I wanted to take my infant son to a festival and
Since my husband had the car that day,
I decided we would ride the city bus.
My son was in his stroller–
The kind where you clip the car seat in–
And his huge diaper bag was stuffed into the undercarriage,
And my purse was swinging from the handlebar.
Like any infant/parent duo out for an afternoon,
We had as much
Equipment as we had
Pounds in our two bodies.
My experience with public transportation is
Informed by the five years I lived in
Where parents and kids in strollers
Ride for free,
Where if you’re getting on a train or tram with stairs,
Strangers will pick up the front of your pram without a word
And help you and your kid on board,
Where other riders will
Make way for you and your stroller.
It felt like
We were all in this together.
Everyone invested in raising these kids–
Even those who didn’t have kids–
A value exemplified by the
Public transportation system:
Institutionally, with the free fare;
And culturally, with the unspoken agreement that
Someone will help you
Get your pram
On the damn bus.
So as I was pushing my
Stroller system to the bus stop,
I got a sinking feeling:
I’d ridden the bus plenty as a commuter,
And I’d seen that
Wheelchair elevator thing they have,
But I’d never seen a stroller on one…
The bus pulled up to the stop and the doors opened,
And the bus driver looked down at me and my
Grapes of Wrath-esque stroller system and said,
“You’re gonna have to fold up that
Stroller to get it on here.”
I looked up at her,
Starting to panic as I
Envisioned how I would
Onto the bus
In one load
With no help.
“My son has a head injury and the
We can’t move him.
He has to stay in his stroller.
I can’t take him out.”
The bus driver looked at us for a minute,
Then pushed the button, and the
Beeped its way down to the ground for us.
I crammed us onto the thing
It’s not meant to have someone standing behind the
And we got on the bus.
Not only did people
Not make way for us,
But they glared at me.
Annoyed that I was making the bus run behind schedule,
And probably seeing through my bullshit line.
The whole bus ride,
How is it
Safer to have a
Folded up stroller and a
Loose infant rolling around the
Inside of a
Moving bus than a
Stroller locked in place with a brake system
And the infant buckled inside?
It seemed designed to actually
Parents from using public transportation.
As I steamed,
I made this into an
Example in my mind
Of everything that’s wrong with our country,
Of an individualism that borders on
It’s your kid.
You decided to have him.
You decided to ride the bus.
You get him on board yourself.
You don’t want to ride the bus with your kid?
Then get a job
And get a car.
Oh, and by the way,
Same goes for his health insurance.
But all of a sudden–
Maybe it was the evil eyes boring into the back of my head
From the ridership sitting behind me–
I could see myself like I think
Might see me.
The assumptions I was making,
The language I was using in my mind.
I did sound entitled.
(I even lied to get my way,
Which is another whole issue.)
I’ve been given the gift
In recent years,
And though we don’t talk much about politics,
I can see from the way they live their lives
What they mean about
They see a problem,
And I see the same problem
And we see different
Reasons for that problem,
And we have different ideas for
Solutions to the problem.
I can look into their eyes and
See that they’re not
And it is
Is when it’s a whole
Half a country of them,
And they become faceless,
And I don’t get to look into their eyes
And see that their motivations are true.
It hurts me to feel so
Disconnected from seemingly
Half my countrymen and women.
(It felt like
The bus was
Full of them
But all I can look at is myself.
My senses of entitlement.
My distrust of
The other side.
Where does it come from?
It doesn’t even matter.
I’m pretty sure that
Any of my conservative friends would’ve helped me
Carry my stroller off the bus–
Though they might not have thought I should have
And maybe that’s a start.