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Oh Baby, We’ve Got a Problem

(Originally published 11/23/10)

I’ve done some embarrassing things in my life, put myself in some horribly awkward situations, but at least I could always say I never got in trouble for placing my crotch near a baby’s face. After last week, I can no longer say that.

As with 75% of stories involving babies and crotches, this tale takes place in a Dunkin’ Donuts. It was a weekday morning, and I headed over to D-Squared for my usual large hazelnut coffee with milk (skim, because I care about my health) and extra sugar (because I don’t really care about my health). As a writer, my morning coffee is absolutely essential because the caffeine injection really helps me stay alert and focused as I stare intensely at a blank computer screen for hours on end.

This particular Dunkin’ Donuts was totally packed today. Fortunately most of the customers inside had already ordered and were crammed off to the side as they waited impatiently for their breakfast sandwiches to heat up in nuclear-grade microwaves. The actual line to order, which was partitioned off by rope dividers to form a narrow alley to the register, was practically empty. I couldn’t believe my luck –apparently I just missed the big rush.

I had barely stepped through the front door when an available cashier looked my way and shouted, “May I serve the next customer please!” A knot of anxious anticipation formed in my stomach -it was my turn, my time to shine. I swiftly approached the partitioned lane, that Golden Brick Road to Java Jubilation, but then stopped suddenly in my tracks. There in front of me, blocking my path to the register, was a goddam baby.

Now, this baby wasn’t just chilling out on the floor playing with a rattle or Twitter or whatever babies do these days –if he was, I probably would’ve accidently stepped on him and this blog post would have an entirely different tone. He wasn’t waiting in line to order, as far as I could tell. He just sort of sat there in silence, wedged in a stroller like a watermelon in a shopping cart.

The problem, you see, was that this stroller had the approximate size and durability of an army tank –there was no way I could walk around it, especially with the horde of customers waiting on either side of my lane. Even worse, the baby’s mother was about 20 feet ahead, placing an order at one of the registers and totally unaware that this dude (me) was looking at her child with growing irrational anger.

May I serve the next customer please!” The free cashier waved at me again, desperation growing in her voice as a crowd of new customers were now standing behind me, waiting for me to proceed ahead.

It’s a question that’s been debated for centuries, and I was faced with it now. Are you allowed to move someone else’s baby? I could’ve grabbed the stroller and given it a little push –just the slightest nudge –out of the way and released this distressing bottleneck of caffeine-deprived customers. After thinking about it for a moment (I even went as far as looking for the release lever for the stroller’s wheel-lock), I decided I couldn’t risk moving that baby. If it started crying, and I was seen pushing the stroller, I would have a mess on my hands that could involve the authorities. Even worse, I probably would have to leave without my coffee.

MAY I PLEASE SERVE THE NEXT CUSTOMER!!” The cashier was about ten seconds away from losing her shit. I was left with no other choice, so I proceeded to swing one leg over the stroller, trying to climb over it the way you might get over a waist-high fence. I was midway through the action when the baby alarm system blasted the room with a piercing shriek.

WAAAAHH WAAAAHH WAAAAHH!!!

I should’ve kept going, but I froze mid-climb. The mother spun around to see me, an unshaven twenty-something with a multiple ketchup stains on his sweatshirt, straddling her crying baby’s stroller.

Suddenly, coffee wasn’t so important –to me or the mother. She ran to the stroller to accost me, but by the time she got there, I was back out the door, running for my life down the street, headed toward the next closest Dunkin’ Donuts, half a block away.

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