Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Of Mice and Men

How do we explain our love affair with mice that take on human characteristics? 
The mouse ranks at the top of the pantheon of culturally significant cartoon characters.  There’s superhero, Might Mouse, the nerdy Stuart Little, and Angelina the rodent Ballerina.  There’s Tom and Jerry (I always forget which one is the mouse and which one is the cat…like it matters), and lest we forget, our handicapped representatives to the list, the Three Blind Mice, who ironically, cannot actually ‘see’ how they run.  Mickey Mouse is without question the Granddaddy of them all, having given rise to a girlfriend (Minnie), children (after a proper marriage to Minnie, we hope), and lots and lots of black-eared aunts, uncles and other scurrying relatives.  Where there is one mouse, there are probably a thousand, and odds are, they are selling something.

Mice long ago surpassed bears as the most beloved animals-made-human, for one key reason: a mouse will never be accused of mauling a child to death in the forest.  Hard to explain to Junior why Yogi Bear just ate your neighbor.  The delicate field mouse may cause an emotionally weak person, or cartoon elephant, to shriek in horror at its mere presence, but by and large, we’re pro-mice in this country.

This brings me to my main topic, one Chuck E. Cheese.  Another one of many giant mice that can sing and dance, and serve as a corporate shill for grocery store quality pizza and migraine headaches, free with coupon.  You will note the clever use of the middle initial “E” in his proper name, which distinguishes this harmless, birthday loving rodent from another famous Chucky.  The other Chucky is better known as a homicidal ventriloquist doll, and that sort of market confusion would not be good for business.  This Chuck E. would never kill for sport.  He is more content luring you into his colorful nest and infecting you with a wide variety of invisible childhood germs, everything from the common cold to whooping cough.  In fairness, we have been injecting his long-tailed white relatives with diseases for years in laboratories across the world, so turnabout is fair play.  The Petri dish that is the local CEC may be some perverse mouse family's sweet revenge on humanity.  This no doubt rings true to you conspiracy theorists out there, and I know you are out there.

I took our youngest to a birthday party at a nearby CEC this past Sunday afternoon.  She's almost 6 years old, and this was her first visit.  This fun fact shocked the other parent chaperones -  shocked them.  "How is it possible that your little Lucy is almost 6, and has never been to a Chuck E. Cheese?"  Easy, I thought.  She has no money, no transportation, and she can't read a party invitation.  I have total control, unquestioned authority, and apparently, a dark hole in my heart.

I come by that dark place in my heart about CEC from experience.  My last visit ended badly.  My son tried Sprite for the first time, and mixed in bouncing and heat to create a projectile cocktail that eventually washed out of my clothes but left a permanent stain on my psyche.  On another ocassion I will share the story of one father, one overfed boy, and one token cup with a leak in the bottom.

When Lucy and I arrived at the restaurant, she left me.  She was still with me physically, but her mind was lost in the maze of flashing lights and ringing bells.  The place is like a warm up act for a future trip to Vegas,  before you add the cigarette smoke and strippers, of course.  There are games of chance that award tickets, noise, confusion, and no clocks, just like the adult playground in the desert.  Scary.  I did steady her by the shoulders and give her the 2 golden rules of Chucky E. Cheese: never walk away without telling me first, and wash your hands afterwards until you draw blood.  Safety first, we always say in my house.  You can never be too careful.

The party itself requires no detailed description.  It was the same as every other Chucky E. Cheese party that has ever been held.   Play, eat, cough on one another, sing Happy Birthday, cheer the Chucky E. Cheese appearance, touch the walls of the elevated tunnels above the restaurant floor that are covered in boogers, have cake, more play, crying by kids and parents.  Regular fare.

We kept Lucy home from school yesterday.  Her forehead felt warm, and she had a runny nose.  Who could have predicted that?

Maybe it's time we stop laboratory testing on mice. I think we might be making them mad at us.

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