Let me first say that this is not about a bad cheese pizza. Rather it’s about an episode that nearly had me qualifying for the “Worst Parent of the Year” award. It started innocently enough.
It was my daughter’s birthday and she had, of course, asked to have her party at Chuck E. Cheese. Now, as a clueless father, I had no idea how such parties were conducted. So when my wife, Dee Dee, came down with a migraine headache, I told her, “No problem, I’ve got it covered.” I thought, “How hard can this be?”
She thanked me by telling me that Mrs. Jones would be dropping off her daughter, but she would need me to take her home. Whereas, Mrs. Brown would need for me to pick up her son, but she would be there to take him home after the party. And Mrs. Red…
I proceeded to listen to various other notes concerning which character figures were to perform when Brittany was to blow out the candles, where her gifts were, what the protocol for handling little girl bathroom needs entailed, etc.
As partner in a successful small business, I left with my birthday girl to go pick up Mrs. Brown’s son quite confident that I had things under control.
Venus vs. Mars
One thing I have learned over the years it that men excel at focusing on a single task and seeing it to completion. Women, on the other hand, seem to multitask better. For example, I’ve watched my wife ice a cake while talking to our child’s teacher about an incident involving another girl having gum in her hair involving our daughter as the culprit while completing our income tax filing and helping our older child with his calculus. This, of course, takes place with the TV blaring, the doorbell ringing, and the dog barking his head off.
Fast forward to Chuck E. Cheese
Approximately three minutes after arriving, I felt like my head was going to explode.
The Chuck E. Cheese theme song music was playing at ear-bleeding volume while a character in an animal suit banged symbols, 304 kids screamed at the top of their lungs and a little girl pointed to a brown stain on the back of her pants which I hoped was chocolate.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Jones came over to tell me that she would, in fact, be able to pick up her munchkin but that Mrs. White could not. Could I drop Beatrice off at her aunt’s ex-husband’s widowed mother’s house? Please? Mrs. Green simultaneously informed me that she hoped to be back in time, but if not, “just call my number” she shouted over her shoulder as she ran out the door unaware that I can only remember three digits for more than twenty seconds.
While I frantically searched for a scrap of paper and a pen, Jeremy batted Beatrice’s cute little Barbie purse across the table with his plastic sword which was serving as a pretend baseball bat. The purse squarely nailed a 55 gallon drum of soda, which some insane Chuck E. Cheese worker had placed unguarded on the table. It tipped over in slow motion.
As I dove to protect the kids from the ensuing cola tidal wave, my arm caught the table cloth jerking it and three cheese pizzas onto my daughter’s pile of birthday gifts.
The catastrophe, ahem, party ensued for the next 30 minutes, though not quite as smoothly, until the kids tired of throwing cola and pizza slices at one another and went to play in the arcade with the $25,000 in tokens that I happily bought to distract the little…
We brought in some commercial grade heavy equipment and one bulldozer to clean up the pizza/cola mess, and then, after nearly fifty seconds of peace, the first mothers showed up to pick up their precious offspring.
My how the time flies.
When is Networking Bad for Business?
During the middle of all of this, a large man suddenly appeared in front of me with his hand extended shouting, “Frank!”
I knew that I was supposed to know this 60-year-old man, but for the life of me, I couldn’t place him. I began making small talk to buy myself time until I realized he was one of the principals of our second largest customer in Minnesota.
“John, great to see you,” I said. What I really wanted to say is, “What in the @#%$ are you doing 1200 miles from home at Chuck E. Cheese?”
In one of those bizarre coincidences, he was in town for one of his grandkid’s birthday parties. We discussed the evening’s fine pizza dining experience, and I talked just long enough to avoid risking the loss of their business with excessive rudeness, then made my excuses and left.
No Child Left Behind.
A short time later, I loaded Mrs. Violet’s son, Mrs. Burgundy’s daughter and my daughter into the back of our SUV, carefully checking to make certain that everyone was wearing their seatbelts. Then I headed out to drop off my charges before going home to search for that bottle of Patron we’d been saving since my 40th birthday party.
Ten minutes later, I was halfway home when my stomach cramped, and I struggled not to upchuck my 3500 calories worth of pizza.
Mrs. Green’s daughter was not in the car!
Panicked, I replayed all 350 parent conversations I had over the course of the evening until I recalled the Mrs. Green one ending with her mumbled phone number which I had failed to write down during the great cola tsunami.
Crap! I was so screwed.
I did one of those 180 turns with squealing tires like you see in the movies, and I floorboarded the accelerator while half the kids sat frozen in their seats and the other half yelled “Cool!” Fearing that the poor little girl would be crying hysterically and that the guy in the big animal costume would be calling 911, I called Chuck E. Cheese (which I am sad to say, I had on speed dial) to convey the problem and tell them that help was on the way. Much to my horror, the line was busy.
With my mind racing as I took corners on two wheels, I recalled that I did have Mr. Green’s number which I quickly dialed to enlist his assistance. Unfortunately, he was out of town when he answered, so I thought, “Hey, he doesn’t know, so no point in scaring him.” I quickly steered the conversation toward getting his wife’s number without raising too much suspicion. Then, frantically, I punched in her number and tried to reach her before the Chucksters did. But I only got her voicemail. At that point, I decided there was no finessing the fact that I was a miserable failure as a child’s birthday host. And I spilled my guts onto her machine.
I then tried the pizza place and got them this time. They promised to execute a lock down and an all points bulletin to search for the little girl. Two minutes later, I screeched to a stop in front of Chucky’s and left the driver’s door open with my wide-eyed passengers gasping for breath and sitting motionless. I sprinted inside to face the music fully expecting to be arrested and taken to Chuck E. Prison.
It was at this time that I spotted little Missy Green emerge from the giant pit-area filled with thousands of plastic balls as well as numerous single shoes and socks along with several long brown… Anyhow, it was evident that the entire time that I had spent in Chuck E. Hell worried sick about this abandoned child, she had been doing swan dives into the plastic ball pit blissfully unaware that I was a failed parent.
My first response was one of incredible relief followed closely by cursing at myself for having left the message on her mother’s answering machine as proof positive of my parenting failure.
Luckily, after her mother finished calling me several names I had never heard of much less been called, the knife only struck me a glancing blow to my pride. And the stains of humility fell nicely on top of the pizza stains.
Disclaimer: Frank Wilem is an author, speaker, and all around funny and entertaining guy. On this blog, his stories are based on his real life experiences, often with a satirical twist.
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