Sunday, November 8, 2009
News flash: Thomas the Train does not have a bar car
I don’t mean to be overly dramatic but holy shit, we made it. We spent our day with Thomas the Train in Essex, Connecticut. Walking into that Lala Land of Sodor music and screaming kids was downright trippy. I’ve never seen so many Sodorites. Every kid was sporting Thomas gear. And meltdowns? Scary. Ear piercing. Frequent. On more than one occasion I held Junior to me and whispered, “Thank God you’re mine.”
Junior was pretty juiced to ride Thomas. The bouncy train seats were nice. As was the open window. The sunshine. Mellow Junior.
I know, I know, there’s always a but.
The ticket-taker talked the whole ride. On a microphone that was wired into enormous speakers—speakers that were everywhere. If your toddler wanted to ask you a million times “Is Thomas puffin?” you had to keep shouting yes. YES, YES, Thomas is puffin!
And instead of “Day with Thomas,” it should have been “Five minutes with Thomas.” Unless you walked to the front of the train after your ride (and by “walk” I mean let the crowd carry you), you didn’t see him. Junior kept asking us where Thomas was hiding.
For $90 ($18 per ticket x 3 tickets + $17.50 service fee + $15 shipping fee), my kid should not be struggling to locate the whereabouts of a bright blue locomotive with a face! It’s almost funny.
Know what else is almost funny? Overhearing other parents’ conversations as we ate our $3.50 mac and cheese (to be fair, hotdogs were $1.50). My favorites:
“I need a cigarette and a nap.”
“Godammit, Spencer! [belch] Now I have to get you another [belch] straw!”
I don’t know what was scarier: The fact that someone thought picnic tables next to Porta-potties was a good idea or the loose interpretation of the term parenting I observed.
I don’t mean to put a negative spin on the experience (I mean, when Junior reflects on his life this will probably be up there with getting laid), but I feel jipped. The ad said storytelling. In reality, a video of Thomas played on a pull-down screen. The ad promised “Build with LEGO bricks.” There were LEGOs in the shape of Thomas, but he was already assembled, and kids were playing King of the Mountain on him (I’m not kidding, Junior took a heel to the cheek trying to just stand near him). Sure, you could meet Sir Topham Hat—for another $20.
Twenty bucks! To meet a scary-looking plump white guy who’s always giving orders.
And what the frick? The allure of Thomas the Train isn’t just Thomas, it’s all of his friends. It's the "You're cross" and the "No, now he's cross" and the "Check the signals!" and the "Ok, even though we're fickle little engines let's be friends again" comradery that makes it special.
For some kids, naming Thomas’ friends is as much a rite of passage as knowing their ABCs. Yet the only sign of Gordon, Emily, Percy, James, Sir Handel, Henry, Stanley—crap, I know too much about this topic—was one incredibly lame waist-high poster with a few of the trains on it.
Oh, and in the gift shop. The gift shop’s cup runneth over.
Well, next Saturday my cup will runneth over. My aunt, cousin and mother want to experience Thomas with Junior. He’s a lucky little boy in that he gets to go twice. I'm lucky in that now I know exactly what to bring with me:
2) a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
3) a flask
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