“Are you certain you want to do the 1:00 party? There’ll be 20 toddlers – and their adults.”
“Sure, boss; I need a challenge away from the register! It’ll be nice and orderly, don’t you sweat.”
The store employee set up the tables, chairs, confetti, balloons, and supplies well in advance of the party attendees’ arrivals, which naturally were late and staggered. The guest of honor arrived with his parents seven minutes after the top of the hour, delaying the start time because they had trouble finding a parking spot.
“All right, let’s get this party started, `cause we’re already behind schedule!” The employee tried to get things back on track. “Here are some toys – go play!”
There was unstructured play for 13 minutes in an attempt to right the itinerary – wanderers were herded back into the room and over to the general vicinity of their oblivious guardians. The employee checked her watch, set in alignment with Greenwich Mean Time: it was time for Phase 2.
“Listen up, everybody – craft! Put the toys down and come to the tables!”
“Can my daughter still play with – ”
The craft was drawing self-portraits, all of which came out abysmally. They would be the ones to suffer with the unsightly works hanging on their walls, the employee thought.
“All right, craft time is over, go back and play!”
“Can we have another piece of paper? This one ripped.”
“Craft time is over! Time to play, play, play!” What was with all the insubordination? Did she have “PUSHOVER” stamped on her forehead?
Play time lasted for the allotted 10 minutes – next up was pizza and soda. “Time for your sugar, salt, and fat, children!” Why weren’t they all sitting in their seats properly? “Doesn’t anyone want a salad?”
“Not at a birthday party.”
Thanks, Mom. Napkins and tomato sauce everywhere – do they make this mess at their own homes? She thought maybe.
“OK, let me take a picture of all of you!” Only the Birthday Boy and three children came to the marker she had placed on the floor for this. “Come on, this moment needs to be immortalized! Why is no one following directions?!”
“They’re still playing.”
“But it’s picture time!” Four subjects were better than none, so she took the photo with the glaring negative space drawing all the attention. “Thank you – disperse until dessert.” That would be in 10 minutes, during which time a few adults and children drifted off to different parts of the store: this could not be tolerated.
The employee went on the overhead speaker: “Attention, party guests: if you do not return to the designated area in… 37 seconds, cake and cookies will be withheld from you, even if you are the guest of honor, good day to you!”
The pitter-patter of sneakered feet raced over to the party room, and they all sat down at the tables. Dessert was served in an orderly fashion and peace reigned for exactly one minute and 23 seconds.
The manager stuck his head into the room: “Is everything all – ”
“OK – don’t go on the overhead again.”
Dessert was ingested and smeared on faces, hands, clothing, and walls. “Not the walls! It’ll take me ages to clean them! Never mind – children! Get into a circle!” Six of them got into a diagonal. “I said ‘a circle’! We’re going to play ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’!” They moved to form a rhombus. “Close enough! Birthday Boy: go!”
The Birthday Boy left the room because he had to go potty; Dad followed to assist if needed.
“All right – someone else!”
Three of the remaining children stood and each went “Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck…”
“Forget it! You ruined it! Go back to the tables and think about what you did!”
The manager poked his head in again.
“What – ”
“I will have order here!”
The employee spent the rest of the party back at the cash register, ringing up customers in order to calm herself down. The children were very confused, the adults were a bit miffed, and the Birthday Boy returned from his break looking for his presents. Presents make everything all better.