Kids kind of scare me.
I know. You’d think that since I write for them, I would love them. And I DO love them, I do! They just scare me. Babies, I’m okay with. Teenagers, totally fine. But say, from like the ages of 4-10? They’re just so unpredictable! You never know what they’re going to do. In fact, they could pretty much do anything.
Anyway, my niece is ten, so she is on the upper range of children I’m not afraid of. And she’s really cool. She likes to talk about all the same things I do, like tween books and the show Make It Or Break It and the merits of dangly earrings.
The other night, The Boy and I went over to baby-sit her and her sisters, and I took her out to the bookstore and the arcade. The bookstore was fun -- we looked at the books and talked about the Diary of A Wimpy Kid movie, and looked at all those board games and magic kits and things that they have in the middle of the store.
Then we went to the arcade.
The Niece loves arcades. She thinks that maybe they are the best things ever. I like them, too, for the most part. I mean, what’s not to like? Games, tickets you can spend all night earning and then turn in for a pixie stick… it’s really fun for all.
We got there sort of toward the end of the night, so the place wasn’t busy at all. (Thank God there weren’t more people there, because if there were, what happened later could have been a lot more embarrassing.) The Niece went to work, playing games, earning tickets, etc. Finally, it was almost time to leave, so I told her she had fifteen minutes to use up the rest of her tokens.
And that’s when it happened.
The Niece put her quarter into a machine where the point of the game was to shoot it into these colorful slots -- each slot earned you a different number of tickets. One red slot said “bonus” and it was like, the width of the token, pretty much impossible to get.
But The Niece did. Her token went flying into the tiny “bonus” slot, and tickets started pouring out of the machine.
“Wow!” I said. “That’s awesome!” We stood there smiling and watching the tickets, feeling smug and superior to this other little girl who was clutching her measly twenty tickets while she played skee-ball.
“Can I go play that?” The Niece asked after a couple of minutes. “While you gather up the tickets?”
“Sure,” I said. We didn’t have much time left, and I wanted her to be able to use up the rest of her tokens. She walked over to some other game that involved shooting balls into these cups that sort of looked like owls.
I picked up the line of tickets and started to fold them up. (They are those long lines of tickets, like you get sometimes for raffles.)
But the tickets kept coming. And coming. And coming. They started pooling around my feet, and people started to stare. I was folding them up as fast as I could, into little compact rectangles and then shoving them in my pockets. But my pockets filled up fast, and I couldn’t keep up with the tickets. I had nowhere to put them.
At one point, I looked up at the machine and it said “tickets remaining = 497”
A girl who worked there was vacuuming, and she gave me a dirty look as she passed by and almost vacuumed up my line of tickets. It was very embarrassing. Finally I stopped trying to fold them up and just gathered the whole mess up into my hands.
When The Niece returned, we looked around for the machine to put them in. Usually in arcades you feed your tickets into a machine, it counts them automatically, and then you get a receipt that has the number of tickets you have printed on it.
Not at this one.
“Excuse me?” I said to the teenage boy who was working the counter. “Where do we put these tickets?” I peeked at him over the mountain that was in my arms. “Do we… do we have to count them ourselves?” I was almost crying.
“No,” he said. “You put them in this bucket.”
He shoved a Dubble Bubble bucket across the counter at me, and I started trying to put the tickets in gently, figuring he had a machine back there to feed them into. But he didn’t! He grabbed the tickets and like SMUSHED them down into the bucket. He was very rough, actually.
Then he took the bucket and brought it back to this very shady looking scale in the back, set the bucket on it, and announced that we’d won 1050 tickets. It didn’t seem that scientific, but whatever.
The Niece picked out some prizes – this huge bouncy ball that bounced to the ceiling, and various pieces of candy. (That’s the thing about arcades – you spend the whole time earning all these tickets and then you get tricked into thinking these sorts of cheap little prizes are, like, the best things ever.)
Then we went home.
I am going to hang out with her again on Saturday, so maybe we’ll be back. But this time I’m totally going to play DDR.
And in celebration of tweens and DDR and arcades, anyone who leaves a comment on this entry will be entered to win a copy of DEVON DELANEY SHOULD TOTALLY KNOW BETTER. (Devon has been known to DDR once in a while, in between all her fake boyfriends.)
The contest will run through Sunday, and I’ll pick and post the winner on Monday.