Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Where a Kid Can Be a Bully

I noticed some striking similarities between kids and bully adults last night at the local Chuck E’s. It seems in the heat of battle and competition they’re both a little pushy.

When Chuck the Cheese Meister himself, looking like a giant swamp rat with a ball cap & high tops, came strolling out to lead a little dancing and throw free tickets to the throng of adoring worshipers, kids came a-runnin’, passing each other, weaving in and out, flipping the bird, pushing aside the slow moving big kids to get to the front of the group. Recognize rush hour?

As tall as my 5 yr old is, she was no match for the giant 8 & 9 yrs who had no problem shoving a little girl aside from the Skeeball alley in their quest for redeemable tickets to trade for cheap, plastic, yet covetable prizes. Ever notice the same behavior with grownups when we are at a concession stand at a sporting event during halftime? How about the frantic moms & dads frothing at the mouth when the new Tickle-Me-Elmo went on sale? Elbows fly, man! Weapons are revealed and threats of violence ensue! Yup, same thing happens at your local pizza parlor.

My conspiracy theory is Las Vegas has a deal set up with CEC to create young gamblers. Every game distributes a seemingly random number of tickets after each play, encouraging the young Future Gamblers Anonymous of America (FGAA) to insert more and MORE tokens into the greedy machines. Hmmm…slots, anyone? Flashing lights and sounds overload the limits of the senses. And that attractive, gold plated Chuck E. Cheese token. It’s not REAL money. Kids can spend all the tokens they want guilt-free, just like they will someday haplessly throw chips on the Craps table at The Bellagio.

Just like Vegas, you gotta protect your chips. I couldn’t believe when little Goonie turned to me for another token after playing a generous ticket dispensing game of skill and dexterity, I spotted an even littler girl who was lurking behind the machine. She reached around, swiped the string of tickets, looked at me and saw that she was caught and ran like a field mouse through the arcade. I did what any reasonable, protective father would do…I yelled “STOP THIEF!” and scrambled after her to retrieve those tickets! She was smaller and could squeeze through tiny spaces, but I was bigger and faster and I knew I would catch her. Plus, she couldn’t escape the premises without a parental unit with matching invisible ink stamp. She could hide, but she couldn’t run! After about 20 minutes I found her hiding under the Bob the Builder ride counting her loot. She didn’t see me sneak up behind her, but the look of shock and awe was quite amusing as I reached over her shoulder and grabbed a handful of tickets, give or take what she stole from my little birthday girl.

“You’re a naughty girl for stealing tickets,” I scolded. “Shame on you!”

Her appearance morphed from shock to pitiful as tears welled in her big blue eyes and she said, “I’m sorry. I just needed enough tickets to get the My Little Pony stamp for my sister’s birthday.”

Little birthday Goonie, lover of My Little Pony, heard the poor girl’s comment and quickly said, “let her have all my tickets, Daddy. I already got a new Little Pony from my sister for my birthday. Let her give one to her sister.”

I raised my eyebrow and asked, “are you sure? You won’t get any prize if you give away all your tickets.”

“That’s ok. I got my new Ballerina Barbie. I don’t need any more prizes.”

This suited me fine. The last thing I wanted was for my little innocent girl to redeem an armload of tickets for temporary tattoos. Can’t have her getting any idears about body art at such a young age. The little girl squealed with glee and said, “thank you! My sister will be so happy!” And she ran off toward the trinket counter to turn in her booty.

Well, she sure pulled one over on us. As we loaded Goonie’s birthday presents & matched up our invisible stamps at the door, I spotted that little blue eyed girl. She was lurking behind the same arcade game with 2 arms covered with temporary tattoos prepared to swipe the tickets of some other poor unsuspecting schmuck father & his child. Clever girl, I thought to myself.

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