Eric D. Snider

Infant Jest

Snide Remarks #647

"Infant Jest"

by Eric D. Snider

Published on November 1, 2011

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Styles change, and fads come and go, but you know what's always popular? Babies! People love babies! Not all babies, because some are ugly, and not all the time, because sometimes they stink or make noise, but in general. You show up with a cute, happy baby dressed in an adorable li'l outfit, and you'll make even the mudgiest curmudgeon drool in adulation.

Some people love babies all the time, no matter what. These people are known as "the parents of those babies." The rest of us have our limits. My two sisters-in-law had baby boys within a week of each other this past June, and I was pleased to be able to visit them over the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends. (The births occurred, as do most births, in Utah.) The babies, named Mack and Ryan, are gorgeous, fine specimens of babyhood, and it was with great avuncular pride that I engaged in the traditional cooing and dandling and so forth. But no matter how much I love the little creatures that my brothers have spawned, the minute those creatures poop, I am no longer interested. (To be fair, this is my policy with most people.) I can't even watch when a diaper is being changed, because I know there's a chance I'll catch sight of some vile substance that will make me never want to come near that baby again.

Their doting parents, meanwhile, are enthralled. First-time parents Lane and Kelly can't get enough of Mack's excrement, and though this is the third child for Jeff and Beth, they too find utter delight in everything that issues forth from Ryan's anus. Which is good, I guess, because babies poop all the time -- frequently, vociferously, and prodigiously. I was at Lane and Kelly's house for dinner one evening, and Mack pooped twice just in the time I was there. This led me to write a song about Mack, which goes as follows:

Poopy McPoopsalot;
He's the baby who poops!

At the end you can make a little poop noise, if you want to. That part is optional.

But we don't have time to talk about baby poop forever, because I also want to talk about the lady who got kicked off a bus because her baby was crying. This happened in Portland, where I live, and it gets right to the heart of the matter. We've all been in situations in public where a crying baby was driving us crazy. If you're a parent yourself, you regard the baby's caregiver with sympathy, recalling times that you have been unable to soothe your own child no matter how hard you tried, and how stressful and embarrassing it was for you. If you're not a parent, you assume that the baby's parents are negligent and don't know anything about raising children, and you smugly remind yourself how much better you'll be when YOU have kids. (It's common knowledge that the people who know the most about how to raise children are the people who do not have children.) Perhaps we've even thought, while on a miserable airplane trip, that it would be wonderful if the offending baby and its parents were suddenly sucked out of the cabin and into the night sky, never to be heard from again. But we don't REALLY want that to happen, do we?

The bus incident was a test case. Seems the No. 57 bus was on its usual route one night a few weeks ago, taking passengers to wherever it is that people who ride buses have to go. (The county fair? The check-cashing place? I don't know.) A 2-year-old girl started crying and wouldn't stop, no matter what her mother did. Other passengers say the mom tried all the usual things -- feeding her, singing to her, rocking her, administering NyQuil to her, moving to another seat and pretending the baby wasn't hers -- all to no avail. Finally the driver got on the loudspeaker and told the lady she either needed to shut that kid up or get off the bus, because she couldn't keep driving under these conditions. She didn't quite threaten to turn this bus around and go right back home, but pretty close. Unable to quiet the child, the mother took her baby and got off the bus -- as did all the other passengers, in solidarity with her.

As it turns out, this particular driver has had three dozen customer-service-related complaints filed against her in the last 12 months alone. I suspect the only reason she still has a job is that she hasn't run anybody over. Honestly, that's all a public transportation agency wants in a bus driver. They don't care how rude or surly you are, as long as you're not killing pedestrians.

And to some extent, we're OK with that. You get on a city bus, you're not expecting to be treated with dignity and politeness. You're expecting to be jostled and shoved; to be alternately exasperated by how slow the bus is going and terrified by how fast it's going; to arrive at your destination disheveled; and to discover in the process what a lot of different strangers smell like. It's not like taking a plane, where you've spent hundreds of dollars for a seat, and the employees go out of their way to at least pretend that they want you to be comfortable. What'd you pay to get on the bus? A dollar seventy-five? Yeah, you're entitled to not die, and that's pretty much it. You might not even get a seat.

If an airline pilot were rude, you'd be shocked. When it's a bus driver, you think, "Well, yeah, of course. It's a bus driver." What if you had to maneuver that loud, cumbersome thing around town all day, that hellish motorized prison in which it's always either too hot or too cold, surrounded by the dirtiest, craziest people your city has to offer, who are only there because they can't find any other way to get where they're going? That's gotta be depressing. Imagine being in charge of the thing that people use as a last resort. Imagine having a customer base consisting entirely of people who exhausted every other resource before giving up and coming to you. I'm surprised when I see a bus driver who DOESN'T hate all of mankind.

So nobody wanted to be on that bus. Not the baby, not her mother, not the other passengers, certainly not the driver. When the baby started crying, the regular passengers -- the ones who have resigned themselves to this life -- probably just sighed and thought, "Oh, sure, Satan, throw another coal on the fire. What difference does it make now?" There are things that may distract a driver and pose a genuine safety hazard, but a crying baby is insignificant compared to the general level of bedlam that prevails on the average city bus. How did the driver even hear the baby over the sound of meth addicts stabbing one another?

At any rate, it is heartening to realize that while there's a limit to how much nonsense we'll tolerate from other people's babies, we draw the line at kicking them off buses. The other passengers exited with the poor mother and her child, a major uproar ensued, and the driver has been disciplined. How you punish someone who's already a bus driver, I don't know, but may I recommend something involving poop?

_____________________________________________

A Year of Snide Remarks was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. This week's column was sponsored by Eric Herman. Sponsor had no editorial control over the column, and the author alone is responsible for its content.

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Notes:

If you'd care to read the details of this stirring saga, The Oregonian has a page devoted to its extensive news coverage. The end of it, presumably, came in July 2012, when the driver -- who'd had 112 complaints against her since 2009 -- quit before she could be fired.

Also, I have nothing but respect for the many bus drivers who go about their business in a professional and courteous manner and have not yet snapped and murdered their passengers.

This item has 20 comments

  1. Rob D. says:

    This makes so much sense to me. I always wondered why Ralph Kramden was so much more grumpy than his BFF (who works in a sewer).

  2. Linda says:

    I have kids and I still don't like being trapped on a plane with a crying baby. That said, a two-year old is no longer a baby and has graduated from being unaware to knowing exactly the right pitch of scream that will result in the most attention as quickly as possible. In a public venue Mom, or Dad, is prevented from using the form of attention that will shut the child up, mainly because they don't want to get arrested. This just encourages the child's bad behavior.

  3. mommy says:

    I read a little adn it appears the baby wasn't screaming, she was tired and fussy-it was night time. There are videos that show the mom is definitely trying to comfort the toddler. Having been in a situation that required a train and two bus trips with 11mo twins-as well as my other children to get us home form the 2nd worst camping trip ever...I feel a lot of admiration for the other people who got off the bus voluntarily to support this woman.

  4. Lane says:

    Great song. But poop sounds are never optional.

  5. Momma Snider says:

    Catchy lyrics; wish I could hear the melody!

  6. Clumpy says:

    @Linda

    Sure, if your only goal is compliance in the moment. I have yet to meet the adult who was molded into happiness and well-adjustment under the constant threat of m?ld phys?cal abuse.

  7. G&P Oz says:

    Great comments about babies. They are wonderful when they are your grandkids because you can give them back when they poop or cry. We have almost 27 of the little buggers and love them all.

    I have much empathy for the mom on the bus. Years ago my wife had to travel from Biloxi,MS to the real Panama City (the one in Panama) with our eight kids. At the airport in Miami she had Domino's deliver. Smart lady she is. Other than her questionable taste in men she's pretty much perfect.

  8. Clumpy says:

    Umm... apparently my keyboard somehow got set to Turkish characters for that comment and couldn't handle the letter "i" for those last few words.

  9. Momma Snider says:

    CUTE babies, by the way, if I do say so myself!

  10. FHL says:

    I have new babies myself, and was always told what you're observing: when it's YOUR baby, you won't mind the poop. Well, I do mind the poop!

    I do have sympathy for people with crying babies/children. Sometimes there's just nothing you can do to calm them. Perhaps if the lady on the bus had handed out earplugs to the driver and passengers, he wouldn't have kicked her off. And sometimes, the crying drives you a little bit crazy. Sometimes a lot.

  11. Frank says:

    Eric, speaking as a parent and someone who has ridden the bus, this was pure gold. Maybe one of the best this year. Thanks for making me laugh. Particularly the "How did the driver even hear the baby over the sound of meth addicts stabbing one another?" line was genius.

  12. Tom says:

    Hence another reason for airlines to implement "Family class". Is this so difficult?!

  13. Erin says:

    Laugh out loud funny, Eric, and not in the lol sense, but truly worthy of typing out each word. Poop, meth addicts stabbing each other, that was fantastic!

  14. Huston says:

    "I can't even watch when a diaper is being changed, because I know there's a chance I'll catch sight of some vile substance"

    Wow, watching The Human Centipede must have been AWFUL.

  15. Shane says:

    Isn't heartening a bound morpheme? Can you say you are whelmed? Do I sound uptight? How come all my sentences are questions?

  16. Eric D. Snider says:

    Shane: No.

    Huston: It was awful, but not for that reason. I don't have any problem with poop that I know is fake.

  17. rykoch says:

    I was skimming this article and, well, since my name is Ryan the line, "they too find utter delight in everything that issues forth from Ryan's anus" popped out at me, and quite frankly distressed me a bit. So I reread it and was greatly relieved when I realized it was some other Ryan that was being discussed.

  18. boomama says:

    Another great article - many LOL moments. I have a two kids under the age of 3, and for the most part, strangers tend to offer me sympathy as I walk through the stores ignoring my children's tantrums over toys/goodies.

    But I'm really curious about the worst camping trip story from "mommy", because camping with 11-month-old twins sounds worse than anything I can conceive.

  19. Kathleen says:

    Americans (other than perhaps New Yorkers) have a funny "people who don't own cars are losers" attitude toward public transportation. Spend a bit of time in parts of the rest of the world, like Europe or Japan, and you will realize that not everyone regards taking a bus, a subway or a commuter train as one of Job's torments. It's just an alternative way of getting around when fuel costs are high and parking a b**ch, and also some people just can't drive for various good reasons, other than financial: too young, too old, disabled, too nervous, whatever. A typical busload is not the Wretched of the Earth. I've ridden buses in 6 different countries of the world and have yet to witness meth addicts stabbing each other. Addicts tend not to take buses anyway because most cities in their wisdom still require everyone, no matter how down and out, to pay fare and this is anathema to the addict. Not that the do-gooders don't try; in one liberal-minded Canadian city which will remain unnamed, downtown street addicts are given books of bus tickets (worth $2.50 CDN each) by social workers (so they can go....where? To job interviews?)The addicts proceed sell these tickets for $1-2 a pop at the earliest opportunity. I don't mind. It keeps the buses relatively clean. But it is a waste of taxpayers' money.

  20. Erin says:

    The new comment reminded me to reread this column, as it is one of my very favorite Snide Remarks. I also learned a new word: anathema.

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