The summer after I graduated from high school, I was the rat at Chuck E. Cheese pizza in Goodlettsville, TN.
My last day was Friday, August 13; the next day, I was to begin packing for college. I’d worked all afternoon in the gameroom and only had about 15 minutes left before I would end the chapter of my life involving ratsuits and pizza when Greg, the manager, asked me to suit up.
Me: “How come? I thought Joni was doing it today.”
Greg: “Well, I’d rather you go, because the pizzas are going to that group in the back there, and I’m afraid they might get rowdy. Their pizza is late, they’ve been drinking a lot of beer, and have been yelling a good bit. Steve will go with you.”
I looked towards the back of the restaurant. There were four or five large men, probably high 20’s or low 30’s, several half full and empty pitchers of beer, and at least 20 screaming kids at the tables around them.
Me: “Okay. I’ll be out in five minutes.” I was not happy about this assignment.
I went into the small room adjoining the kitchen, pulled on the legs and belly portion (held up by suspenders), slid on the top, and dropped on the furry rat head. Steve agreed to carry the pizzas, so I followed, danced around to the Chucky theme song, and patted kids on the head as I sashayed towards the back tables. The men started yelling at Steve about the pizza’s lateness. The kids jumped up and began grabbing my legs and tugging at my shirt as they screamed “Chucky….Chucky….Chucky! Gimme some pizza! Where my pizza at?”
Then, one of them reached his hand up under the rat head towards my neck.
Sidebar: I’ve had issues with having hands on or near my neck for years. It freaks me out.
Second Sidebar: Chuck E. Cheese forbids the wearer of the ratsuit to ever speak. It would scare kids horribly to hear a person’s voice–especially a male’s–to come from the lovable furry creature that is Chuck E. Cheese. At least, that’s what they told me during training.
I grabbed the kid’s hand, pulled it down to my waist, and squeezed it as hard as I could. He looked up into the rat’s mouth–my face–with tears in his little brown eyes and said, “You’re hurting me Chucky!”
I looked back at him and replied, “I know I am, you little bastard! Now keep your damned hands out my mask!”
The boy turned a petrified white, as did several other formerly black kids within a 10 foot radius of me. They screamed, cried, and sprinted back to their tables to wait on their pizza slices while I quickly made my exit, never to return to Chuck E. Cheese pizza again.