I, who years ago bought into the slogan, “Leave the driving to us,” ride public transportation everyday and see and hear lots things that make me want to teach PT (public transportation) 101. PT 101 is a course that includes 5W+H (The Who, What, Why, Where and How) of public transportation. It’s open to everyone who leave the driving to women and men who stop at corners and pick up people you may or may not know. The objective of PT 101 is to discuss things like the pros and cons of eating a Harold’s Chicken Dinner, complete with white bread soaked in hot sauce and ketchup on public transportation, where not to put the tissue on which you’ve blown and wiped your snotty noise, why you might reconsider throwing your empty soft drink container on the floor, how to avoid having those loud cellphone conversations that leave people wondering about you, where other riders want to suggest you put your bags when you’re taking up two seats on a crowded bus because you don’t want anyone sitting next to you, how it might be beneficial to you and the rest of us if you starting digging for your fare (money or card) while you standing at the bus stop fussing about how late the bus always is – stuff like that. Today’s topic is about the “what” – what, in my opinion, does not belong on a public bus.
The purpose of public transportation, as we all know, is to get each “Who” from his or her point “A” to his or her point “B.” Each “who,” out of necessity, gets on a CTA bus, with at least one “what.” A “What” can be a newspaper, a paper bag, a backpack, a shopping cart, etc. Some “Whats” might cause you to do a double take or hunch the person next to you but 99.9% of them do not make you ask, “Does that belong on a public bus? I might be the only one asking that question about baby strollers but I guess we’ll see.
Get on public transportation going any direction in the city and you’ll see Hummer and SUV strollers parked in spaces clearly branded with symbols and words that all but scream “reserved for wheel chairs, other people with a disability and seniors. These strollers, that 95% of the time have a baby in them, are decorated with shelves, baskets, pouches, trays and other compartments, all of which are more often than not, stuffed with bulging plastic bags. It reminds me of how many pieces of luggage people would bring on a plane for an overnight trip when stowing them was free. Anyway, most Stroller Pushers position the stroller so they can be the first to board the bus forcing other passengers carrying computer bags, garment bags, purses and other items of reasonable size to wait while she or he pull up the reserved seats, maneuver the vehicle into the space, secure it and sit down. That’s right – the stroller-pusher sits down – one person, one fare, hogging three, four or five seats. So, if one of these space-guzzlers is parked on each side of the aisle, the bus driver words to the wheel chair-passenger waiting at the next bus stop will have to be “Take up your chair and walk.”
Lesson 1: If you have the nerve to get on public bus with a vehicle that masquerades as a stroller, you need to also have the decency to stand up even if you are wearing four-inch heels or sipping a scalding hot cup of Starbucks or deeply engrossed in the emergency situation you must be required to handle via your cellphone.
This is not a criticism of parents who bring infants and toddlers on the bus. The bus is, after all, for transporting passengers, even those too young to know they’re on a bus. In fact, riding public transportation at such an early age could mean we ‘ll see kids young enough to still be associated with Santa in commercials asking him for several pairs of psychedelic walking shoes rather than instructing him on how to get a fully loaded cars down the chimney. . And, with any luck, by the time these kids are teens the reduced size of their carbon footprint will be among the achievements their parents brag about.
I figured there must be a way for people in strollers, people in wheel chairs, people using walkers and cane and other support devices, people who are elderly and people who simply need to get from point “A” to point “B” to ride a bus without all of the eye rolling and throat clearing and nice-nasty courtesies such as “Excuse me.”
You know the one about “you’re either part of the solution or part of the problems? Since I’m the complainer and a number of decades have come and gone since I had to concern myself with baby things, I felt it only right that I learn about twenty-first century strollers and maybe offer solutions. I went to both department and specialty stores. I still don’t know if I’m amazed or flabbergasted. But, nevertheless, I gathered two significant pieces of information. (1) Not all baby strollers are space guzzlers (2) All strollers are collapsible. Big strollers, with names such as “Jeep” and “travel system” are the ones most often seen on buses. These strollers are excellent for transporting babies and the stuff parents need to care for them. They make it easier for parents to do their errands and for families to recreate. But, with the exception of large strollers that may be needed for children with disabilities, they, like their names suggest, are way too big for a public bus that can make as many as 40 stops to pick up other passengers.
I still didn’t have any solutions to offer so I turned to the Internet. My online research led me to Yahoo Contributor, Pam Gaulin who writes about baby strollers “for city moms using public transportation.” Not that I doubted Pam. I just wanted to see for myself so once again I went in search for strollers and low and behold found some that are suitable for public buses with names that sound like something infants and toddlers should be transported in: Quinny Zap, Graco Ipo, Peg Perego Aria Twin.
Lesson: 2 If you want or need to use a stroller to transport your baby on a public bus, Pam suggested that you give careful thought to (1) how portable it is (2) how quickly it folds (3) How much it weighs (4) how well it moves.
If just a percentage of the parents who transport their babies on public transportation would take Pam’s advice, life on the city bus will improve greatly. Passengers, who don’t dare say anything, can stop whispering among themselves, bus drivers, who don’t have the authority to do anything, can stop acting like they don’t see the strollers and CTA can stop playing that public service announcement (Take your baby out of the stroller…) that no one abides by anyway.
Selecting a made-for-city-moms-and-dads-stroller has one disadvantage: the number of “What kind of stroller does your baby have,” conversations will definitely decrease. But, if it also reduces the chances of injury to a baby strapped in a stroller weighing 40 pounds or more that has to be tilted and lifted onto the bus and prevents a fare hike and a tax increase because you won a lawsuit for your baby’s back injury and your pain and suffering, it will be a win, at least for some of us.
Lesson 3: With the push of a button, even the biggest strollers can be collapsed.
If for whatever reason you can’t or won’t buy one of the strollers Pam suggested, please take your baby out of the stroller while you’re waiting for the bus, collapse it and some caring person who might not give a hoot about you but loves babies, or want to get to somewhere on time or want shelter from whatever Chicago’s weather is dishing out at the moment, will assist you in carrying the vehicle on the bus.
If you’re one of the people for whom image is the number one reason for your stroller selection, you might take comfort in the following. In the not too distant future, someone will do a study that shows how the kind of stroller babies traveled in during the first three years of life affected their ability to adapt and have healthy relationships with authority figures. These findings will create a whole new set of therapies, realities shows, support groups and medications. Here’s a solution. Buy a stroller that is appropriate for a public bus and use the money you’ll save to pay for your child’s stroller-deprivation therapy. This will be a living example of “Love thy Neighbor as Thyself.”
If you’re still not inspired, imagine sitting across from your now 20-year old son on The Dr. Phil’s show. Dr. Phil’s is reading a list of your Son’s experiences during his life on the street. He interrupts by yelling, “It’s all her fault.” “I was, he tells thousands of listeners, an honor student until I learned that a wheel-chair bound man had to wait 20-minutes in the scorching hot sun for another bus because the Travel System stroller she made me ride in was parked in front of the handicap seats. I can’t tell you how many time I asked, “Why didn’t you buy me a Quinny Zap?” Not once did she say anything that made sense. I was only 17 the last time I asked her. Do you know what she said? She said, “Shut the Hell up. There I was riddled with guilt and that’s all she could… those words pushed me over the edge so I started hanging out with the wrong crowd, using drugs and eventually dropped out of school. I didn’t know how else to stop thinking about what she made me do to that man. It’s been hard. But last year I was starting to getting myself together and was doing pretty good when news outlets ran a follow-up story with the Headline: Man for Whom There was No Room on the Bus 18 years ago still in a coma.