Our daughter got invited to the neighbor boy’s birthday party and so, as custom dictates we were in the position of figuring out what would be an appropriate gift for a nine-year-old boy who we know practically nothing about. In fact until we moved in next door three months ago the existence of this entire family was really a matter of hearsay as far as I was concerned, but I digress.
Procrastination and general disinterest ensured that we would be doing our gift shopping at the last minute. Suggestions from his mother indicated that his interests included video games and “sciencey” type books. Since, as I mentioned, we really don’t know this child or his family very well we opted for the noncommittal, free form present of a gift card, of a modest sum, from a bookstore. You remember those right, buildings from which you could purchase printed material from before internet retailers took over. Kind of like a newsstand but with a little more heavy lifting involved. At any rate the procurement of the card was quick and painless but it then occurred to me that we needed to get a card as well.
The selection of birthday cards presents one with entirely too many options at this point. The array of choices includes, but are not limited to; birthday, her birthday, granddaughter,daughter, friend, from a group, his birthday, grandson, son, kid’s birthday the list really goes on ad nauseam. Yet, for all of these options there did not seem to be a single card under the description of, “Birthday of random child who you know nothing about but somehow found yourself attending their party anyway.” Not a single god damned card fit quite so aptly, so I just got one with some dinosaurs and shit on it.
The party was held at a nearby pizza buffet joint that, being accustomed to hosting children’s birthdays, was quite adept at squeezing money out of parents through the use of games that take non-refundable tokens and issue tickets that can be traded in for prizes that just a little more than disappointing for the kids when they realize that in order to achieve enough points to get anything interesting they’re going to have to tap into their college funds. If your my kid then this amount probably still wouldn’t suffice. Having grown up close to the Jersey shore I was very familiar with this scam and even almost waxed nostalgic when I saw that their particular grift included Skee Ball, a game that despite never achieving mastery at I was quite fond of as a child. The food at this venue was, by technical definition pizza, in that it was a round dough covered in sauce, cheese (allegedly), and other toppings, served in triangular sections. I do however reserve the right to call bullshit on the blatantly uninspired bit of pandering that was offered as a mac and cheese pizza. I would like to point out that if after trying a single pepperoni slice at your establishment my six-year-old declines seconds, you’re probably doing it wrong.
The desert offering, in lieu of a traditional birthday cake, was another disheartening insult to the wonder that is pizza. This appeared to be just dough topped with marshmallows and chocolate sauce but my curiosity could not overcome my revulsion to further investigate this amalgam of grease and sugar, though my daughter seemed to almost be reconsidering whether she was still hungry when she saw it. Soon after the tokens were distributed and the children were unleashed to lay waste to the game room.
They were too late. It turned out that almost half of the arcade was out-of-order, leaving the children from two badly scheduled birthday parties and those that came included from the restaurants normal Sunday lunch rush to crowd and shove each other as the jockeyed for position at the remaining machines. The overall effect was like viewing the children from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, if that movie had been filmed in some post apocalyptic boardwalk attraction. Eventually we had to leave as I needed to head to work (note to self: thank my employers) so my daughter cashed in her tickets for a few paltry gewgaws and we thanked what’s his name’s parents and headed home.
The kids had fun, so all in all it was a good party. I am glad that the neighbors think enough of our family to have included us in their son’s birthday, it was a nice and unnecessary, friendly gesture towards the new people in the neighborhood. It is especially nice to their son considering that he is nearly three years older than my daughter and, as I recall, when your ages are in the single digits this is a significant difference.
We were, however, able to evaluate that my wife and I will more than likely not be cashing in the coupon our daughter won for a free pizza party at that particular location.