Make it stop!!!
The Millers and Fandos met up at the local Chuck E. Cheese for a bit of pizza and games this evening, which is one reason I'm posting so late.
There must be something in the pizza or sodas served there that causes adult memory to fatally malfunction, because it's only while you're sitting there that you remember the awful, steaming, pepperoni-scented hell that Chuck E. Cheese is to the adult mind. I'm writing this as fast as I can before the memory eraser takes effect.
I certianly don't mind taking the wee tykes out for video games, and not even the coin-gobbling ticket-dispensing carny games of chance for the prepubscent set. All of that is harmless, noisy fun for kids, and I fancy myself as decent a skeeball player as anyone. Even the pizza is all right. (Stew, hopefully this will throw off Mr. Cheese's lawyers.)
The thing that burrows most deeply and violently into my nervous system are the music and dance shows. If you've never been to a Chuck E. Cheese, I sincerely apologise for the detailed descriptions that follow, and hope that your ensuing therapy goes well.
First, there is the awful animatronic animal band. I've mentioned this before here, but it's really what Disney would look like if it were all done for $5o, and the designers were orcs from the Lord of the Rings. Shields and Yarnell were more exciting. Stew observed that the "animal" (we really couldn't make out what that particular one was) playing the drums was "drum-synching". It would have been far more convincing if the drumsticks had ever got with 10 inches of the skins. The way each of the characters moved, you'd think they were all having seizures brought on by the insipid disco light show that seemed to accompany every song, be it a cheesy knock-off of Smashmouth's "All-Star" ("Hey now, you're a cheese ball..."), to a mellow parody of Celine Dion's song from the Titanic (lyrics to the original here) entitled "My Cheese Will Go On".
Even with the cheap characters, annoying music, and embarassing video productions, an adult mind might survive the evening if not for one thing: The help. With seemingly every song, three employees, joined by a fourth actually dressed as Chuck E. Cheese himself, would run out and dance along with the animatronic figures and the videos. Sadly, this particular night, there was one, a young lady, who took this all far too seriously. She was bouncing around, selling each song as though she had a lead role in "Chicago". At one point, she actually climbed on the stage containing "the band" and leapt off, the way Roger Daltry might have done, were it the finale of "Won't Be Fooled Again". Fortunately, no children were squashed by the exuberant gyrations of this ambitious and singularly untalented young woman, though she did nearly knock over a small girl while servicing the soda machine later. She is clearly fully committed to her job there...or should I say she should be fully committed, period.
Next to her, Chuck E. (Mr. Cheese to you and me) was, quite frankly, a major let down. He was introduced as "Your favorite mouse" over the loudspeaker, and I pointed out to Stew that he wasn't even on my top ten, a list which includes Ben, who happens to be a rat. Nonetheless, all the kids wanted to see and touch this giant bucktoothed rodent, and one little girl at one point cried out, "Chuckie! Chuck E. Cheese!" like a teenybopper at a Beatles concert. Since she looked to be about three, it was all the more heartrending.
Anyway, we all had a thoroughly enjoyable time and will be going back tomorrow and...hmmmm, I think the pizza has taken effect.