Chuck E. Cheese and I go way back. When I was 15 years old, I used a forged baptismal certificate that said I was 16 to secure employment. It was good to have friends working at the local church rectory - a clear indication that all those years of mass and CCD paid off somehow.
By the time I applied for a job at Chuck E. Cheese, I had 5 months of Old Country Buffet experience under my belt (again secured through forged documents). The number of demanding brides in white gowns marching down the buffet line yelling out for more roast beef left me rattled. Chuck E. Cheese was in the same plaza, and I could ride my bike there in less than 10 minutes. It was a natural fit. That and my mom wouldn't let me work at White Hen which was so much closer. Something about shootings.
So I walked in that blazing summer morning and the manager told me to suit up. I was confused as to what he meant. I was wearing the allotted uniform - did I miss something? Name tag? Check. Khaki pants? Check. Red Shirt? Check. While I was left scratching my head, out walked the manager holding a giant mouse head and accompanying garments. I was to go outside that 80-degree-morning and wave at the passerby's on Harlem Avenue.
After 2 hours without a break and weighing in about ten pounds lighter, I came inside. The manager looked confused.
"You been outside the whole time?"
I nodded and he directed me to the fountain drinks to rehydrate. After that, I had to put on the Helen Hen costume and "work the floor."
One would think Helen would be a welcome relief from the heat, and in many ways, she was. Yet Helen's costume came with big giant stuffed hen boobs that protruded 3 feet out. Every time I leaned over to interact with kids at a table, my massive knockers would send pitchers of pop sailing across the floor. After about 30 minutes of boob malfunctions, the manager called me over again.
"Go put on the Jasper the Dog costume for chrissakes. You're making a mess."
Off I skipped to lose my big hen boobies and slip on a pair of comfy overalls and a giant dog head. Now this was doable.
I didn't work at Chuck E. Cheese past that summer. But the experience stayed with me. So much in fact, that I had my yearly "recession birthday party" (3 kids, 1 party) there. The one thing I did not recall during my working days was the fact that the Chuck E. Cheese in Tinley Park serves alcohol. Having 35 kids wreak havoc on a place with flashing lights and a big giant mouse walking around didn't faze me in the slightest. I was chill.
When Joey refused to go in the Ticket Blaster (huge plastic box where a fan blows around tickets that kids need to grab), my husband offered to do it for him. The sight of my 6-foot husband wearing safety goggles and frantically grabbing tickets nearly caused me to pee my pants. His heart raced. His face was red. He was sweating. The same guy that runs into fires and performs CPR on dead people turned into a giant 6-year-old before my eyes.
Despite various sensory issues and an inability to deal with a large number of children that are not my own, things went swimmingly. Red wine at Chuck E. Cheese did just the trick. The only thing to remember when planning a party there: the tip cannot be put on the credit card. We only had a $20. We're praying that Mandy or Mindy or whatever her name was will not be our party attendant for this year, or we may have to re-think this. I believe the bowling alley serves liquor before noon. Kids like bowling, right?