I was feeling pretty proud of myself on the afternoon of Day 2. I’d ridden my bike to preschool, locked up the trailer in a way that wouldn’t block the entire rack or get me in trouble with anyone, and biked downtown for my Physical Therapy appointment to treat a running injury (plantar fasciitis). In the afternoon I rode up the hill to Caleb’s school. Thus far I’d been arriving early everywhere and reveling in the fact that I didn’t have to sit in traffic or look for parking. I may have been a little braggy when one of the Moms noticed my bike helmet and I told her about my car-free plan.
Caleb and I walked to the bus stop. The Metro buses all have bike racks, and our bus had a nice driver who got off the bus to help me figure out the racking system (I’ve done it once before, but I pretended it was my first time because I’d forgotten how to do it even though it’s only a three step process and the steps are outlined on the rack itself.) He gave me pointers (“Pull OUT on the handle, not up,” and “don’t forget to tell the driver you’re getting your bike off when you exit the bus.”) Caleb ate a snack on the bus and revealed a few details about his day at school. We got off the bus and walked up a steep hill to the house where Caleb takes a music class with his best pal Brayden. Brayden is the son of our next-door neighbors and good friends Scobie and Sarah. Sarah and I each transport our boys to music class, and then she very kindly drives them home afterwards while I go to preschool to pick up Helen.
Caleb and I arrived early and sat in the sunshine until Sarah and Brayden pulled up. I bragged to Sarah about how Caleb had walked up the giant hill in good spirits and I had my bike route to preschool all planned out, timed to arrive home before Sarah and the boys. What a perfect eco-super-Mom I am! Then Sarah’s facial expression changed.
“Oh no,” she said.
“We forgot about the car seat.”
Usually this is the point where I unbuckle Caleb’s booster seat from my car and buckle it into Sarah’s. No car with me, so no booster seat. Damn. We discussed our options: Sarah could drive home and get the car seat out of my car (no, no, no). I could ride home, get my car and come back, but then I wouldn’t have time to get Helen before preschool closed. Another Dad Sarah knows well and I know a little, Vamshi, pulled up to class with his son. We explained our dilemma: did he, by chance, have an extra car seat? Well he had two booster seats in his car, built into the car itself. He could give two boys a ride to our house. I thought it was very kind of him to make this offer to someone he doesn’t really know, but he doesn’t live near us, and I felt I was inconveniencing too many people even with this conversation. Then Vamshi pointed out that the booster seat’s job is mainly to boost the child so that the seat belt fits properly.
“In India,” he said, “kids sit on a box.” Believe it or not, this was a comfort to me. When we’ve traveled to other states, Caleb has ridden in taxis with no car seat. He could ride home buckled into Sarah’s car while sitting on a stack of backpacks. I asked him if he would mind. Nope.
So I pedaled off, feeling more forgetful-reckless-with-my-son’s-safety Mom than Supermom. I chose a route suggested by my physical therapist, a bike commuter. In my pre-October vision of bike commuting, it was a carefree, happy activity, freed from the vagaries of sitting in my car in traffic, late, listening to the same CD over and over. But I forgot that riding in that same traffic is its own kind of stress. I was cold, and hungry, and I needed to use the bathroom. So I made a pit stop at the park, and stopped at the ATM too. “I have plenty of time,” I kept thinking. Only I forgot to factor in the time it takes to hook up the trailer, extract Helen from the preschool playground, and creep up the hill back to our house with a squirmy three-year-old in tow. I arrived home sweaty, with a sore back, half an hour after Sarah returned with the boys. By the time we get the kids to bed I’m exhausted. Not at all how I’d expected to feel after two days.
“Bike commuting is tiring,” I text my friend Ryan. Ryan has no car, and bike commutes from the suburbs into the city every day, sometimes with a bike trailer full of tools in tow. He advises me to ride the bus when my body gets sore. Good thing the next day is a public transit day. I need a biking break already.