a girl, a guy, a tomato, a bean, and a bear

Thursday, April 16, 2009

In which I nearly cry in public

The New Parent Support group on post organizes an annual car safety check event. I remember last year I wanted to go, but we didn't yet have our car seat, so I just obsessively researched how to install it myself. For some reason it was one of those things I was REALLY stressing about. It was probably all of the statistics floating out there..."7 out of 10 car seats are installed incorrectly! Is YOUR child safe?" I had this mental block that the installation was going to be close to brain surgery and was dreading it. I read the manual. I looked online at videos. I fretted. And finally, I installed the seat. It was so quick and easy, I sat there staring at it thinking 'I must be missing something.' After double checking all latches, hooks, buckles, levers, and reclining angles multiple times, I finally came to the conclusion that I felt comfortable and satisfied with the job I'd done. Score one for me. I think I'd been stressing more about the car seat installation that labor.

Fast forward until December...or was it January...whenever we got Evie's new convertable car seat. I was so excited to get it and have it installed, because in my mind it was going to make certain aspects of our errand running much more smooth, but that's another story...

Anyway, I wasn't too stressed this time around about the installation because the infant seat installation had gone so smoothly and I considered myself something of an expert. I was unpleasantly surprised that it was NOT as intuitive for me as the first seat, and after a couple of failed attempts where I really had just guessed how things were supposed to go (the manual and pictures being of VERY little use) I came inside and did further research online. Now, as an art history major in college, I know something about references and the difference between a good and bad source of information. I didn't just YouTube videos on how to install a random car seat from the 80s; I went to the manufacturer's website, looked up my specific make and model of the seat, including the seat's manufacture date and found a very useful resource documenting clearly how to ensure proper installation.

I KNOW I did this, but me being me, I always doubt and question myself, and with today being the Car Seat Installation Check Day I thought I should go and have an "expert" take a look at it too. So here's where it gets fun...

I pull into the parking lot and am waved over into a spot. It's more crowded than I thought it would be, but I didn't have to wait in line, and a woman came over quickly with a clip board. I needed to fill out the form and sign a waiver (always comforting) and the woman offered to hold Evie while I did so. The first thing she said upon taking her was, "Brrrr! I bet you're cold!" Criticizing the weather appropriateness of my child's attire: Strike One. Evie wasn't too pleased being held by a stranger and I scrambled to get the form filled as quickly as I could. I got Evie back, self-consciously bundling her a little tighter in her blanket, and the woman began the inspection.

"Good, this is really snug..."
"Nice, this isn't twisted..."
"Looks really good..."
"Now, where do these straps fall on her--above her shoulders?"

"No, no, they're just below," I replied, the studious car seat installer I am.

"Good. And the buckle on her front?"

"Right at arm pit level," I shoot back. Do I get a sticker?

And then it happens. She looks behind the rear facing seat, between the seat and the passenger's chair where I have the car seat tethered to the floor board via the metal anchor of the front chair. She starts laughing. At first, I'm thinking to myself, Oh, I'm so good, she can hardly believe it, but then she says

"Oh wow. Hahahahaahaha. I've never seen this before. Well, maybe in photos. Of what NOT to do. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Mary, come here, you've got to see this! We should get a picture of this!"


I'm sitting there, holding our child, whose safety means more than anything to me--I'm there trying to be a responsible parent, making sure I'm doing the right thing, looking for support and encouragement, and SHE'S LAUGHING HYSTERICALLY AT MY "MISTAKE." Me being me, my eyes began to fill with tears.

This is the point when I acutally am sort of proud of myself, because where usually I might completely dissolve into sobs and kind of be incomprehensible for a few minutes, I held back my tears and said in a choked voice, "Just so you know, I take great offense at your reaction. I take my child's safety very seriously and you've made me feel really bad. I think that was a horrible thing to do."

She stopped laughing. Of course she hadn't meant to be mean, but it was a very insensitive thing to do to someone--well, at least someone like me. I am so much more sensitive to things like this, and somehow the universe knows this and throws people at me who push my buttons. I need to get a shirt that says, "WATCH OUT! You may be the straw that breaks the camel's back!" She apologized profusely and I could tell she felt genuinely sorry for her reaction, which had been innapropriate. She went on to explain that this isn't typically done in cars like ours--that usually there is a center fastener meant specifically for this type of tether. "Okay," I replied numbly, still trying to get my eyes to reabsorb the liquid that was brimming there. It's not as if I'd tried to secure the thing with bubble gum, rubber bands, staples, and hot glue. I was being thorough. I remembered specifically thinking that that extra tether seemed to be a bit over the top to me, but I remembered seeing it in a video and thought I should do it. In the meantime, another car seat checker came over and quietly said to my woman, "That woman over there got her car seat out of the dumpster...What do I tell her?" Funny, they weren't laughing hysterically at that woman.

Anyway, I pulled it together and she finished the check and was super extra polite to me the rest of the time. She installed the seat again, then I installed it again, and then the check was complete and we were free to go.

I came home and went online to try and find the video I'd seen. As I thought, it's on the manufacturer's website--check it out for yourself if you'd like! If you want to see just what I'm talking about, go to the third tab, "Installation Instructions" then click on the 13th slide, "Versa-Tether Installation." Hmmm, I don't know about you, but it sure seems to me that THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I'D DONE. Suddenly I don't look so crazy afterall...

I'm totally sending the link to the woman.


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