Does anyone remember how tortuously hot the summer of 1999 was? Well I do, because that’s the summer I took Danny, then nine-months old, and Tim, four at the time, to visit my mother in New York City. My lovely bride needed a break, so being the caring husband I am, I escaped with the boys for four days of fun. There was, however, one gaping flaw in my plan. My mother didn’t have air conditioning.
After chasing the kids for three days in Sahara-like temperatures I finally got some relief when we went to an air-conditioned arcade/restaurant. Relaxing in the cool air, I treated myself to an extra-large root beer followed by four slices of nasty pizza. Unfortunately, my rest was short lived. Just when my core body temperature finally dipped below 120 degrees, Tim begged me to join him in the enormous tubular play set. Reluctantly, I agreed.
We weren’t in the colossal tube and net torture device long when all the bending, smells, slimy surfaces, ear-piercing yelps and kids’ buttocks in my face were getting the best of me. Being hunched over in there after downing four, okay it was five, slices of pizza was making me nauseous. I knew I had to get out soon so I started looking for an exit.
Five minutes of climbing and crawling passed with still no sign of an exit from my tubular hell. I started to wonder if they had welded us into the nauseating play set. Signaling through several small, grease-smeared, smelly, Plexiglas windows I tried to get help from the pimply-faced staff members, but, to my dismay, none responded.
It looked like I was on my own while a root beer bubble was reaching critical mass within my 34-year-old body. I visualized the mayhem that would ensue if I blew chunks trapped in that smelly, airless, tubular structure with about 50 kids. It wouldn’t be pretty. I started to panic.
“Enough of this father/son bonding nonsense, I need out of here,” I thought to myself. I told my son, “Tim we gotta get out of here!” Tim was having too much fun and retorted, “But Daaaaaaaad!” He hadn’t finished his two-word sentence when I shouted, “DON’T START MISTER! WE’RE GETTING OUT OF HERE NOW!” Seeing my head spin for the first time, Tim realized the gravity of the situation and fell in line.
I crazily led my son through the maze of tubes, nets, ball pits, and kids’ elevated buttocks while desperately trying to find a way out. The safety of other children was of no concern to me at the time and if Tim lost sight of me, he was on his own. I barreled through one small group of children playing in the balls then literally climbed over three children on the net ladder. My next obstacle was a group of three greased-back New York kids blocking passage over a bridge. Apparently, two of the boys were shaking down everyone for prize tickets to get past.
Well, this percolating middle-aged man didn’t have time for Tony Soprano Jr.’s extortion. Before the boys could say “Badda Bing,” I elbowed those little mobsters-in-training into a nearby tube slide and heard “Yaw gonna pay fauw dissssssssssssssss” as they slid into another junior gangster’s turf.
The smells, sights, and physical exertion had my puke-o-meter pegged. I needed out and I needed out now! Crawling through the tube section I suddenly smelled something other than fermented sock odor coming from one of several hundred tube slides. It smelled like…. REAL NASTY PIZZA….It must be a way out! I dove headfirst into the tube and flopped out of my tortured maze onto the floor of the dining area.
I lay spread eagle on the floor, gasping the fresh air as if I was a rescued drowning victim when I started to make out fuzzy images of small people gathered around me. One stout little New Yorker observed, “Gee Mista, yooo doan look too good.”
Short on patience–and white blood cells–I screamed “Whadda you lookin at!” Stress always brings out the native “New Yawka” in me.
Realizing I had blown every last style point available to an adult male, I gathered my two sons and mother and ventured out into the heat.
So much for a cool, relaxing summer afternoon.