Friday, October 22, 2004

This Site Has Gone X Days Without an Accident

We're on our way to Chuck E. Cheese.

"Will you get OUT of our WAY? Hey, listen to me--I sound just like a GROWN-UP!" Eli 3.2 is in fine form.

We're going to Chuck E. Cheese because Eli didn't have any "accidents" for a week. Sometimes he gets excited about what he's doing and just forgets to pee. It wasn't happening very often, but when it comes to pee, 'not very often' is too often. So Gloria promised him a Chuck E. Cheese trip as a reward.

Eli finished filling up his accident-free chart yesterday, so we decided to make the trip tonight. Our excitement, however, was muted this morning, when Eli and Gloria played hide and seek. Apparently, to Eli 3.2, the phrase 'hide and seek' actually means 'hide in the closet under the stairs and crap in your pants.'

So what do you call a trip to Chuck E. Cheese under these circumstances?

Bittersweet. That's what you call it.

"LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS!" I scrape myself off the roof of the car. Eli 3.2 is very enthusiastic about car trips, and he likes to shout important information that may help me drive more safely. In this case, he's reciting lines from Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, a surreal children's book about a pigeon trying to cajole you into letting him drive a bus. Eli, not surprisingly, is on the side of the pigeon.

"True story. My cousin Herb drives a bus EVERY DAY." Eli 3.2 is wearing a raincoat, even though its ninety-one degrees outside. It's yellow, with the words "FIRE AND RESCUE TEAM" printed on the back in very official-looking letters. The hat also has a fireman's badge on the front. He just got it yesterday and we can't get it off him.

"What's the BIG DEAL? It's JUST a BUS!" If you don't have kids, you will be unable to understand the Dali-esque conversations taking place in the vehicle just in front of you. Trust me when I say that when you're behind a vehicle with children inside, the minimum safe following distance is approximately one mile.


Chuck E. Cheese is Building Zero in any epidemic or plague in a three-county area. White-suited Hazmat teams circle in the parking lot. There's a courtesy phone in the lobby with a direct connection to FEMA.

Eli 3.2 wanders in happily. He's older now, and he's comfortable with the space and the games and knows all the things that he likes to do. It's also nice that he's old enough to do some things on his own. We don't have to follow two feet behind him because he's about to faceplant on every solid object. Now he's very nimble, and we can mix play with just sitting nearby and keeping an eye on him.

"Where's the pants crapper?" I ask.

"Over at the rotovirus phone," Gloria says. The phone lets you 'talk' to Chuck E. Cheese via a pre-recorded message. Every kid who walks in spends five minutes on that phone. Chuck E. says things like "Thanks for calling! Now you have the flu!" There should be a sticker on the front with the 1-800 number of the Center for Disease Control.

"There's a fire?" Eli 3.2 has apparently turned the plague phone into some sort of emergency response line. "Okay, I'll be there in FIVE HOURS," he says, hanging up the phone and racing over to a Bob the Builder vehicle that will apparently take him to save the day, albeit very slowly.

"Blaze Engulfs City," I say. "Mayor Vows to Investigate Fire Department Response Time." Gloria laughs. With me. At me. There's no telling.

Eli 3.2 continues in his role as Chief of the Curiously Unresponsive Fire Department for nine or ten phone calls, after which he decides to start singing:
To you
it might only be
but it's HOME to me

I should probably explain that.

Eli's favorite cartoon is Maggie and the Ferocious Beast (my favorite, too). One of the characters is Hamilton Hocks, a talking pig who lives in a large cardboard box. He'll sing about this box from time to time, and Eli's picked up the lyrics in the last week or so.

Nothing strange there. However, judging from the looks on the faces of a few nearby mothers, the Child Protective Services hotline will be ringing off the hook soon.

"Eli, is that the Fire Department phone ringing?" I ask.

"The PHONE? I'll be RIGHT THERE!" After the continental U.S. has been reduced to charred rubble, Eli takes a break. Gloria wraps him in an anti-bacterial bath sheet and then autoclaves the phone in consideration of the next little walking transmission vector to arrive. Then he heads off to spend a few minutes in the tunnels of Cu-Chi Cheese.

The pizza has arrived at our table. Eli has some chicken tenders and french fries, neither of which he'll eat. He doesn't like to eat while he's here. Too many adventures to stop for eating. "I'm just going to try this and then I am going to be FED UP," he says. And hungry, too, because I don't negotiate with kidnappers or terrorists. Or blondes.

"Do you know that some men sit on the potty and read?" he asks. That's crazy talk. Where would he hear something ridiculous like that? I may have to home school him.

"I need to go to the bathroom," I tell Gloria, slipping a copy of War and Peace into my backpack as I walk away.

I may be a while.

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