Where the Heck is Waldo*?!?!

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

My son’s 10th birthday party was this past weekend and he had invited 8 of his friends to play some laser tag at Laser Flash.  The boys love it because they get to pretend to shoot people (& things) and there is a beginner gambling hall (a.k.a.  arcade) available!  Parents love it because there are Party Assistants that take care of EVERYTHING (serving the kids the pizza, soda, cake,  writing down gifts & names, etc).

Well, the kids have played their 40 minutes of laser tag, have eaten a TON of pizza (the 2 large pizzas we ordered were almost NOT enough for nine 10-yr-old boys) and cake (some boys had TWO pieces) and have analyzed their scorecards.  Now, it is time for a little gambling!  The Party Assistant handed out their tokens and off they went!   [Side note on the food – when do boys start eating you out of house and home?  My other two kids are daughters and they don’t do that.  The food consumption caught me off guard!] 

 

The arcade is not really gambling, but to me it’s just the first step.  They clamour for tokens and spend their tokens at a frighteningly frantic pace (my son had spent all of his 22 tokens in 5 minutes) in the endless pursuit for tickets.  The frantic nature of their quest for the most tickets amongst their peers is akin to an addiction to me.  They get a crazed look in their eyes and run like fanatics from game to game to game.  Then, they get to “spend” their tickets on, well, crap.  That is the only word I can think of to describe the abundant offerings at the ticket redemption counter.

Now, back to the story – once all of the kids ran off to the arcade, our Party Assistant noticed one cup of tokens left on the table.  He said that he thought that the blonde kid had gone to the bathroom – we confirmed with the PA where he was sitting during the Pizza & Cake frenzy and determined that the mystery kid was Waldo.  Well, Waldo had been gone maybe a little too long for a bathroom visit, so Mike went to find him.  He came out of the bathroom – no WaldoWhere did he go?  Why didn’t he come back to the table to get his tokens?  We started wandering around the arcade (it really isn’t that big of a place) looking for Waldo.  We asked all of the boys if they had seen him and they all answered in the negative.  Now, my heart is racing because I’m thinking to myself, “Not again.”  (I will explain the “not again” later).  I look at my husband and I know he also just had the same thought (“not again”).  We got the staff involved and they were awesome!  They got on the PA, someone accompanied my husband to search outside, and the staff looked in every nook and cranny of the place. 

I can’t adequately describe to you the sickening feeling I had – it’s one thing to think that you’ve misplaced your own child, but lose another person’s child is unspeakable.   What had happened to him?

 

In my brain, I kept thinking that Fox 59 News was going to show up any minute to expose us for what we really were – the worst party chaperones (parents, human beings, you name it) on the planet. 

Fox 59:  “So, can you tell us how you lost a 10-yr-old boy in your care?”

Jenni:   “Ummmm…..”

Fox 59:  “How come you did not keep track of all of the boys at all times?”

Jenni:  {It’s like herding cats!”}  “Well, Umm….”

Fox 59:  “How will you be able to sleep tonight knowing that you have your son and Waldo’s family is now missing theirs?”

Jenni:  ”  I, uh …….”

What had happened to poor Waldo? Who had him?  I started imagining the outcry for our heads, the law suits, etc.  These along with other images and thoughts were flooding my head as we were looking for Waldo for the 15-20 minutes that this ordeal lasted.

The manager asked me, “Do you think he had been picked up already?”.  My first thought was that I hoped so, but what kind of parent would pick up his kid without at least having him thank Jack for inviting him and letting us know that he was taking him? 

The manager called the number on Waldo’s registration form – answering machine.  I had asked the girls (who were at home) to track down the cell number of Waldo’s mom (Waldo’s parents are divorced) and as I was getting ready to call her, I hung up.  I looked at the manager and said, “What do I say?  Hello, we’ve lost your child.”?  He offered to make the call (bless his heart) – she confirmed that Waldo was with his dad this weekend and she would call to see if he had picked up Waldo.  We were waiting anxiously for her return call – she finally called back and confirmed that Waldo’s father had actually been at the arcade the ENTIRE time and he did currently have Waldo with him. 

What?!

Both of us were FURIOUS!!!  We were t-h-i-s close to calling 911!!  He was in the arcade the entire time, did not introduce himself to us, and then whisked his kid away without telling us!  Huh?!  What kind of jerk (clean version) does that?!  Well, apparently, Waldo’s father!!!  We called off the outside search team, thanked the staff profusely for their help and apologized on behalf of the !#$%@ father!

Once we made sure that all of the other boys were picked up by a parent that we recognized (we checked and double checked), we went home.  On the way home, I felt that I owed Waldo’s mom an explanation for the strange call from Laser Flash.  By the end of the conversation, she was ready to rip the dad a new one!  Good!

Explanation for the “Not Again” Comment Earlier in the this Post:

At Jack’s 9th birthday party at Laser Flash (last year), we had another almost 911 incident.  One of the invitees (we’ll call him Fred*) lived (and still does) in our neighborhood and we offered to bring him home.  I don’t think Fred ever really understood that he was riding home with us.  As the parents were coming to get their children, we were greeting them and also trying to keep track of the remaining children.  At some point, both Mike and I had realized that we hadn’t seen Fred in a while.  We asked Jack where he was – he didn’t know.  We started roaming the arcade and could not find him ANYWHERE.   Again, the same panic as stated above.  Again, the staff was great – they started an all out search party.  The couple I was speaking with as we realized Fred was missing left with their kids.  And, then not 1 minute after they left, that same couple gave me a call.  There was a boy standing at the end of the parking lot near the busy street – could that be our missing boy?  I ran outside and it was Fred!  What the heck?  I guess he wanted to go outside to wait for his parents (who were NEVER coming!).

I’ve never had a kid do that before at a party.  We have three kids and we’ve hosted multiple birthday parties!!! We never had this problem at any of the girls’ parties. Why is that?!

Fred was invited again this year and we made sure that he knew that he was riding home with us so we wouldn’t have another incident.  A lot of good that did for us.  It still happened again! 

Is it just me and Mike?  Are we really bad chaperones?  We are beginning to wonder.  People may stop entrusting us with their children.

Mike and I have had enough of birthday parties for a while . . . . . Oh, wait, we have one more this year – Rachel’s 16th!  H-E-L-P!

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