hand poised on the doorknob. "In here," George said, eyes glimmering in anticipation, like a hot rodder ready to show off
his Shelby. Creaking the dark-stained door open, he reached in, flipped on the light and revealed his treasures. Lined up
end to end in the center of the garage were strollers.
Four of them.
George and his wife, Linda, have two cars, both newer models worth many thousands of dollars,
both parked on the tree-lined street in this quiet Vancouver neighbourhood. The garage is exclusively for baby transport.
"Do you have three other children I'm unaware of?" I asked him. His smile masked a slightly smug
attitude, as though telling me: "Just wait. You'll see."
believe I would. I haven't passed a math course since 10th grade, but one child equals one stroller appears a simple enough
equation. But George explained each stroller has its own function. One is general, all-purpose. I pointed out that the all-purpose
stroller, by definition, negates the necessity of the other three. He shook his head and continued as though I hadn't spoken.
The second stroller is for shopping: smaller and
more easily navigable through malls crowded with moms during 30-percent-off sales at Gap Kids. The third is restricted to
"off-roading." The fourth and biggest-its wheels appearing only slightly smaller than a dump truck's-is for jogging and rollerblading.
George stepped back and examined his infant convoy. "Management," he said with satisfaction, "it's all about stroller management."
My wife, Barbara, and I left our friends' home shaking our heads. What happened to them, we wondered.
But we've wondered that less after we too embarked on the path to parenthood 18 months later.
At our first visit to our first baby store we are approached by the sales clerk. "Would you like a tour of the strollers?"
she asks. I am about to let loose with a recycled barb when I notice my six-months pregnant wife revolving slowly, head pointed
upward to ceiling-high shelves, mouth agape. As far as the eye can see are strollers of different makes, models, colours and
"I guess that would be a good idea," I tell the
clerk. And the tour begins. In the next 45 minutes she leads us through the history, design features, pros and cons of the
modern stroller. Collapsibles, we are informed, should have two latching devices to ensure the sturdiness of the upright stroller.
Italy makes some of the finest available. "Italy?" I ask her. "Aren't they responsible for the Fiat?" Like George did, she
ignores my flippancy. Strollers are no joking matter.
attach to some strollers, but not all. Strollers designed for car seats will accommodate almost any model of same. The faster
the parent walks, the larger the wheels should be. Sidewalks require less shock absorbency than trails; gravel trails less
than forest trails. I am about to interrupt with another ignorant question when I notice my wife is nodding in understanding.
She's getting this! My head is swirling with the relative merits of the previous three models, and wondering why umbrella
strollers don't have an umbrella.
In the end, we find we need more
time. "I didn't spend this much time deciding on a car," I tell my wife as we drive home. "How will we ever decide which one
"Which one?" she asks.
The issue is settled by doting grandparents, who offer to buy us a stroller, though not the armada
our friends have recommended. We pick out a high-end, multi-purpose Italian coupe (having remembered they make Ferraris as
well as Fiats) in earth tones that suggest parents at peace in the forest or the urban jungle. As a hedge, we buy the matching
infant car seat-mismatching it to a second, third or fourth stroller would be gauche.
Finally, the day arrives when I can proudly put Baby Ainsley into this magnificent chariot. I've
been waiting three months for this first stroll, my wife having assured me that, yes, the neighbours would think it weird
had I bundled the cat in for a prenatal test drive.
okay. The ride begins well, though a passerby points out the car seat is on backwards; Ainsley is supposed to face me. Sidewalk
grooves seem manageable, though not as smooth as I had imagined. I eye a mother jealously whose stroller has a lid covering
the handle compartment-on mine the keys and garage door opener are lying hopelessly exposed. The all-inclusiveness of our
model suddenly seems cumbersome as I fumble my way down some stairs. The waterfront wood-planked boardwalk causes such vibrations
my newborn daughter is shaken into a prolonged hiccuping fit.
return to the house, handing off baby and heading for the phone. "Where are you going?" my wife asks.
"To call George," I reply in surrender. "I need to see if he can help me get a fleet rate."