Hey, listen up, Ronald, because Grandpa’s got a message for you: Up yours!
I hope you’re not offended by the crudeness of my language (I’m apologizing to my readers, not to you, Ronald), but it had already been a pretty rough weekend with the grandkids, even before the McDisaster at lunchtime.
Right off the bat this weekend, Grandma nearly took a header down a flight of stairs, and although she saved her noggin from damage, her foot didn’t fare so well. I had to take her to the emergency room for X-rays and now she’s on crutches with a badly sprained ankle, which explains why we’re all a bit limited in our extracurricular choices for Evan, 5 and Lillian, 2. If not for that sprained ankle, we probably wouldn’t have ended up today at the McDonald’s PlayPlace.
After hobbling in from the parking lot, I parked my wife with her crutches and the two kids at a table while I got in line. Just one woman was taking orders, and the line was practically out the door. I guess that says something about Americans and how we’ll line up to eat this crap, but with wrangling the kids back into their car seats as the only alternative, I decided to stick it out.
Finally I was second in line when I felt a vibration in my jeans. It was a text message from my wife. Here’s the play-by-play:
While all that was going on, I finally got up to the register and placed my order ― two Happy Meals, and a couple of cardboard burgers for the adults. With Ronald and his minions now McCooking our food, I decided to hotfoot it out to my daughter’s car to see if I could rustle up a spare diaper from under the seat or someplace. If I found one, I figured we’d stay and eat, but if there were no diapers to be found, we’d take our food and flee.
After rifling through the detritus of the car’s luggage area, I finally found a diaper under the umbrella stroller that my daughter had thoughtfully left for us. I couldn’t tell if it was a fresh diaper or a used one, but figured that after baking in the sun-drenched back of the car for a few days, it would definitely be drier than anything Lillian was currently wearing.
With diaper in hand, I raced back inside and arrived just as they called my order.
After taking the food to the table, it was up to me to head back to the soda machines to fill everyone’s cup. Once that was done, I took my seat just in time to hear Evan proclaim that he was unhappy with the Happy Meal toy. “It’s not a good toy,” he said, and he was right about that, because the toy was nothing more than a crappy plastic cup.
With the meal finally finished, I thought it would be a good time to change Lillian’s diaper, since I really hadn’t wanted to undertake that task before eating. I hustled her into the men’s restroom, praying that no one else would enter while I took care of business. Luckily, I wasn’t interrupted, and my spirits rose marginally at the idea of leaving a McPresent in there for Ronald to find.
But Lillian wasn’t finished with me yet.
While Mary stayed parked at the table with her crutches, I took the two kids to the PlayPlace.
You’ve probably seen these things, a series of interconnected tubes and ladders, with several slides for the children to come down while their parents and grandparents smile and wave while fervently wishing for a nice gin drink.
It was then that I spotted the sign fastened to the wall:
“Instruct Children to leave the play equipment by the nearest exit.” Are you kidding me? Do they really think kids are going to proceed to the nearest exit like obedient little adults?
The point was pressed home a few minutes later. Two little girls got my attention from high atop the climbing towers, gesticulating wildly into one of the hollow balls, where Lillian had taken up residence and refused to vacate, thus blocking access to one of the slides that the other children wanted to descend. I shouted up to her, “Lillian, come out of there!” No response.
Like any good grandpa, I texted grandma:
Look for Ronald? Enjoy my Coke? Clearly she did not understand my dilemma! Safely back at the table, she couldn’t know that Lillian was refusing to exit one of the gaily colored plastic balls, and worse, I was getting seriously overheated because the PlayPlace air conditioning wasn’t working; the whole place felt hotter than a McNugget that gets stuck in the bottom of the fry basket.
I told Evan to climb up and retrieve his sister, and he tried gamely, but she still refused to budge. It was then that I thought about the evacuation plan. Just what the hell are people supposed to do if there’s some emergency and the kids won’t cooperate? Maybe a set of fire hoses to blast them out? Hell, I didn’t know.
Just as Mary hobbled out to see what was going on, I was coming to grips with the fact that I was going to have to go in after Lillian. While another parent watched, I twisted myself into shapes that no 60-year-old man should ever have to endure, then started to climb.
“When Grandpa gets up there, Lillian, he’s not gonna be happy!” I panted, while contemplating the next obstacle, a set of zigzag steps that would require me to dislocate both shoulders before launching my body onto a narrow ledge, from which I might finally be able to reach into the plastic ball and extract my granddaughter. “Grandpa’s coming for you!”
Something in my tone must have finally registered with Lillian, some primal instinct that said fight or flight. Apparently she chose flight, because suddenly Evan shouted, “She’s coming!”
From my precarious perch of pain, I saw Lillian finally exit down the slide. I wheezed desperately to anyone who would listen, “Hold on to her! For god’s sake don’t let her come back up!”
Well, obviously, I got back out or I wouldn’t be writing this, and as long as I only use my fingers and wrists to type, the dislocated shoulders don’t hurt too bad. I don’t know what will happen with the grandkids tomorrow, but I’m already looking forward to it, and I’ll guarandamntee you one thing: We’re never going back to McDonalds!