Thursday Morning Wood

Posted by Wood | Thursday, June 19, 2008

So last Friday, after Jim finished talking on the radio, we got in the car and drove across the state to watch my mom fight cancer by walking around a middle school track. Heather hadn't yet published Jim's guest post about men's bathrooms and he was taut with nervous energy about whether Heather's readers would like it or hate it, and we had a three-hour car ride between us and our destination. So we stopped at a McDonald's halfway.

Let me back up: ever since our return trip from Indiana a month ago, Juniper has had a secret. You have to bend down and put your ear right up to her lips if you want to hear it. Even then, you'll probably only understand a few hissed syllables. Her secret, I finally determined after listening several times and ending up with lots of spit in my ear, is, "Maybe I will get to go to the fun place again." The fun place is, of course, McDonald's PlayPlace, AKA "The place with the tubes." I think it's a secret because she knows her father and I don't really like McDonald's. There is a definite strain of embarassment in her whisper. Poor kid.

So last week we told her that if she behaved in the car we would stop at a fun place halfway to Nana's. Juniper hasn't really made the connection yet between McDonald's the restaurant and McDonald's the playground -- she won't eat cheeseburgers or fries for some reason, and all she likes are those apples dipped in what she calls "chocolate mustard." So whatever: we stopped. As much as I don't like the idea of treating McDonald's as a reward, I'll pretty much do anything to stop her from whining in the car.

While Juniper romped around with about forty other sticky-fingered kids jacked up on high fructose corn syrup and sodium phosphates, my husband wandered around the restaurant on his laptop trying to find a wi/fi connection.

"Doesn't McDonalds have its own wi/fi?" I asked him.

"Yeah, but you have to pay like $2.99 for it or something." Here he was, panicking about having a post on the most widely-read personal blog on the internet, and he was too cheap to cough up three bucks to see it.

"Do you think several hundred people with Provo IP addresses are systematically going through our archives and calling us agents of the devil as we speak?"

He stood up to go outside where he hoped to pick up a signal from a nearby hotel. He pushed open the door that led from the play space outside, and set off the alarm. All forty children slammed their palms against their ears, their faces pressed against the greasy plexiglass inside the tubes and nodules above us, their parents twisting their heads in aural-inspired agony, the screams of everyone contributing to the piercing alarm he'd triggered before sheepishly backing away from the door.

Apparently the glass-windowed fun place was soundproof, because inside the dining area of this McDonald's business went on as usual: construction workers stared dully into the layers of their Big Macs. Elderly cashiers smiled eagerly for minimum wage. None of them heard the alarm, but out of the corner of his eye one guy in tapered dockers biting into a filet-o-fish glanced over at a room full of parents and children who appeared to be dying painful deaths at the hands of an aggressive strain of bacteria brought into the chamber by a snot-nosed 4-year old. My husband bolted to the counter where he explained what had happened and the manager yelled, "Hey Rod, one of them kids set off the alarm again. Go get the keys." A few minutes later the fun place was silent and empty. "What happened?" Juniper asked, clearly crushed that her new friends had fled. I attempted to calm the still-startled baby.

"Sometimes the fun place isn't so fun, kid," Jim said. "Sometimes it's not fun at all."