Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday's Adventure: To Hell and Back

I think I have finally experienced hell on earth.

Surprisingly, it is located at Chuck E Cheese in the heart of Harlem. I had driven through Harlem a few times...but this was my first official visit. I had experienced the Chuck E Cheese in Astoria, and knew it was an experience I did not want to repeat again. I figured Harlem would be similar, maybe a a bit worse. But no, it was about 1007% worse.

I arrived on the second floor and walked into what felt like my favorite automatic hand dryer blowing heat on my body, but not quite as sanitary. My body temperature immediately raised about 10 degrees. Thankfully we saw some familiar faces in the long line to get in...some friends from school! Big Sis's classmate's mom is 9 months pregnant, and I figured she had to be hating this experience. When I approached she pointed to a man sitting in a booth about 20 feet away, who apparently had just thrown up while sitting there. I jokingly suggested we ditch and go to the movies...well, they ditched about 7 minutes into it, and as I realized they were absent, I envied them oh so much.

When we approached the entrance the guy in charge was turning people away. Why didn't I go? Instead, I declared we were with a party and he promptly let me in. I imagine it's about that easy to get into hell too. We pushed and shoved our way to the showroom where the parties were held. I think there were 47 parties that night. The Chuck E Cheese was crawling with bodies. People everywhere...coats, large shopping bags full of the days finds...pizza....I recall seeing a lot of salad being carried around by lots of people topped with LOTS of dressing....like more dressing than I have ever seen in my life.

The noise was at maximum decibels. My voice felt hoarse and fatigued within minutes of arriving. The natural thing to do was complain, but I really tried to keep it in. At one point a flushed and flustered mom asked how I was doing, and I said: I am practicing not complaining.

After battling a pretty fierce headache earlier in the afternoon I took a shallow breath (can't imagine the organisms floating and festering all around), and tried to be the best mom I could be for my little girl who absolutely loves parties and Chuck E Cheese. I did pretty well taking her and a friend around to this token eater and that token eater. There was so much stimulus in the way of sights and sounds that I could barely make out the options. After about a half hour we made our way back to the table to eat some pizza. I do not recall how it tasted. I just needed some sustenance to make it through the rest of the night.

When I knew my daughter was safe and trapped in a booth, I sought refuge in an abandoned greasy booth nearby. I had brought two magazines and two books in my purse because I fantasized that I might just find a quiet corner..ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! That was funny. I struck up a conversation with a new mom and even got to hold her little bundle which only made me even hotter, so I promptly gave him back.

Just after the Cheese himself appeared, sang a song and cake was served, Big Sis wanted to spend her last two tokens and trade in her tickets. I ventured back into the mad madness and all of a sudden I felt this familiar feeling that I had felt once before...the room was spinning and I was looking for the nearest window to jump out of, I needed air, and space and someone to tell me what to do and I needed to push! I was in transition.

I quickly gathered myself and made promises to Big Sis about ditching tokens and tickets in exchange for something, anything money could buy. We escaped to 125th Street...just a few blocks from the Apollo. I thought about maybe heading in for their amateur night (a lot of stars got their start there), but thought maybe not my crowd? Instead we made a beeline to Old Navy and I let Big Sis pick out some items on sale. I found it surprising to see lots and lots of white girls on all the posters of the walls, even in the middle of Harlem.

After we sought refuge in our little family vehicle, I concluded that I would like to return to 125th street another time. There was a lot of color and sound and culture and what seemed like a lot of great stores. It's a bit out of the way, but I've got a lot of years left to make my way uptown. And I am never (and you can hold me to this), NEVER going to THAT Chuck E Cheese again. Again. Do you hear, read me?

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note...I found the cutest swimsuit I have ever, EVER seen today....at Nordstrom. It was in a light turquoise in the store, but same cut as pictured here. If only it had only been 5 dollars, it would have been MINE!

13 comments:

D said...

I played hoops in Harlem once when I visited. It was on Malcolm X Blvd.

I somehow must have missed the swimsuit deals, though. I didn't see the big Cheese either. Hm.

Beth said...

That sounds like one of my parent nightmares. You describe it perfectly. I feel like I was there.

Chloe said...

I was just at Chuckee Cheese myself this past Thursday (though in the suburbs of San Francisco -not quite as bad - we had fun). I feel your pain, sister...

knittingirl said...

Girl - I don't think I'll ever go to Chuck E Cheese after reading about your experience!! Blech! As for the swimsuit... adorable! I must find a way to justify the money!
BTW, saw your pic in a short hair mag the other day - you look so different with the new do... love it!

y said...

Yikes-a-bee. You are such a good mom for not complaining! And trust me, there is WAY more to Harlem than Chuck-ee-Cheeze. And it is your crowd. :) It's the City.

Anonymous said...

The last time I took my kids to Chuck E Cheese's? My son's 3rd bday. He and 3 other kids in his party got sick the next day...really sick. My son wound up getting croup and bronchitis and had to spend 2 days in the hospital. Oh and I remember when we were last there, a child that was playing in the ballpit threw up...everywhere. I don't know how they were able to clean up the ballpit in the middle of Saturday mayhem. I remember leaving shortly after. Anyways, I've since had 2 more children and we've yet to set foot back into a Chuck E Cheese's, and don't plan to ever again! - Chris

Anonymous said...

chuck e cheese is one of those places that when you leave there your ears are ringing and you immediately need to do some yoga and chill! down here in dallas they used to sell alcohol at c-e-c. i never understood why until my son's first and last b-day party there. it is truly exciting when you get to go to the ticket eater and leave hell...precious swimsuit too.

Anonymous said...

the last comment was from christy. i meant to leave my name-sorry.

Rachel H said...

Is harlem like safe? I only ask because two summers ago when I was there I accientally got separated from my mom on the subway (she on the local and me on the express) and I ended up there, only to have this random white italian looking guy tell me he didn't reccomend me leaving the station- I should just turn around and go back down.

Anyway- that really sounds horrific! My sis-in law had aptly dubbed the place "up-chuck-e-cheese"!

And SERIOUSLY- I WANT that swimming suit ASAP. Too bad I'll probably be too fat after having a baby in June to want to show anything in a suit! I say to budget that thing into next months grocery list- haha.

Aprilyn said...

I took my kids to Chuck E Cheese on a Sat. afternoon with some friends. It was great! The kids ate pizza and went off to play and I got to chat with a friend. You just don't have the GOOD Chuck E Cheese I guess. :) Ours isn't really that loud and it's really clean. It's not that big either so I can see my kids while I sit and chat.
Sorry yours was such a nightmare. I'm glad you made it through.
Off topic- you should fill me in on where your parents live now. Wasn't /Isn't your Dad a dentist?

marian said...

my favorite thing about this post is that you have a favorite automatic hand dryer...

Kage said...

Well, it really rocks. Next time you are in NYC....make sure you use the john at the Time Warner Building...It's on my top 5 list of best bathrooms in NYC

Beth said...

I love that in NYC you have a list of favorite public bathrooms! SO TRUE!