Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Culprit is the Carseat, With Its Accomplice Jelly Legs

Once, not so very long ago, while living my former life in a faraway place called "St. Louis" I remember driving by a Starbucks with a drive-thru window and wondering what the world was coming to. How lazy do you have to be to need a drive-thru for your coffee? How hard is it to park your car and just walk into the shop? What kind of schmuck would actually use this?

Flash forward several years, and approximately 2,000 miles to the west, and I can definitively say that I am that kind of schmuck.

How I would love to travel back across time and space to my earlier, childless self and explain that sometimes it is hard - very, very hard - to park your car and just walk into the shop. In fact, once you have a kid, there is no just doing anything. Just running to the store, just getting a cup of coffee, just taking a shower...everything becomes colossally more complicated.

And the Starbucks drive-thru? I now see it for what it truly is: a thing of rare and utter beauty that has nothing to do with laziness. Okay, maybe a little bit to do with laziness. But laziness isn't the main reason I use the Starbucks drive-thru. The real culprit is the carseat.

My daughter hates to be restrained. Playpens, highchairs, shopping carts, carseats, bouncers, swings, carriers. She struggles against them like someone being attacked by a swarm of bees. We have reached the point where I can get her into the carseat - and out of it - without a major meltdown must days, but I can do each operation exactly one time without confrontation. This makes running most errands difficult, as multiple stops are not an option.

For those of you without children, it may help to think of this in terms of air travel. Every stop is like a layover, and your only options are O'hare in January or Newark after 4pm. On every subsequent connecting flight the delays are longer and you encounter some new annoyance: maybe you are stuck in a middle seat at the back of the plane between a chatty Kathy and someone who smells. The toilets aren't working. There is turbulence. There are no more snack boxes for purchase and you haven't eaten all day. Someone in the row ahead of you snagged the last can of bloody mary mix. Your flight attendant is insisting that you take your seat although you are pretty sure that twinge in your calf is a deep vein thrombosis.

Bet you wish you'd booked that direct flight now, huh?

Driving through the pick-up window at Starbucks is like booking a direct flight to caffeination on an airline that always arrives on time. It doesn't matter what else you have to get done that day or what stage of rest - or unrest - your child is in, a pass through the Starbucks drive-thru is one simply amazing act of certainty in the world-with-child where nothing is simple or certain.

My new life in the the world-with-child spins on an axis of delays, disappointments, and changes of plans. Follow-through is a foreign concept for most of us living amidst the toddler tornado of sippy cups, diapers, wipes, pacifiers, snacks, strollers, stuffed animals, jackets and changes of clothing that are required for every trip away from home. Even if you're only heading to Target, you have to prepare like you're going to Tanzania. And once you get there, no matter how difficult the trek, chances are about even that you will have to return home without even setting foot in the store. This may happen for a number of reasons but one of the biggest weapons of derailment in the childhood arsenal of annoyance is jelly legs.

See, even if there was a coffee shop right in front of you, or in the case of Target, right inside the store, your need for an overpriced coffee beverage typically coincides not with your child's desire to help you fulfill this need, but with his/her own need to stomp on your plans like a little Lucille Ball in some grape juice-making episode of "I Love Lucy." Although like most counter-intuitive facts of life in the world-with-child, children do this stomping by temporarily losing all control over their joints so that when you try to move them, they appear to be made of jelly.

This maneuver, as infuriating as it is brilliant, makes it impossible, or at least very unpleasant, to order and transport a scalding hot beverage. The Starbucks drive-through is like an electromagnetic pulse that disarms the jelly legs maneuver. Think Oceans 11, but where the goal is not robbing a casino, but merely procuring a caramel macchiato.

Now, I know some of you could really care less about jelly legs or carseat conundrums because you can't get past the fact that I should be buying my coffee at a local, independent coffee shop. And I do, but only when the lines of parent and toddler interest intersect. This happens rarely, and typically involves one or both parties being asleep.

And so there we are, back to the drive-thru issue. Leaving your child snoozing either at home or in the car while you pop out for a latte is not only considered poor parenting form, it is also illegal. And falling asleep while your child is awake spells disaster for you, your child, and/or your furniture. Which brings us back to the coffee issue.

Look. If my local coffee shop had a drive-thru, I would gladly use it. But it doesn't. So I'm stuck with Starbucks, schmuck that I am. And on days when I can get nothing else done, even the chance for a decaf is like a lifeline to my former life; the one where waiting in line was an inconvenience, rather than a frenzied impossibility.


  1. You know, of course, that the local coffee shop in Galesburg(!) of all places has a drive through!? Can you believe it?

  2. Jelly legs is often accompanied by my personal fave, "disappearing armpits."