I don't even want to think about the E. coli factor in the place, you'd be insane to do the salad bar. Babies in diapers and nothing else were crawling all over tables, the air conditioning appeared to be nonexistent. I'm not a germ freak at all, but this was a serious breeding ground. I could imagine the strep and pink eye brewing in the already filthy kiddie habitrail (it had only been open seven days and already looked sticky and worn out). I didn't dare brave the bathrooms (though I entertained the notion of leaving a big, messy dump somewhere inside it and preferably not in the toilet).
The fact that adults with children are given a different hand stamp than the childless grown ups is telling. I couldn't figure out the logic at first, how would that keep anyone from kidnapping? I don't think nabbing kids is the fear so much as parents will taking off without their children. I'd certainly be tempted. But to be fair, I have to admit that despite the madhouse atmosphere, both kids and parents were in surprisingly good spirits. It was kind of shocking. I didn't witness any yelling, spanking, threatening to spank, or general rudeness from any grown ups, and I while I saw lots of wrestling, kicking and hitting, I didn't see or hear a single crying child, which is pretty miraculous. I guess they were having a good fucking time, and who can blame them? Their tagline is "where a kid can be a kid," after all.
What strikes me about experiences like this is the demographics, and how uniquely NYC it all is. I don't understand how white people know not to go there, and why black people do. There's always been a bit of the same at NYC area Red Lobsters too. Certainly, there arent any hard and fast rules, anyone can go anywhere, they just don't. It's not so much of a race thing as a culture issue, like there's a strata of people who think they're above chain restaurants (I'm fascinated by Trading Spouses. So far they're only swapped two moms, but both of the richer families eat out at Japanese restaurants, and shun carbs, of course. The lower income moms are freaked out by sushi [this has also been recently employed as a look-at-the-differences device on Amish in the City. The Amish, and of course, the one non-Amish black girl have never eaten sushi.] Low fat and exotic equal classy, didn't you know? Lowbrow people love fried food and starch! Heck, I do.) and taste tends to align with income and perceived notions about what they're supposed to enjoy and disdain. And high taste people have strong ideas about what's good for children, and Chuck E. Cheese's probably doesn't align with their values.
And its not a simple matter of people living closest to this Chuck E. Cheese's being black because that's not true at all. The Atlantic Terminal mall is in a part of Brooklyn that falls under Community District 2. That district includes a variety of neighborhoods: Brooklyn Heights, Fulton Mall, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Fulton Ferry, Clinton Hill (I have no idea what Fulton Ferry is, I'm just going by what NYC Gov tells me). The composition of that district is: 34. 4% white, 40.5% black, and 16.8% Hispanic. The minor 6% white/black difference certainly isn't reflected by Chuck E. Cheese's clientele. So, where are all the white families going on Saturday nights? Probably somewhere precocious in my neighborhood. When it comes down to it, I think I prefer my children penned-up and concentrated in mall spaces.
No, its not video installation art. We managed to snag a few seconds on Chuck E. Cheeses creepy TV camera toy before hordes of tiny riff raff commandeered it again.
Chuck E. Cheese's * 139 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn, NY