didn’t appear interested in the ride part as much as buckling himself into the seat and then trying to disengage the buckle. So we’d disengage it, and then he’d buckle himself in again. Repeat. Like fifty times. But I didn’t mind since he wasn’t screaming or drooling on me. Then move to the next ride. Buckle in. Unbuckle. Buckle in. Unbuckle. Repeat. Cool. Parenting is easy. I don’t know what Moist Rub is talking about.
Suddenly he shot out of the playground area and into the video game area. The cool thing about playing video games with a 2 year-old is that you don’t even need to use tokens. You just hold him up and let him pound buttons while cartoon characters float across the monitor and you get to pocket his tokens. We did have to drop a couple tokens on the Pop-A-Shot game since you can’t get the basketballs unless you pay up. The Mrs. held him while I attempted three-pointers from back behind Whack-A-Mole game. I collected the prize tickets that the game spit out and would surely have enough to trade in for a cool sex toy from the prize cage when the day was finished. While this was going on, my sister had loaded up all the booty and leftover party favors into the car and then came to collect her kid. We handed him over, received many thanks, and even scored a few extra tokens as a gratuity for our efforts.
Now that the kids were gone, we got down to business with some serious Skee-Ball action. The Mrs. proved a worthy opponent here and our extended match ended in a tie. We collected our tickets and found that we had enough of them to take home three Tootsie Rolls. I guess the Jelly Pocket Pal will have to wait ‘til next time.