My wife has a friend who looks a lot like Uma Thurman. She has two adorable kids that are big on their please and thank you’s and every once and a while, they’ll come over to socialize with my two monsters or we’ll take them out. Last time, the wife and I took the foursome to one of those warehouse sized indoor amusement parks that are filled with enormous inflatable playhouses wherein the children get all cracked-out on slushies and nacho cheese and literally bounce from stimulus to stimulus like rabid pin-balls. The place is called Big Bounce, but from what I’ve seen, there’s something similar in any good sized town. Good healthy American fun.
Anyway, as soon as we walked in and sat down, I popped in a pair of those foam ear plugs that expand in your ears like some sort of parasite and I flipped on my Kindle. As soon as that foamy pressure filled my ears and the ungodly cacophony dimmed to white noise, I took a calming breath and imagined an enormous glass bowl lowering slowly around me. It was peace amidst a fructose fueled madhouse. I read for fifteen minutes or so until my wife got bored and shook my shoulder. She knows how much I love the spectator sport of people watching and she had found quite the specimen.
I followed her clandestine nod and found a man in his early fifties with a super sweet salt-and-pepper mullet and a handlebar mustache that was in need of some serious grooming. “In God’s Hands” was boldly printed on his hoodie. He was wearing a Monster energy drink hat, complete with the green claw marks, and he was drinking a Monster as if he were sponsored. Stone washed jeans wrapped up his ensemble nicely. This guy was rockin’ his approximation of “cool” with pride. I guess I’m not old enough to know, but maybe the getup was cool at one point in time. Maybe he was just one of those guys that stagnated when the next movement in fashion came along. Maybe his sense of cool was frozen in carbonite right along with Han Solo.
And that’s when I turned off my Kindle and took the plugs out of my ears. I started looking around as the noise came crashing back in and realized that I was right in the middle of some of the most epic people watching of all time. We were surrounded by bedazzled jeans and crimped hair and neck tattoos. There were fat men with too small shirts that probably couldn’t bend over far enough to see exactly how much they were exposing. There were women that managed to show ass-crack and tramp stamp and piercing all at the same time. It was awesome. I felt like Jane Goodall must’ve amongst her treasured primates.
My wife looked at me and said “you’re probably the smartest person here right now.” Not many things are worthy of a high five but that comment was (but of course we didn’t actually high-five because it would’ve alerted the redneck herd that an outsider was in their midst). I was smugly satisfied for a while until I realized that being the smartest person in Big Bounce is like being the smartest kid on the short bus. Oh well. I leaned back in my chair and started thinking all sorts of random thoughts. I imagined what it’d be like if Big Bounce were suddenly cut off from the rest of the world. Would I manage to take control Lord of the Flies style thanks to my only slightly higher education? I imagined a world without automated dispensers of nacho cheese, because that’s literally what this place had. I imagined the ebola monkey breaking in the front door and running rampant as I laughed like a maniac. I’m not saying they were all pleasant thoughts.
Right in the middle of my somewhat morbid revelry, a three-hundred-pound eleven-year-old walked in front of me. Look, I’m not judging the child here so please don’t get insulted yet. I know it’s the parent’s fault. I know that even the parents probably had to deal with hardship and that they’ve never come within light years of anything resembling nutritional education. I try to have empathy for childhood obesity, but it’s really hard to pull off when the kid is wearing a triple XL “T” shirt that’s covered with pictures of cheese burgers and french-fries. I shit you not. This kid’s shirt looked like it should’ve been a table cloth at McDonalds. The wife and I saw him at the same time and then turned slowly to look at each other with “WTF” expressions. She and I could’ve both fit into this kid’s sweatpants at the same time, and yet his parents had intentionally bought him a shirt that loudly proclaimed a proud love of fatty foods. Unbelievable.
Look; I feed my children trash occasionally. If you look closely in the picture of this kid, you’ll see the multiple slushie cups and ice cream wrappers and troughs of nacho cheese smothered chips that we were feeding our kids, but they see this type of exorbitance as a luxury. It’s an extremely rare frivolity. This poor kid lived his life that way. Every day for him was probably sans vegetable. I really felt for this kid; few things make me sad but this truly did. And it was impossible to stop thinking about it too, because even when you couldn’t see him, it was easy to tell exactly where he was. You could look out over the inflatable playhouses and see one of them swaying a good deal more than the others. It was like watching that T-Rex walk thought the forest in Jurassic Park 2. It’s impossible for me to not make comparisons like that. I hope you’ll forgive me.
The stress of that much excitement and sugar finally got to the four kids we were responsible for and they started to flock back to us. You could tell that one or two of them had cried at some point. One of mine was staring wide-eyed off into the distance as if her mind had finally snapped thanks to too much chocolate and cardio. My other child was sticky wherever not protected by clothing. They had had a great time, but it was time to go. We walked out past incoming hoards of children that would also make for some great people watching someday and finally made it to the parking lot. I watched the front door for a while as my children were buckling in and made the off-hand comment to my wife that Big Bounce should change their name to ‘Merica. We both laughed, but in hindsight, maybe we should’ve thought a bit harder about what we were laughing at.
Anyway, I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI