What’s Up, Chuck?

November 19, 2008
I think this weekend would be an excellent time to take my boys to their favorite “good time” place, which will remain nameless because I am going to blast them and I don’t want to get sued for slander.  I’ll refer to the restaurant, a term I use loosely, as CEC or Chuck’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy (actually hate would not be a strong enough term to describe my utter distaste for this establishment) going there, but my boys love it and if you go about it the right way, you can actually minimize the amount of pain that you must endure.  


For instance, you will never hear me offer to take the boys to Chuck’s place on a Saturday afternoon.  This is when birthday parties routinely occur and the place is absolutely flooded with amped up, sugar-stoned children, sprinting in their stocking feet from game to game, knocking over old ladies and each other in the process.  For some unknown reason, parents lose their status the minute they walk through the door and children lose their ability to recognize parental authority.  It’s a black hole, a vortex, another dimension where every rule that has ever been established is suddenly cast aside and your kids revert back to their primal survival instincts.  If you’ve never been there on a Saturday afternoon, you should, if for nothing more than to marvel at the “Lord of the Flies” type atmosphere.


I’ve been to Chuck’s on a Saturday afternoon more than once and I have walked away to tell the tale, but it was not without earning both emotional and physical scars.  Here are some candid observations of what a typical Saturday resembles and why you should avoid going there on that dreadful day at all costs…  


1.    Food-  I’ve never met a single person that went to CEC to enjoy a fine dining experience.  My kids don’t even know it’s a restaurant so that should tell you how memorable the food is.  Last time we went, Mack asked me if we could go out to lunch after we were finished, to which I replied, “We’re in a restaurant- why not eat here?”.   With a confused look on his face, Mack replied, “They serve food?”.  For those of you who are conscious of your weight, they do offer a fully stocked salad bar, but sadly it costs more per pound than nuclear grade plutonium, so go light on the fixin’s.


2.    Service-  CEC only hires disgruntled teenagers between the ages of 16 and 16.5, unless of course you count the one elderly lady who works the cash register in between smoke breaks.  I’ve always been a bit confused as to why they target this demographic.  It has been my experience that 16 year old kids don’t necessarily enjoy hanging out in giant animal costumes, singing and dancing to Miley Cyrus tunes, or cleaning up after mobs of children.  I could be wrong, maybe they love their jobs, but judging by the looks on their faces, I would venture to say that they didn’t choose their occupations willingly.  Maybe they’re paying off some community service obligation from a previous felony conviction?



3.    Games- This is a plus, CEC does have some games to keep the kids occupied and out of your hair.  As an added bonus, if you spend inordinate amounts of money on game tokens you can eventually qualify for one of the many super cool prizes that are offered behind the counter.  Just to let you know, if you don’t plan on spending at least $50, don’t bother to wait in line at the prize counter as the 16 year old prize steward will only smirk at you in disgust. However, if you’re “in it to win it” you can walk away with some pretty good stuff.  For instance, $80.00 in prize tickets will earn you a pirate tattoo about the size of a postage stamp, $90.00 in prize tickets will nab you a pencil eraser shaped like Brazil, and $100.00 worth of prize tickets will land you a fluorescent yellow grasshopper. Considering the type of high-end prizes that are up for grabs and the amount of cash exchanging hands, it’s amazing that the mob’s not involved- at a minimum I would have expected more of a Vegas type atmosphere.  I guess we should be happy that it’s maintained its quasi-family orientation.


4.    Parental camaraderie- You would think that you could glean a bit of comfort from the other parents that were suckered into going there on a Saturday afternoon, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  I’ve met two kinds of parents at CEC.  The first parent is as bitter about their predicament as you and is therefore about as cordial as a prison guard.  The other type of parent is wearing a “I-Heart-Chuck” t-shirt, is barefoot like all the other kids, and is using their home equity line of credit to support their skeet ball habit.  Warning: do not engage these types in conversation unless you’re really interested in learning which gaming machines are loose or when the next performance of Chuck’s mechanical band is taking place.



5.    Ho-Chi-Ming Tunnel Complex- Beware of the huge sprawling multi-colored tunnel that covers the ceiling.  At ground level, you can see the rate of speed at which children sprint from game to game.  Now imagine the same energy being expended in a confined space- it’s a potential powder keg.  A few different things occur each time my kids enter the tunnel complex.  One, they mysteriously lose their socks- this phenomenon is similar to what happens in your dryer at home- two socks in, one sock out.  Next, they get injured, obviously due to the velocity and corresponding trajectory of hundreds of other kids co-located in the same cramped space.  Finally, two kids go in and one comes out, sort of like the sock phenomenon, only you’re slightly more invested in your children than a pair of tube socks. Retrieving your lost child is next to impossible as the tunnel complex is only load tested for 70lbs and if you crawl your big ass up there, you’re likely to come crashing down on top of a group of already pissed off parents.  If they survive the collision, they’ll likely beat you to death, or worse yet, force feed you the pizza that they just spent an entire paycheck on.  So, keep your feet on the ground- when your kids get hungry enough, they’ll resurface.


6.    Adult beverages- There are none- how’s that for a slap in the face?  Not only are you basting in kiddie-hell but you can’t even douse the flames with a cold glass of barley and hops.  Who is the genius that came up with that policy? Obviously, a non-parent.  They do offer coffee, but it’s a specialty item.  Unlike every other eating establishment on the planet, CEC does not maintain a scalding hot pot of coffee on the premises.  If you want a cup of coffee, you must engage the 16 year old employee behind the counter, explain what coffee is (they think it’s a $9 luxury item found only at Starbucks), and then read them the directions for the dusty coffee maker located toward the back of the kitchen.  I only did this one time.  The coffee was so bad, I nearly cut out my own tongue to get rid of the taste.


So having said all of that, how could I possibly alleviate the pain of this little road trip to Hades?  Here’s the deal, CEC opens at 9a.m. on the weekends.  If you get there as the doors open, you’ll have the entire place to yourself.  The only kids running amuck will be your own.  It’s so much easier to decode calls for medical attention when the only kids in the place are yours.  I normally get $15 in tokens and split them up two ways with the disclaimer that what they have is all there is- when they are gone, so are we.  I then sit at a booth that affords great observation of the entire operation and turn off my brain as I sip my $9 coffee that is so worth it when compared to what they have behind the counter at CEC.


This trip will cost you $24- $15 in tokens and a $9 designer coffee, but it will earn you the undying love, devotion and admiration of your children for at least the rest of the afternoon.  How much better could it possibly get?  I’ll take pictures this weekend. Fire up the skeet ball game, Chuck, here we come!




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Ramona posted the following on November 20, 2008 at 12:35 pm.

Oh! I **think** I know what establishment you are talking about! When my kids ask if they can go there, I tell them they can stop there on the way home from my funeral. I figure it kills two birds with one stone- a negative answer plus it gives them something to look forward to in the event of my death.

Mila posted the following on November 20, 2008 at 3:54 pm.

I’m a 16 year-old and I take offense to that.
Nah. jk

Kelli posted the following on November 20, 2008 at 6:33 pm.

I found your blog via Blogs Of Photogs… you have been entertaining me daily. One more reason to ignore my work!

Anyway, my local children’s playplace of the same name seems to have wised up – beer is offered. However it only comes in two varieties: “light” and “used toilet water.” That’s Alabama for you. Natural Ice is the beverage of choice around here. If only they could tap out a Guinness, then we parents could -really- enjoy a Saturday with ol’ Charles!

admin posted the following on November 21, 2008 at 7:48 am.

Ramona, if I told my kids that they would find a way to hasten my demise, you’re pretty brave for tempting fate like that.

Kelli, I can’t believe your complaining about the beer quality in CEC, how insensitive (jk) . Instead of guinness maybe a keg of red wine, I could go for that.

Hey Mila, thanks for being a good sport, obviously I was painting with a pretty broad brush.

Shelley posted the following on November 21, 2008 at 9:12 pm.

Important fact to know: the Chuck’s in Chesapeake, VA sells beer. Expensive? Oh yeah. Cold? You bet. Mandatory? Without a doubt.

admin posted the following on November 21, 2008 at 9:58 pm.

Hey Shelley, good to know, maybe it’s just the Chucks in MD thats so lame, I had to sneak a six pack in my coat last time I went, I felt like a teenager going to winter formal, good God, whats happened to me?

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