Tonight was “Spirit Night” for my daughter’s elementary school. The purpose of “Spirit Night” is to help kids get excited about going to their school by bribing them with fun nights where the family does something out of the norm. Tonight’s “Spirit Night” was at a local Chick-Fil-A, and may I say – it was well attended.
Now, as always, the people of Chickalay (as Jon calls it) do a fantastic job in general, but they were on the ball tonight. Not only did my son spill his lemonade onto the floor approximately 2.687 seconds after receiving it, but my wife accidentally shot salad dressing all over the table. The Chickalay folks were on it, man. Sticky, lemon-scented floor? Mopped and dried in under three minutes. Nasty globs of ranch coating your table? Wiped and clean in under a minute and a half.
But for all of the Chickalay folks’ derring-do, even they have limits. There exists a place inside almost every Chick-Fil-A where even the most hardened adult dares not venture.
The Play Zone.
It’s like being thrown into the monkey cage at the zoo, only if the monkeys were all small, had scores of black tar heroin thumping through their veins, and were trying to kill each other by screaming as loudly as possible.
Naturally I let my children run into the madhouse unsupervised.
Let me just say this: if the process of natural selection were still a viable method for the continuation of the human species, I would not have to worry about my genetic code disappearing from the face of the earth. My children would be able to hold their own in the unfriendly confines of the wild.
Especially Jon. Anytime another kid would get near him, my son would go crazy-eyed and start yelling as loud as possible in a manner similar to Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. He freaked one girl out so bad she just fell on the floor, limp. Granted, Jon does this whenever he gets really excited (and let’s face it: what’s more exciting than a small, padded room where you and your friends can climb, slide, throw, roll and otherwise exert supreme mastery over all you see?), but tonight there was a little something extra in each scream, a primal force that seemed to burst out of my son as if to say, “I am KING of this bendy plastic jungle!”
Ella was much more subtle. My daughter has been called Ella-cat since she was born, because the child has at least 13 chromosomes from the feline species. She likes to get in your face whenever it’s inconvenient, she circles your lap three times before sitting down, she’s constantly stretching and arching her back, and whenever you ignore her she breaks crap to see if you’re paying attention.
So inside the plastic insanitarium, Ella was all slink and guile, moving through the different play sections with the liquid ease of a panther, slipping between the other rampaging tots like smoke through a crack in your door. It was amazing to watch her navigate; if the other kids had been covered in wet paint, Ella wouldn’t have gotten a spot on her. I’m telling you – if the fate of the free world were to come down to a game of dodgeball, I know whom I would put on the floor: my girl.
It was just weird to observe the chaos going on just mere feet away from all of the parents enjoying a few minutes respite from the usual assault of questions, demands and whines. You could see couples enjoying their conversation, even as a group of six year-olds hoisted a trussed-up toddler above their head like a pre-pubescent Lord of the Flies. No one wanted to look. No one wanted to see. Every adult seemed more than willing to concede the 45-square feet of the Play Zone entirely to the kids.
Eventually, someone’s going to get killed. But as they say, only the strong survive.