One of the great tests of parental strength is the inevitable trip to Chipmunks, an indoor play area for babies to 11 year olds, even though if you’re lucky, sometimes you might see a five-year-old knocked aside like a skittle on the giant bouncy slide by an 18-year-old who has nothing else to do in Pakuranga on a Sunday.
I’ve just got home, poured myself a glass of wine, looked out the window and said
into the late-afternoon abyss.
I get it, don’t get me wrong. Kids want birthday parties so they can share their special milestone with their friends and sit in an MDF throne for an hour whilst hair-netted servants bring them boxes of highly processed foods.
In the main hub, children are let loose to explore the well-worn boxing bags, and duck, dive and weave their way through plastic balls shot out of makeshift canons. I’m told that these balls house the kinds of bacteria that can survive a nuclear blast, and probably that’s what’s needed, given that they are stored in seven-year-old boys’ jeans for hours at a time, then carelessly re-entered into the next play session.
As the paper towel bins overflow with moist bacteria-sodden colonies, the regulars, the Chipmunks-professionals, sit at tables on their devices, oblivious to the fact that 11-year-old Tarquin is currently causing havoc on the preschool slide, and who cares, because you can sit there and drink flat whites until you are technically high, and if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can get the barista to slip you a shot of fake whiskey or—even better—take your own hip flask and get amongst.
You are then summonsed into an ante-room, laid out with boy or girl place-mats and eat-wear. Little eyes wait as the boxes of nourishment arrive and then WHAM. The biggest fucking Chipmunk you’ve ever seen materialises through the door, scaring the living shit out of small people, but ultimately it’s only benevolently there to dish out silent good vibes and perhaps a discount on your next visit.
The candles are lit, there’s one more chance to play in the heat and nausea and smell of Chipmunks, and then please proceed to the parents, now working in deficit, to collect your lovingly made goodie bag filled with gifts even better than what you bought for the birthday person.
And out you go onto Te Rakau Drive and through Panmure, surely the subject of another blog altogether with its multi-laned roundabout of death.
Next time on The Sane Companion: Panmure: The Roundabout of Death.