Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Partying In The Danger Zone (Welcome To The Jungle)

Last weekend we celebrated #2's 8th Birthday at a local place called Playtime. Playtime is a brand new business in town and I, personally, had never even seen the inside of the place. However, everyone I spoke to about it said it was awesome.

We signed up for their basic "Birthday Package". This package included 8 kids (not including the birthday girl), the use of a private party room for one hour, 2 pizzas, pop and all of the playing we wanted for $124. We've done our fair share of birthday party booking and $124 seems to be an average cost.

Although we could stay as long as we wanted we decided that the party would only run from 1:00 to 3:00 (we aren't masochists after all).

So we arrived shortly before 1:00 on a Saturday afternoon. When you first walk in the door there is a little waiting area with a bunch of cubbyholes on either end for shoes and boots as well as a few coat racks. This is also where you pay to get in. Once you pay and you get a wrist band they buzz you in the front gate. Then you are IN.

We were welcomed by a young lady who told us that she would be taking care of our party. She took the cake and gifts and confirmed our pizza toppings and drink choices. She also told us that she would greet the kids when they arrived and take the gifts and put them with the others. This was music to our ears. Basically we didn't have to do anything. Now that's what I call a birthday party!

There were maybe another 12 kids in the building when we arrived. So things were nice and quiet and there was plenty of room for the kids to run around like maniacs. Insanity-wise, on a scale of from 1-10 it was barely a 1.

The main play structure had two sides to it. One side was a pirate ship theme complete with mast, crows nest and Jolly Roger. The other side was a jungle theme decked out with primitive masks and jungle camouflage. These two areas were connected by a number of bridges, pipes and ladders. There were also a ton of slides, monkey bars, gliders and things that looked kind of like small heavy bags.

Aside from the main structure there were two inflatable bouncing rooms, two ping-pong tables, a foozball table and an air hockey table.

Two seconds after we walked in the kids disappeared. Not entirely. They popped out of the play structure every now and then but they were paying no attention to Jules and I and that's just the way I like it! We wandered around and played a bit of ping-pong. Then we grabbed a couple of coffees and sat down in the parent area and watched all the kids having a great time.

The parent area was located on one side of the room. It looked like a little coffee shop, complete with a leather chairs and magazines.

We sat their on our asses doing nothing for about 45 minutes. I've never been so relaxed at one of the kids birthday parties. Usually it is two hours of stress and craziness. This was Easy!

So far.

While we sat there minding our own business kids kept trickling in. By the time we headed to the party room there were probably around 50 kids in the building. Still, it was only about a 4 on the insanity meter. There might have been a lot of kids but we only had to worry about a few of them.

We were only in the party room for about 45 minutes eating our pizza and cake and opening gifts but when we emerged you could barely see the play structure for all the kids swarming all over it. The structure looked like it was alive. There were also dozens of kids orbiting the structure at high speeds and in all directions.

Both of the bouncing rooms had a steady occupancy of 10 jumping kids. The parent area was now filled to capacity and the area just inside the doors was crammed with as many people trying to get in as humanly possible. It was now a solid 13 on the insanity scale, in fact the needle actually fell off of my insanity meter at this point so I can only guess that it would have read 13.

Everywhere I looked I saw danger.

The bouncing rooms have a single tiny entrance that is about 2 feet by 2 feet with flaps that cover it so kids on the outside can't see in and kids on the inside can't see out. I saw kids running full tilt and diving headfirst into these tiny entrances. I also noticed that the preferred method of exiting these rooms seemed to be bouncing and then diving out head first or firing out foot first. Every time I saw a kid streaking towards this entrance I was expecting a deadly collision resulting in a broken neck or at least a few stitches. How this didn't happened, I'll never know.

The kids orbiting the structure weren't so lucky. I saw at least 4 kid-on-kid collisions take place that resulted in wailing children. A couple were t-bones and a couple were head-on. The place had become a giant accident waiting to happen.

Everywhere I looked I was cringing at potential disasters. I don't know what the maximum occupancy for that place is but they MUST have exceeded it! I also realized that there was nobody really in charge here. They should have had some type of safety person, similar to a lifeguard, who enforces rules. But then again I wasn't aware of any rules either. There were none posted and I didn't see anybody getting told to modify their behavior in any way. I could think of a couple of good rules right off the top of my head. Like no diving into the bouncing room or no running.

At this point I was praying for 3:00 to arrive. "Please let the parents come and pick up their kids before one of them gets hurt!" It was really only a matter of time before one of the crying kids was one of ours.

3:00 came and with it the parents and a new challenge. We had to try to find the kids in the tangle mass of children that was the play structure. It was kind of like one of those Where's Waldo books. The last kid, of course, was the hardest to find. It took us a good ten minutes to track her down and get her out to her mom.

AHHHHHH!! Finally we were done. But not quite. We still had to get out of the building and that was no easy task either. There were now, what felt like, thousands of people standing inside the front doors. We had to work our way through this crowd and find our boots and shoes amongst the thousands of other boots and shoes and then back through the crowd again to get our jackets and then one last push through the horde of people to get out the door.

-30 Celsius has never felt as good as it did when I stepped out of that building. It felt like freedom.

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