September 28, 2005

It's a Stroller. Not a Freaking Value Judgement.

Reading the blogroll, I came across this article about gigantic baby strollers and the inconveniences they pose.

Naturally, this being a NY Times article, we have to delve into The Meaning Of It All, which leads to quotes like this:

Traci Anderson, 36, of Groton, Conn., who is married and said she has decided not to have children, agrees that the issue runs deeper than taste. Often, while trying to pass someone with a large stroller, she has seen the parent acknowledge her presence but make no attempt to move. And that, she said, begs the question of whether they believe people with children have a special claim to sidewalk space.

"My choices and what's important to me shouldn't be seen as any less important in the grand scheme of things," Ms. Anderson said.

Oh, for the love of God, lady. How exactly did we get from "Look at that rude rich bitch refusing to share the sidewalk" to "Your bourgeois values are oppressing me and making me feel that my life choices are invalid" pseudo-analytical bullshit?

They are large, overpriced strollers. Some folks buy them because they have to have the latest, biggest and best all the time. Some folks buy them because they just like them better than the regular Graco or EvenFlo models. And some of these same people are rude and self-involved and don't share the sidewalk. Amazingly enough, their rudeness might not be All About You.

And strollers aren't some sort of salvo in the reproductive wars, for crying out loud. What, is it rude to take your children out in public because it might invalidate someone's life choice? If you're thinking that a lady being rude with a stroller is doing it because she has some psychic ability to deduce that you're child-free and therefore wants to Make You Pay, then you are an idiot.

And if you think that conspicuous consumption of outsized strollers is a deliberate choice by parents to make the childless feel belittled; well, maybe you've spent too much time in your lit. theory classes and a nice vacation in wine country is in order. I had a stroller. I used it to tote my kid around the mall. At no time did I think, "Look at me and my cool stroller! My ovaries work! Bow down, childess ones, lest I mow you down!" My thoughts were more along the lines of, "Is he cranky? Can I fit that package underneath the seat? What time is it? Where's the damn Gymboree store?"

Perhaps this is a natural outgrowth of space wars in places--like NYC--where space is at a premium. Maybe these folks should move to the suburbs and chill out, you know, unless the suburban proximity to Little League games makes them feel invalidated or something.

Because the only other explanation is this one, offered by a stay-at-home dad:

"If you've got a problem," Mr. Ford said, "then you've got issues beyond my stroller."

Posted by Big Arm Woman at September 28, 2005 10:46 AM

"begs the question of whether they believe people with children have a special claim to sidewalk space."

Or: two people, even if one's on wheels, simply take up more space than one. ... .

Granted, people need to learn some manners, but their lack of manners does not mean you're less of a person. They need manners. You need to find something besides childless-ness to identify yourself with.

Posted by: Miette at September 28, 2005 11:19 AM

BAW: This would segue nicely into a rant on shopping-cart etiquette in the supermarket.

Posted by: snopercod at September 29, 2005 04:23 PM

A short rant: A middle-aged guy with multiple sclerosis in a walker, is at a shopping mall. He is walking hesitantly. A healthy, fit mom pushing a walker is approaching from the opposite direction.

Guess who she thinks has the right of way?

Posted by: Mr Anonymous at September 29, 2005 10:35 PM

When we were stationed in Germany, we lived in a tiny hamlet and, mid-morning, the street was full of 'prams.' You know, those behemoth sized Mary Poppins things. They were everywhere! Plenty of room for baby, a small shopping bag and two more kiddos. Yep, 2. The pram had a small step built on between the wheels and under the large handle. The child stood on the step and could lean against the handle if need be. It also had a - this is gonna be hard to explain- well, it was like one of those thingies that you put across the tub to hold all your stuff for a long soak. It was expandable and had a little back rest that popped up. Your toddler sat on that. SDounds really weird but it was the greatest thing... Since mothers actually did do their shopping in the morning for the day's meals, she could take along baby, toddler and pre-schooler and still have room for a small basket. Oh, and the pram had a rack underneath for another basket.
(Add to that, if she went to visit a friend in the next town over, she could take the bus w/ no problem cause all the buses were kneeling buses.)
Course the things were expensive so they were given as gifts (usually) by new grandparents and passed down thru the family. Kinda like an heirloom minivan.
They were great.

Posted by: middleagedhousewife at September 30, 2005 09:44 AM

Ah, yes - shopping cart etiquette.

how 'bout "please don't PARK the things diagonally while you and your friend discuss the most recent episode of "LOST", effectively blocking the aisle from the traffic of people who have less than 45 minutes to shop?

Or how about, as I saw one day, a mom and her four daughters, each with a cart (none of them full enough to necessitate its being a separate cart), traveling in a "flying wedge" formation? I almost got run down by the eight-year-old.

I don't think the issue is so much with strollers as it is with the attitude of the person pushing it. If you look out for other folks, I don't care how big your stroller/pram/shopping cart/whatever is. But if you're going to assume that you're the only one who matters, and treat the store aisle or sidewalk as if it were built for your convenience and comfort alone, I'm going to get annoyed with you.

Posted by: ricki at September 30, 2005 10:44 AM

Obviously, this NY woman has never tried walking down a street in Germany or the Netherlands on a Saturday morning. For those of you who haven't, let me tell you: baby strollers exist solely for the purpose of battering rams to be used to clear a pathway through the crowds.

If you've never lived and shopped in Europe, I have news for you. Personal space is handled VERY differently than in the ole U.S. of A. It is not at all unusually to be on the sidewalk, and have full-body contact on three sides, and NO ONE considers it rude or unusual.

Americans put about 3 feet between speakers during a conversation; Europeans put about 2. Watch an American and a European having a conversation some time: The European will step closer, to be at his optimal comfort zone. Then the American, being too close and too intimate for his personal comfort, will take a step backwards. Then the European, feeling rude and distant, will take another step forward. This dance will continue, sometimes across the entire room, with both participants oblivious. It's hysterical.

Also, European men, unlike American men, tend to make lots of direct eye contact, especially with women. American women find it either intimidating or flirtatious. European women, used to much more direct eye contact, find American men to be cold and rude, because the American men never look at them. All sides continue blithely unaware of the reasons.

But those strollers...! Definitely dangerous weapons. And do you know why European kids are so placid and well-behaved? Have you ever seen a kid in a stroller being pushed along a cobblestone street? It's got nothing on those old 50's-era tummy vibrators - the bouncing has GOT to stupify their brains.

Posted by: Claire at September 30, 2005 11:34 AM

Claire -

Been there, done that. Had some French friends while I lived in Aberdeen, and they would constantly chase me around the room--I step back, they step up, etc, etc.

I finally had to hold my arm straight out in front of me and say, "Look. No offense, but you freak me out when you get closer to me than this. It's a cultural thing."

And the prams on the streets of Aberdeen also had these clear plastic zip-up boxes for rainy days that made it look like a nation of tiny bubble-babies being trundled around.

Posted by: BAW at September 30, 2005 02:55 PM