Playing Catch-Up

Hello, and happy new year to all. As will become abundantly clear, the post below was written before Xmas. I never got a chance to post it, so now here it is in all its outdated glory. Enjoy, and I will have more timely stuff posted very very soon.

The Baby has made a few forays into Outer Space (= Not The Living Room) in her first few weeks on planet earth, but most of these trips have been to relatives’ houses. Friendly territory, where she gets poked and prodded and photographed until her psychological defense mechanisms kick in and render her catatonic. So we thought it might be a good idea to toughen the girl up, get her out of the house and acquainted with the evil world that will one day crush her fragile spirit once she’s sufficiently cognizant to realize its true depths. Fun!

My original plan was to teach her some survival skills. We would drive out to the Meadowlands and drop her off in a tied-up sack with a map and some C-rations, to see if she could find her way home. But The Wife suggested that this might be seen as child abuse.

So we did something more acceptable to society but no less cruel–we took her to the mall. We had Xmas shopping to do, and there’s only so many people you can buy hilariously ironic eBay gifts for. “Here, Uncle Phil, have this Lucky Strike ad clipped out of 1954 issue of Collier’s. It’s funny ‘cuz it’s old!”

I find malls to be counterproductive. Presumably, The Mall was invented so that a number of different shops could be contained in one large space, offering convenience to shoppers who needed to make multiple trips. (Also, there was no place in traditional shopping districts for kiosks where you can get your face on a t-shirt.) But the mall environment is so stale and soulless it sucks the life out of you, and you completely forget why you went there the first place. So a shopping trip that really should only take an hour stretches out into six while you trudge down the aisles in some bizarre Bataan Death March of consumerism.

And it’s even worse post-Thanksgiving. This time of year malls are inevitably filled with angry, frustrated, desperate, broke people who resent every single blood relation they have, and all their friends and coworkers, thanks to the enormous wads of cash they are obligated to spend thanks to a religious holiday without an ounce of spirituality left in it. Being in a mall around Christmas is like stepping into a cage with a bunch of zoo animals, all of them feeling betrayed and abused by their masters. One of them will snap, it’s simply a matter of time.

After roughly 7 hours of prep work to get all of The Baby’s stuff together, we drove to Queens Center. Once upon a time, Queens was Archie Bunker Country, but now it’s one of the most culturally diverse areas in the world. So you can see goth Indian teenagers and Colombian metalheads. You can hear wives scream at their husbands in 37 different languages. If you get bored, sit on a bench and play “How Racist Am I?” It’s an easy game–just watch people pass in front of you, attempt to guess their ethnicities, and justify your pick via whatever horrible stereotypes have seeped into your brain. How racist are you? I think you’ll be unpleasantly surprised!

Aside from its clientele, Queens Center is nigh indistinguishable from any suburban mall, except that it straddles a local street. So if you want to go from one end of the “first” floor to the other, you have to either go outside, or go up one flight to cross the street indoors. For those in wheelchairs, or pushing strollers, or just plain lazy, they have an elevator at each entrance which will bring you from street level to mall level, a height of roughly 2.5 feet. The elevator is a free service, although you do pay for its use with a small slice of your dignity.

I don’t expect special treatment because I’m pushing a baby carriage. I don’t expect a red carpet to be rolled before us and flower petals strewn in our path. I simply would like people to acknowledge that pushing a carriage that contains a tiny human is a difficult, delicate process, particularly when negotiating doorways and staircases. But even discounting the incidental rudeness of kids (who are too wrapped up in their Yu-Gi-Oh and hula hoops and whatnot to notice other human beings), I was astounded at how many adults stepped right the fuck in front of us as we tried to negotiate our way round the mall.

Case in point: I was holding a door open for The Wife as she tried to ford the mall entrance with the carriage, and some dickhead zipped right in front of her. The guy couldn’t possibly have been oblivious to us–it took some real concerted rudeness to squeeze past me, The Wife and The Baby so he could get to Hot Topic slightly faster. He had to angle his body sideways to slip through the tiny opening left by our struggle. Not to mention that there were no fewer than 8 OTHER DOORS HE COULD HAVE USED TO GET IN THE MALL. But rather than take a considerate, logical, and probably faster route, he insisted on stomping straight through us, leaving behind only a lethal combination of Duane Reade cologne and BO. We almost had to admire his dedication to Sheer Douchebaggery.

Thankfully, The Baby was asleep for most of our trip, so she didn’t have to witness this rudeness or my potty-mouthed reaction thereto. But I will give the patrons of Queens Center credit for one thing. They might be rude but they apparently draw the line at thievery. When we got back to our car, we discovered that I’d left the driver-side front door open. Not ajar–wide fucking open. Fully extended. In all the struggle to get The Baby out of the car, get her stroller out, get her in the stroller, pull out her diaper bag, locate her bottle bag, and make sure we had all of her 173 essential accessories for a two-hour trip to the mall, I forget to close my card door even a tiny bit.

Had I done this while parked on a street, I’d probably have returned to find my car reduced to two rim-less axles and one seatbelt buckle. But safely ensconced in the Queens Center parking lot, nobody touched it. Nothing inside the car was disturbed. Luckily, we were inside the mall briefly enough to so that the battery wasn’t drained nearly as much as I was. And for all our trouble and near-trouble, I think we managed to buy presents for 1.5 people.

My advice to you, if you’re thinking of bringing a baby out into the world while you try to perform tasks that were once simple: for every 20 minutes you think the trip will consume, add an hour. After you figure out how long that works out to, add another hour on top of it. Just in case. It’ll probably take you another 7 hours beyond that, but try and be optimistic.

Rather than bring her outside frequently, we’re thinking of constructing a habit trail in the house for The Baby. It’ll help her get exercise, and if she reaches the end she gets a shiny, tasty pellet.