I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but I am genuinely pissed off at a cartoon character right now. Even worse, I’m considering writing a letter to his boss.
Listen, SpongeBob Squarepants got a bad rap recently when a study indicated that the frenetic cartoon may cause learning and concentration difficulties in children under the age of 4. Here’s a great article to read. While I did decide to drastically reduce May’s intake of the terribly annoying, though sometimes entertaining show, there’s nothing I can do to squash her passion for the toon. Every day, at least 17 times, she requests “Buncha Bop”, formerly known as “Bicka Bop” by yelling his name and pointing at the TV or some other arbitrary place in the air. It’s always with her beautiful, pleading blue eyes that she gets me to relent and turn on the show against my better judgment. What a sucker I am.
So, when I learned that it was Nickelodeon Day at the Padres game today, I was excited, gleefully imagining the look upon May’s face as she ran into the arms of her hero and expressed her undying passion at being his #1 fan. I had to use my secret source, but I got May and I into the stadium for free (thank goodness!).
I expected to see all kinds of fun Dora and SpongeBob stuff — characters, sing-alongs, games, whatever. Considering that there were thousands of children and their respective parents going to this game simply to see their favorite characters (I mean, who actually goes to a baseball game to watch baseball? Bo. Ring.), one would expect to see more than one teenager dressed up as a ginormous yellow sponge being paid minimum wage to commingle sweat with the previous wearer of said costume.
But one would be wrong to expect so much from such proliferate and profitable corporations as friggin’ Nickelodeon and the San Diego Padres! I had told May that we were going to see SpongeBob, so all afternoon she said “Buncha Bop! Buncha Bop! Buncha Baaaaaaaawwwp!” over and over and over again, more and more passionately each time. But when we got there, 30 minutes after the gates were open (and 1 1/2 hours before the game started), SpongeBob and Dora were nowhere to be found. Not even a trace of them lingered. I asked around and was told that they were taking a break. Whaaaaat?!?! What kind of cartoon character takes a break after only 30 minutes? It’s not like they have to wait for a commercial break! That’s B to the S if you ask me.
So we walked around, May on my shoulders, calling out for her absorbent and yellow and porous friend. Suddenly, I spotted him. Flanked by two escorts in green t-shirts, SB stepped off of an elevator and slowly walked across the plaza to the place where, to my surprise and dismay, he was NOT going to shake hands and take pictures with the throngs of children screaming his name. Seriously, the kids came flocking and squealing and heavily breathing, “SpongeBob! SpongeBob!” as parents chased after them with looks of panic and concern on their faces, probably (like me) remembering their own hysteria at the New Kids on the Block concert back in 7th grade (um, whaaat? I never loved NKOTB). (Side note: I didn’t notice anyone even paying attention to poor little Dora.) Equally panicked were SB’s escorts, who loudly proclaimed that everyone needed to back away and let SpongeBob through, that he would be over by the stage for photos and whatnot in just a minute. Here’s where I call them B…F…L’s…. Big Fat Liars.
So we followed the head of the crowd. Just think, we were right there when SB got off the elevator so we were nearly first in line, but I practically had to dropkick 2-, 3- & 4-year-olds out of the way to catch a glimpse of the stupid sponge for my baby May. (Note: this totally takes me back to Easter when Uncle Jueeh-tah had to pick May up and sprint to the head of the crowd of hundreds of Easter egg hunters.)
But I figured, heck, he’s here all day, so what’s the rush? (Right? … Wrong!) I saw that parents were calmly and maturely setting a good example by starting to form a line to get their picture taken, kindof like Santa at the mall. I jumped in line, about 20 kids (plus their parents) back, and was totally ready to wait our turn, but May was on my shoulders shrieking SB’s name and squirming to get down to run to him. I realized we weren’t going to be able to wait long enough to make this happen in a civilized manner, so I said “F this!”, and then did the unthinkable, totally cutting to the front of line. I pulled one of those classic “I’m-pretending-that-I-don’t-see-this-line-or-all-of-your-P.O.’d-faces-because-I-have-the-most-excited-and-freaked-out-screaming-child-in-this-whole-friggin’-stadium” gigs. I was so stoked to suddenly be “next in line” when the goons in green had the nerve and audacity to say aloofly that SpongeBob had to do some stupid shit called “Friar Fit” or something like that so NO… MORE… PICTURES. I was like, WHAAAT, M.F.’ER? Just one more photo, puh-leeeeze! For the sake of both my and my daughter’s sanity! They said no, so, against my better judgment, I just let go of May’s hand.
She ran straight to the brilliantly gleaming sponge in the middle of the crowd’s newly formed and spacious circle, and then stopped in her tracks, suddenly distracted by the huge Friar dancing on stage, attempting to lead SpongeBob, Dora la Exploradora and hundreds of children in a stupid run of calisthenics. I quickly took this shot, but I had to pull her away.
The kids were jumping out of their skin trying to get to SpongeBob, but the damned toons wanted to do a ridiculous routine. Fine, of course. I get it, and I wholly support the idea of getting kids off of their fat rumps. But after the dance, they whisked SB away immediately, promising that he’d be back right at the start of the game…in like 45 minutes.The kids were pissed. Maysen pretty much screamed her little heart out, pleading for BickaBop to come back, and, trusting the goon that said that he’d return promptly at the start of the game, I promised my little baby that she’d be able to see him again, right after we played on the playground. That bitch made a liar out of me.
We played on the playground, with the other 23,000 kids that were doing the exact same thing, and I bought as much time as I could. I talked to the time share guy, I got May a Padres helmet, I made myself dizzy spinning her around, I held her for the National Anthem and the ceremonial first pitch.
And I pretty much came to the end of my rope when that underwater bottomfeeder S.O.B. SpongeBob SuckPants never came back. I asked four different employees where I could find SpongeBob as May’s tears rolled off of her cheeks and dripped onto my own. But there’s only so long you can contain a toddler in a crowd of rabid SpongeBob fans and their parents, so I decided to leave, get May some dinner and come back.
We returned at the top of the 5th inning, this time with Daddy, who was determined to help me find SpongeBob. He has his own passion for the guy, after all, which he brilliantly disguises by saying that May wants to watch “Icka Bah” (the first pronunciation that May gave SpongeBob).
So, the three of us walk in to Padres stadium — Ronny, super chill and casual because he has no idea about the extent of chaos happening in my head; Me, utterly spent and frantic inside, searching the crowd for an oversized yellow sponge, juggling May in my arms and over my shoulders, and stressed to bejeezus after having tried to control her at the restaurant for some dinner; and May, gnawing on a chicken wing and still, after all this time, saying “Buncha Bop”, because she (I assume) remembered me promising that she’d get to see her idol.
Suddenly, clear across the plaza, on the other side of the stadium, I spotted the damned sponge. “There he is!” I shrieked, excited and frenzied, “We’ve gotta catch that freakin’ sponge!!” and before Ronny could even figure out what was going on, I was practically in a sprint (a wild ride for May, which, coincidentally, made her laugh and grin and squeal with excitement); I was a linebacker pushing through the crowd. I think Ronny caught my hysteria, as he helped me push through the throngs of people to chase SpongeBob. I’m still not sure whether the effort was for May to see the SB, or for Ronny to see him. Either way, I appreciated the effort.
But then he disappeared for a moment. Then we saw him mounting the stairs, still flanked by the two green goons, so we chased him. Before we could make it to the top of the stairs, he was around the corner, and then, he was gone. We searched everywhere. Past the hot dog stand. Out into the grandstands — Oh, hey! There’s a baseball game going on here! — and the whole time I was convinced that SpongeBob would be right there, ready to give May a big hug. I had started to breathe heavily, and my eyes became jittery with looking from place to place trying to “Where’s Waldo” a ridiculously bright and huge yellow character. I started to feel like Nick & Nora after Where’s Fluffy, constantly searching for an evasive entity that suddenly you’re not even sure that it exists. Then, after we got a guy to call on his headpiece to track down SB – he said he heard he was over near first base – we headed over that way. I saw Ronny on his cell phone, and for a second I actually thought he might have been on with the head of Padres security. Then it dawned on me that I might be exhibiting ridiculous behavior of the sort that might get me admitted. I was being hysterical. I suddenly started seeing flecks of yellow everywhere and thinking it was SpongeBob. Someone in a yellow t-shirt. Yellow shoes. A yellow hat. But it was when I saw the concessions vendor, who happened to be selling his wares out of a spongy yellow cooler, and I nearly tackled him, that I realized I might have a problem. Reluctantly, I let Ronny lead me out of the stadium.
I don’t know who was sadder, me or May. All I wanted was a picture of May with SpongeBob. She was upset, no doubt, but obviously she’d forget about it all within about 5 minutes. Even Ronny was upset, for May’s and my sake, exclaiming passionately (sarcastically?) “That’s IT!!!…F#@K SpongeBob!”
We had been a family on a mission. At first I felt that our mission had failed, that this was all a big waste of time and effort. That I had let my baby girl down. That SpongeBob had let my little girl down. But then I realized that I was focusing on the wrong things. Who cares about a stupid teenager sweating in a huge styrofoam SpongeBob costume? We got to have some great family time together. May got to run and play and scream. Ronny backed me up in a ridiculous quest to find a fictional character. We got to have fun.
P.S. The lady who offered to take our family portrait was wasted.