I walked around in a whirl hands stuffed with wands and tickets as lights flashed and machines made more noise than their hypnotized operators. I was strong armed into taking my kids to “funplex” at their request since Doreen, my wife, was off to Atlantic City with her mom for her birthday. Armbands, tickets and tokens, I was so unprepared for the true money suck I had entered. As I approached the token machine with my debit card I thought, I’m going to load these kids up with some tokens and I am just not going to stress it. For forty dollars you got something like 160 tokens, “that should really do the trick” I thought. Maybe forty-five minutes later I was purchasing another forty dollars worth of tokens and begging my kids to understand how un-fun this place was. “Cooper, I could have gotten you five Mario plush toys at the store with the money you are dropping in this terrible grab game.” “Olivia, I don’t think luck is with you today angel, maybe you want to pick a skill game.”
“Ruby, that’s a lot of tickets but I thought you wanted to go on the rides? Isn’t that why we got you that wrist band?” It was ridiculous how tense I was over the fact that my children were pouring tokens into these games that either gave you tickets that resulted in the worst dollar store prizes or possibly an eight dollar plush toy out of a grab game that was manufactured in a factory in China for maybe sixty-five cents. In fact, these grab games are such an obsession for Cooper, and the hundreds of other kids (and their parents) walking around with pools of drool gathering in the corners of their mouths, that I had to tell Cooper to surrender the machine to the kids gathered around and take turns. He reluctantly stepped away and a couple of turns later another kid won the jack pot, the Mario ba bomb. Cooper was so devastated that even Olivia was trying to console him by telling him I would buy him ba bomb. I finally told Cooper he was cut off, I wasn’t getting anymore tokens and we would leave after the girls were finished in Magic Quest, which is some Harry Potter inspired section of this game place. Also, not a place I can easily embrace but at least Doreen had already gotten them wands so all I had to do was pay four dollars for them to disappear into that attraction. I walked away to use the restroom and when I returned my son was sitting on the floor next to the token machine hunched over like one of the many homeless outside of Penn Station in the city. All he needed was a piece of cardboard that said “Just looking for a few tokens. God bless you.” The irony was not lost on me that Doreen was off in AC happily wandering around in a stupor of her own with bells ringing and money eating machines.
I am resolved that this will never be how I am an awesome fun mom. In fact it is two hours of my life I am quite certain I will never get back. Yet all that said as we were finally leaving, and I was in just about as foul of a mood as I could be in, Cooper turns to me and says, “well, that was fun!” and his sisters in complete agreement skipping behind him.