Jack’s 5th birthday was this past Saturday so that meant Friday marked our annual frenetic last minute party planning scramble to finalize the most critical detail of any child’s birthday party; the make or break element that could mean the difference between your son or daughter securing future invites to the parties of friends and classmates or securing their permanent place as a party pariah. I’m alliterating about pricey goodie bags lavishly filled with useless crap and even though we were expecting 15 kids which equates to (let’s see….a2 = b2 + c2 – 2bc…carry the 3…subtract the hypotenuse) 15 goodie bags I believe you simply cannot put a price tag on the preemptive prevention a child’s social ostracization.
Heading up this year’s bric-a-brac scavenger hunt was yours truly so upon arriving home from work at around 5:00 I put Jack in the car and immediately headed back out. Kathleen yelled to us as we left that Jack hadn’t eaten dinner yet so I promised her I would make sure Jack got something to eat even if that meant reallocating some of the funds from the goodie bag coffers for food because I believe you simply cannot put a price tag on a child’s nutritional health and wellbeing.
20 minutes later we arrived in the parking lot of our Shangri-La. A place of idyllic beauty, Americana bliss, consumeristic indulgency and cut-rate merchandise; a Xanadu called The Dollar Store. Where better to stockpile for your child’s fifth birthday party than at a public market of borderline recalled toys, knock-off soft drinks, cleaning products, tchotchkes, knick-knacks and flea market quality junk with the same pricing model as a stripper at the Blue Moon Cabaret in Poughkeepsie, NY? Breakfast Cereal? $1. Lap Dance? $1. Dish Soap? $1. Grind my crotch into your thigh? $1. Styling Mousse? $1. Bury your face in my cleavage? $1. It should be pointed out that I believe you simply cannot put a price tag on the most important meal of the day, grease-cutting action, hair care products and XXX Adult entertainment.
As Jack and I wandered the aisles basking in its capitalistic glow of pricing homogeny I was stopped dead in my tracks. “Jack…. We’ve struck the Motherload.” Forgotten was my charged task of locating goodie bag filler as before us was an entire aisle of Dollar Store energy drinks. From the legion of 16oz cans of liquefied pure energy stacked nearly to the acoustic tile ceiling the one I selected was called Rip It Energy Fuel. It claimed a “crisp, clean taste” that I discovered in energy drink speak actually means “room temperature fermented apple cider cut with Triaminic” after cracking open a can right there in the store. Despite the medicinal apple orchard taste I put three cans in our shopping cart because I believe you simply cannot put a price tag on using caffeine, Ephedrine, glucose, and stimulants derived from small Venezuelan shrubs to artificially enhance your metabolism by blocking adenosine and increasing dopamine levels.
Our time in the store after I chugged an entire can of Energy Fuel is a little hazy, but as we pushed through the front door into the cool evening air I came to and realized that along with two cans of Rip It we were carrying armloads of Spiderman posters, Spiderman playing cards, and other Spiderman paraphernalia for Jack’s Spiderman Themed party the next day. Once in the car I cracked the seal on another Rip It and commented to Jack, “Jack, this stuff tastes horrible.” To which he quite expectedly said, “Let me try it Daddy.” Imprudently I handed the can back to him, told him to just take a sip, and drove out of the parking lot.
When we reached the traffic light to leave the parking lot, I reached back for the can. Jack handed it to me and it was ½ empty, or ½ full depending on your attitude towards life. “Jack you drank half the can!” I blurted out. “But It tasted good” he replied. I checked my watch. It was after 7:00, he hadn’t eaten dinner yet and now was all hopped up on caffeine, sugar, processed amino acids and synthetic stimulants. “Daddy I’m hungry. Can we get McDonalds?” He jittered from the backseat. Of course you’re hungry I thought, you’ve got the munchies.
In an effort to calm him down and get something into his empty stomach I agreed to buy him a Happy Meal with Chicken McNuggets on the way home. With the Golden Arches at least 10 minutes away I tried to keep Jack focused. I asked him if he had learned any new songs at school that week. He thought for a moment and said, “We learned the Pledge of Allegiance.” “Really? Can I hear it?” I asked. Another moment of silence then slowly he recited the entire Pledge. I nearly cried. I wanted more. I asked him to recite it again and he did. Usually when I ask him about school I have to use an Irish accent and assume the persona of a leprechaun named King Brian to get a straight answer, but now pumped full of energy fuel I was getting long form oaths of patriotism without having to use accents, cajoling or role playing.
I was about to ask for a Pledge of Allegiance/God Bless America/Neil Diamond “America” medley mash-up when he saw the McDonalds. The spell was broken. We went in and got his Happy Meal and then drove home.
Even though Jack’s buzz didn’t wear-off until nearly midnight I went back to The Dollar Store, bought out their supply of Rip It Energy Fuel and have been spiking his juice boxes ever since. Selfish? Maybe, but even though energy drink consumption by children causes sleeplessness, nervousness, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, and can contribute to childhood obesity in my opinion you simply cannot put a price tag on the joy a father feels when his child displays blind patriotism, actually answers the question “How was your day at school?” and conveniently forgets to tell Mommy that Daddy’s idea of dinner is a Red Bull knock-off and highly-processed deep fried chicken pieces.
Actually, I can. It’s $1.