We cannot presume to know what this man, surreptitiously photographed and sent by my friend Nat, is thinking about. But two things are apparent: He is in some kind of agony, and he is at a McDonald’s PlayPlace.
I empathize with him on a very deep level without having to know the other specifics. I am not a PlayPlace hater. I’d just rather minimize the time I spend near something so orange, purple and full of children. (Though the structure in the photo is unoccupied, they’ll soon be back, and in greater numbers.)
No matter what else is going on -- hangover, unemployment, divorce, infant colic -- you are probably better off experiencing it somewhere besides the McDonald’s PlayPlace. It’s good to have a choice, anyhow.
There are times in parenting when a large, reasonably safe structure upon which children are invited to climb is the greatest thing ever. I’m a huge fan of the airport playground and IKEA’s Smaland. Sometimes it is necessary to collect the children in a designated place in which they are welcome. Someplace where it’s okay to get up and move around and not have to sit quietly.
I prefer the park, but it’s summer in Texas here and the metal slide will scorch your ass all the way down. (The particular slide I’m thinking of is also very tall. It’s old-school.)
Sometimes you’re on the road with kids and there’s not a well-maintained public playground right off the exit. You are guaranteed cheap food that is palatable to children. You can feed yourself cheaply if you don’t object to the constipation, and if you do, you can at least score a caffeinated beverage. And maybe some fries. So you follow the clown.
I think what we’re seeing in the picture is the desperate side of PlayPlace. Sometimes you have to park your kids because your shit is untogether for some reason and you need to deal with it. You’re going to have to deal with it right there at the McDonald’s PlayPlace. The first step in dealing with it is to bottom out when you fully comprehend how untogether your shit is. I think we’re seeing that moment. That’s my theory.