My husband asked me this evening how many times I’d ever been to a Chuck E. Cheese. Seeing as how I’m an 80’s kid, the answer was “LOTS,” but it brought to mind my favorite ever Chuck E. Cheese memory.
Of all the games in the arcade, Skee-Ball was—is—my favorite. Surprising, really, considering I’m not much of a ball sports kind of person, but there’s a definite allure to rolling that grapefruit-sized ball up the curved ramp and watching it fly into the air. Will it hit the target?
One of the best parts of playing Skee-Ball was that the machines spit out red raffle-type tickets as you accumulated points. You could then redeem the tickets for fabulous prizes like stuffed toys and pens and coil bracelets. I don’t think I’d ever managed to earn more than 5 or so tickets, but that didn’t stop me from trying.
One day I walked into the arcade and couldn’t believe my good luck. Sitting at the end of one of the machines was a whole pile of red tickets, still joined together at their perforated ends.
I looked around to see whether their owner might be nearby, but there was no one. Just the sound of the Chuck E. Cheese animatronic band playing in the next room.
I picked them up. There had to be at least 50 or 60 of them.
But they weren’t mine.
What if someone had lost them?
I really, really wanted to keep them, but I knew I should turn them in.
With a heavy heart, I trudged to the prize booth. The “adult” in charge was probably all of 16 or 17 years old, with short, blonde hair flopping into her bored face from under the brim of her Chuck E. Cheese top hat.
I bravely handed over the tickets.
“Someone left these on the Skee-Ball machine,” I said.
She regarded me for a moment. Popped her gum.
“Well, then I guess you have a whole lot of tickets.”
Her face, and mine, broke into huge smiles.
I saved the tickets for a long time, and I have no idea what I eventually bought with them. What I really bought, I think, was a happy memory of being rewarded for doing the right thing.