Tonight I ventured where no sane adult should even tread: Chuck E. Cheese. As much as I love the game of ski ball, mediocre pizza and giant animatronic animals, none of these drew me here. I went because every time my mother-in-law comes to visit, she repeatedly hounds my husband and I to “help out more” with his nephews and niece. She harps on us throughout each visit to invite the eldest to spend the night, take the middle one to the zoo or offer to babysit and give them a night out. The last time we offered to take the kids off their hands so they could have a date night, somehow it got turned in to my husband taking his brother and the eldest somewhere. The plans we make always get changed, and somehow, we always end up waiting on them, sometimes hours past our initial offer to help out. So excursions like tonight take a real effort.
Chuck E. Cheese was actually my idea. I have wonderful childhood memories of birthday parties spent pigging out on cake and collecting enough ski ball tickets to actually get a non-plastic crap prize. I actually used to save my tickets up over the course of several visits to get the good stuff. Back then, Chuck E. Cheese had three different rooms, all filled with Chuck E. and his friends moving their metallic lips in ways that almost resembled the songs being sung. There was a ball pit and a moon bounce. There was a whole row of Whack-A-Mole machines. There was a dark secret tunnel with day-glo paint on the ceiling which wound through most of the building. Actually, the whole place was a little dark. There was a room just for parties. A room with all the video games and ski ball machines and a separate room for the huge ball vat and bounce house. The tunnel connected them.
The modern mouse has let me down a little. There was only one giant room and it was astoundingly bright. All the games were pushed in to the center of the room, with tables walling them in. Only Mr. Cheese was robotic and the nearly two hours we were there, he only came on twice. The party tables were so close to the regular booths that the party which came in well after us kept bumping in to us every five seconds. The pizza, was much better than I expected. While not the best I’ve had in Indy by far, it was also on par with Pizza Hut. Thanks to a coupon from my Zoo book, we got 50 free tokens, so pizza and drinks for three along with a pile of gold tokens cost just over $20. The games definitely catered to the kids, not like the ones even adults liked at the place in its heyday. Only the ski ball and basketball toss held any real appeal to those over ten. The air hockey table looked momentarily tempting until I realized I would have had to play on my knees. There weren’t even any good video games like the Pac Man and Centipede machines of my childhood. The tickets are still exchangeable for the multitude of cheap trinkets kids lose five minutes after they win them, but they do have cool ticket counters that suck the tickets up and make a crunching sound as if they are being eaten. Definitely an improvement on having to stand in front of the counter counting, only to lose my place for the third time and start all over.
After a few pitches up the ski ball ramp, I was pleased to see I still had it. I wasn’t quite as good as in my heyday when I could throw an entire game of 50’s, but I did rack up a 370, so that made me happy. Back in my day they didn’t have the elusive 100 slots that nearly every ball bounces out of. They are the suckers bet in my opinion. If you miss going for a 50, you’re still likely to get a 30 or 40, a small difference, but if you miss the 100, as you are almost certain to, you get a 10 and that stinks. I play the straight and narrow and aim it right down the center. Like I said, I’m not as good as I was in my youth, but I did throw one game of only 40’s and 50’s. More importantly I beat my nephew at every game. The little fool kept aiming for the 100’s and only got it once out of the 10 games he played. My 11 tokens won over half the tickets, which just shows that I still rule Chuck E. Cheese!