Jen, over at Get in the Car, wanted to send me books and tea, but I was too far away. So, resourceful woman that she is, she sent me a gift voucher for Amazon, and I bought me some books. In case you were wondering, I went for The Artful Edit and Motherless Daughters. Both books I think I will find useful as I, you know, edit. Thank you so much, Jen!
We must have gotten to the bus stop just after the 137 had departed, because there was only one other person waiting. A young man, perhaps in his late twenties, dressed casually enough to indicate he was not still wearing party clothes from the night before. Perched against the high bench, he turned the pages of a newspaper. No wedding ring, yet also not one of the swinging singles who leave broken glass and the occasional feces on the sidewalk after a Saturday night of drunken revelry. Young, responsible, but with no one to be responsible for, enjoying his Sunday morning because for him Sunday came with no obligations except reading the paper and joining up with whomever was waiting to have Sunday brunch with him.
Zachary almost ran over this man’s foot as he scooted into the bus stop. I say “almost” because Zach is amazingly agile and rarely miscalculates unless he is not focused on the job. I followed behind with Ben, who was securely strapped into the umbrella stroller.
“Look, Mummy,” Zachary said, as he has adopted the British pronunciation at least 40% of the time, much to my chagrin. He pointed to the bus zone painted into the road. “The red bits are for the bus. And the black bits are for the cars. And the pink bits are for the bus.”
I fumbled for my bus pass, knowing it was best to have it ready before the process of getting on the bus began. “That’s right, sweetie.”
“Why is there no traffic that way, Mommy?”
“Because there is no red light. The cars don’t have to stop.”
“But, but, when we come back, we come from that way.”
“Yes, sweetie.” Ben was starting to strain against the straps, a sure sign that, if the bus did not arrive in under two minutes, I would have to take him out and let him walk around the bus stop, a situation I definitely wanted to avoid.
“Why is that car like that?”
“Which car, baby?”
“The white one.” Zach pointed. He fell off his scooter, on which he was trying to balance while standing still.
“Why is the white car like what?” I asked, helping him up.
“Why is the white car like that?” he asked, obviously feeling he was clarifying the question. I looked again. The white car pretty much looked like any other car, as far as I could detect. Windshield, tires, doors. Oh, wait. Doors. Only two. And the car was smaller than the others. I took a shot in the dark.
“Why does it have only two doors?” I ventured. Zach is the kind of child who will tell me if I have gotten it wrong, so I can make guesses like this without worrying that I am simply replacing the original question with one I feel more confident answering.
“Well, honey, it’s actually a silver car. It has only two doors because it is a smaller car.” Duh. Seriously, Emily, did you not even think before you gave that answer?
“But why is it a smaller car?” Unaware that her car was the subject of such in-depth conversation, the driver sat, patiently waiting for the light to change.
Zach fell off his scooter again.
“The driver must not need a bigger car, honey.” I helped him up.
Benjamin was now pulling himself up against the straps, grunting and insisting “down.” Although the stop had begun to fill up, there was no sign of a 137 in sight. I bent down to undo the buckles. “In a minute, Ben. Give me a second.” Freed, he began walking around the sidewalk, looking for shiny, dangerous things to pick up. And there was still the matter of the silver car, sitting at what could only be described as the world’s longest red light.
I, of course, had no idea why the driver felt she needed a car that size, rather than a sedan, or a station wagon, or one of those absurd SUVs that the mothers at Zach’s school use to tool around South West London, just in case they suddenly find themselves in need of an all-terrain vehicle. But, I did have a possible answer at hand. One that he hears so often that he takes it as gospel. And, it also happened to be true, which is not essential in an answer, but always strikes me as a lovely bonus.
“Small cars are better for the environment, honey.” He nodded. This answer he understood. This is why we take the bus instead of driving. This is why we recycle. This is why, he explained to me a few weeks ago, he likes to ride his scooter. “It’s good for the ‘vironment,” he told me.
The light changed, and, mercifully, the silver car moved forward and then turned left, out of our line of sight. Benjamin was trying to get to the road, and he was starting to get a little frustrated because I kept playing interference. He swerved to the left, I stepped to the right, cutting off his trajectory. He tried the right, and I moved to the left. Clearly, Mommy was not aware that she was getting in the way, and it was starting to piss him off.
“But, Mummy. Was I there?” Zach asked me.
Now, I was pretty sure I had not missed a portion of the conversation. And I was quite certain we had just been talking about the silver car. So, I had absolutely no idea where he was talking about and for what occasion.
“Was I there?” the child repeated.
I held onto the hood of Benjamin’s coat. This was even more annoying than my continual blocks. He kept reaching up, trying to disengage my hand, which I must not have realized was there because it was stymieing his goal of getting into the road.
“Yes, Zach. You were there.” This answer seemed to satisfy him as he tried to balance on the scooter while standing still. Off he fell. “Zachary, if you fall off the scooter again, I am going to have to take it away. You are not using it properly.”
“OK, Mummy,” he replied, trying once again to balance on it.
“Benjamin, that’s it. You will need to go back in the stroller,” I proclaimed, scooping him up and trying to bend his rather resistant body into the seat.
Predictably: “Mummy, why is Ben going back into the buggy?”
A bus turned the corner. “Look, Zach. Is that our bus? What are the numbers on it?”
“One, three, seven. Yes! Yes! That’s our bus, Mommy.”
The man folded up his paper as people began shifting on their feet in anticipation of stepping onto the bus. I checked for my pass and picked up the scooter, while Zach stood at full attention, ready for the long-awaited arrival. “Now, step on carefully, honey, then go on back and get on a seat.” I swiped my pass. “No, not up there. Near where the stroller goes.” Zachary clambered onto a seat, peering out the window for things to ask questions about.
I am pretty sure we had thoroughly convinced one man never to have children.