Few places expose the generational divide more than Chuck E. Cheese. All around, children nearly trample one another to exchange hard currency for worthless plastic trinkets, while parents huddle together for mutual support against the rising cacophony of grade school hysteria. Children as young as 3 years old experience their first adrenaline rush of preschool gambling by plugging money into brightly colored machines in exchange for a small paper ticket. After winning only a handful of tickets, they rush to the counter with breathless anticipation to claim their prize. Indeed, after spending $57 for pizza and an introduction to childhood gaming, my kids come home with a pencil eraser, a cracker jack sticker, and a small piece of hard candy.
Once the tokens run out, my children suddenly take interest in other activities. For example, a video camera takes a running feed of anyone who cares to stand in front of it. My daughter McKenna holds a flimsy plastic microphone and assumes a very professional demeanor for the monitor. She speaks with remarkable Katie Couric style and says, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the news. Drip, drip, drip, it's wet outside. It's raining (pause). It's pouring (pause), and the old man won't stop snoring." She held her face so serious and still I absolutely could not hold back my laughter.
In the end, I'm glad my children enjoyed the evening, even if I had to endure the torture of the abominable cheese.