From ages 11-13, during my middle school years (which coincidentally coincided with my rebellious years), I would spend every other Sunday or so with my father at Dave and Busters. Looking back, I’m not sure whether my parents were trying an alternative approach to punishment, by rewarding the child (me) for winging white-out soaked tampons from the bus window, or were simply trying to keep me within their grasps. Regardless, every other Sunday (or so) my father and I would be at the Palisades Center D&B in West Nyack, NY. These were formative years for my fragile and unsaturated little sponge of a brain. Who really knows what I still hold on to from those days.
Last week I, unintentionally, made my long awaited return to Dave and Busters, and it was fucking miserable. I had fifteen minutes to kill before a post-Oscar screening of Birdman and my buddy Mike and I hit D&B for a brew to entertain the time. I have not been back to D&B since then, and I was only there for those fifteen minutes, maybe less. Rest assured, it was plenty of time to sway my childhood perception of the establishment. I have been called an extreme person before, some might even go as far to call me a drama queen (drama king speaking politically correct) but in those fifteen minutes I lost most of my hope for mankind.
Backstory in buzzwords: messy break-up, wounds still fresh, about to enter the real world. Misery is simply in my cards, yet leading up to the D&B trip I still managed to hold relatively high morale. Lets just say if I was sailor I would have still woken to swab to poop-deck, but after this particular scenario I had the right of mind to seclude myself from society and start the world’s largest ant farm.
The Dave and Busters I had the displeasure of drinking my $5.20 16oz Narragansett was on the fourth floor of Rhode Island’s largest mall in Providence. The vast establishment was well lit by arcade games. Granted it was roughly 9:30 p.m. there was no natural light. There were no windows. The drop tile ceiling, like the walls, were painted black. Even if it had been during daylight, no one would have known. Like a casino, the masterminds behind Dave and Busters do not want its patrons to be aware of the time. The idea that minutes could turn into hours, and hours into entire afternoons and nights would simply render management hard. Dave and Busters is a vacuum – a modern architectural marvel of time-suck.
Aside from the televisions and arcade games, the most lit section of the Providence Place Dave and Busters was the gift shop. This is why the children at D&B, proven upon observation, are so much more inclined to play the equivalent of slot machines and table games as opposed to the interactive snow-mobiling and quest games. Afforded with the opportunity to enter the interactive reality of a grand adventure, children prefer to flock to the shear probability of the “game” that will yield the highest ticket return, propelled with dreams of human size plush popular cartoon characters made for less than the cost of the change they drop on the floor by far less advantaged children in third-world countries.
The one positive that could potentially rear its ephemeral head from this circumstance is defeat. Congrats D&B, you’re teaching children how fucking often dreams fall short in this world, even if that means 200 tickets short of the behemoth Peter Griffin polyester nightmare that represents the 11-year-old American dream.
Enough about the materialist children of Dave and Busters. It’s not their fault. It’s not their parents’ fault. It’s the system. That’s what we blame when we have nowhere else to turn, right? The system. Fuck it. We have other things to discuss on this platform. Let’s get back to the parents.
Where else do you turn as a parent? My parents were clearly at their wits end when they made the executive decision to treat my wildly combative 12-year-old angst with bi-monthly trips to D&B. “Don’t take his Gameboy away and thwart bad behavior, treat him to expensive family outings and reward whatever minor good behavior he might have exhibited.” I can’t blame them, nor would I. Dave and Busters at 2-years-old is a simply bitching time.
Nothing chilled me like the Dave and Busters loudspeaker announcement: “everyone attending Samantha’s birthday party please return to the party room.” Not only do Samantha’s parents sleep in separate rooms because of a dispute over the price of a D&B sponsored birthday party, the ungrateful little shits aren’t even excited about Samantha’s three-story Spongebob Squarepants birthday cake. They’re more concerned with their ticket revenues, and how they can possibly make it back into the black to cash in for three foot Pixie Stick.
Don’t worry though, disgruntled parents. Dave and Busters provides a service for parents like you – a regal and very central bar for you to piss even more money away. What’s the cost of an overpriced beer when your ex-wife won’t talk to you at your daughter’s birthday party?
The bar is not exclusively for disgruntled parents, which is why a college kid like myself might meander in. D&B does not discriminate. Anyone can hit the bar, which is probably why the largest demographic aside from child-rearing folk was what seemed like two conflicting biker gangs – real savory types. You know, those leather guys sending death glares from high-table to high-table amongst the flock of NYSE-esque youths. Fortunately, and I will say this on behalf of the Dave and Busters management if it is within their control, there were more cops in that packed black space than I have ever seen at any establishment in Providence in four years. Kudos for security. Credit earned where credit is due.
I finished my beer and left for Birdman (which in its sincere defense deserved the Oscars that is won). Aside from being one of the most depressing and bleak opportunities of my short life, I learned a lot from time at D&B. If and when I do rear child, I might consider a hike or ice-skating, or maybe even railroad balancing before taking my kids to Dave and Busters. Hopefully the establishment will be dead by then.