I’ve spent the past 20 months (well, on and off anyway–I know not everyone’s as interested in hearing about my kid as I am in talking about her) telling you how much I enjoy busing with Chicklet. And I really do. I love spending one-on-one time on our travels. I love having extra time to read and talk to her. I love experiencing the excitement of riding through her eyes. I love that I am teaching her many of my values–conservation, equality, community engagement, thrift, to name a few–without having to say a word.
But, you know all that stuff. You also know that I wouldn’t have started this post reiterating everything I love about my car-free, child-full life, unless I was about to tell you about something I don’t love.
There are, in fact, several things I don’t love about car-free parenting. As improbable is it seems (given that most of my life is spent not driving) the issue that causes me the greatest amount of inconvenience, stress, and anxiety is: car seat drama.
You see, although we don’t own a car, there are occasions (about once a month or every other month) when we need to use one. In the old days, this was a cinch: 1. Reserve car 2. Walk to car 3. Drive car 4. Return car.
These days? Not so much. The new routine: 1) Reserve car* 2. Schlep Chicklet, Chicklet’s car seat, and Chicklet’s stuff to car 3. Install car seat in car while ensuring that Chicklet doesn’t push any of the car’s buttons or make a beeline for the busy parking lot where the car is parked 4. Strap Chicklet into car seat 5. Drive car 6. Return car 7. Remove Chicklet and unstrap seat 8. Schlep Chicklet, seat, and stuff back home.
If Nerd is around for the car trip, the process is somewhat easier, since one of us can go get the car (sans Chicklet) and bring it back to our place to install the seat. Still, it wastes precious time that we’re paying for.
And I’m not finished.
On my father’s 70th birthday, the family met at a restaurant on Alki Beach to celebrate. After dinner, everyone wanted to head to my dad’s place–not far from the restaurant, but too far to walk–for dessert. Because the bus service in that part of town is abysmal, there’s no service from Alki to my dad’s place (at Seacrest) in the evening. Pre-child, this would not have been an issue. Nerd and I would have ridden to my dad’s with some family member or other, and, after dinner, walked up the hill to catch the 55 or hitched a ride downtown with my brother, who would have been heading that way anyway. But, since we had Chicklet with us, and since we didn’t happen to bring her 15-pound car seat along on our outing, we missed the after-party.
The next Saulter family gathering was for Father’s Day bowling at West Seattle Bowl. This time, we anticipated a post-bowling trip to Pegasus and so dragged Chicklet’s enormous seat along with us on the two-bus trip to the bowling alley. With two parents and two fairly empty Sunday-afternoon buses, we managed it. Certainly, though, it’s not a reasonable regular practice.
And then there was the time back in November of 2008, when we attended an election party at our friends’ place in Kirkland. On the way home (per usual, we had to leave earlier than everyone else to catch the last bus), we miscalculated the location of the bus stop and missed the route we were supposed to take back to Seattle. Pre-Chicklet, we would have called a cab. That night, we were forced to take a convoluted series of buses and spend a lot of time waiting outside in the dark. Did I mention that it was cold, and we had a baby with us?
I’ll spare you all of my other examples, since I think you get the picture.
Yes, I do know about the car seat/stroller combo (wish we’d done our homework before we bought the one we have), but that only really solves the Zipcar problem. What I need someone to invent (and pronto!) is a collapsible, portable car seat that a bus parent can carry in her bus chick bag–a sort of “car seat for emergencies.” Who’s got me?
* * If the only car within reasonable walking distance of our home is reserved, I skip the trip. Trying to time a rental around a bus schedule and then drag the seat and kid on the bus (and still walk at least a couple of blocks) is just more trouble than it’s worth.