Milo and I are considering a letter writing campaign to the Australian Standards Board to request the standardisation of pram gauges in Australia, and that the chosen gauge be enforced as a minimum for all cafe door frames across the country.
A very similar system, known as Panamax, revolutionised shipping at the time of the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Panamax, dictated and enforced by the Panama Canal Authority (PCA), specifies the width and length of ships that wish to use the canal. It has therefore become an observed standard for ship building worldwide.
Thanks to Panamax, ship captains cruising under the Bridge of the Americas approach the Panama Canal with confidence, safe in the knowledge their vessels are appropriately sized and they will not have to effect an embarrassing about turn when they arrive, apologising profusely to other ship captains travelling behind them or worse, those wishing to exit.
Milo and I enjoy no such confidence as we approach the front doors of cafes. We walk tentatively up and down the street pretending we are on our way elsewhere, perhaps to the dry-cleaners, trying to visualize the width of door frames. From a distance this is difficult. I take bearings and look at adjacent objects for scale. Is my pram twice the width of that pot of oregano? Or, I know the approximate size of that Hungarian Vizsla waiting for its owner on the doorstep, how does that compare to the width of the Uppababy Alta?
Several times we have mustered the requisite confidence and forged onward to the door only to find ourselves marginally over-sized. What ensues is always awkward. Firstly one needs to extricate one’s self from the entrance. Invariably there will be busy customers on their way out, trays of hot coffee clutched in one hand as they try to hold the door open with their buttocks and spare hand, or pre-occupied caffeine seekers, noses down catching up on last evening’s ‘My Kitchen Rules’ revelations, on their way in. Both categories of customer will find your presence, and that of your stranded, hulking pram, to be inconvenient at best and a direct affront at worst.
So, precariously balanced exiting customer and frustrated, anxious entering customer then do-si-do around you as you attempt an Austin Powers-esque 17 point turn with sub-standard front steering and rigid, suspensionless rear wheels. Once you have unblocked the passage, usually with one of your wheels now in the aforementioned pot of oregano, then what? Do you swallow your pride and head back into the street in search of a Panamax compliant cafe (Cafemax), or do you abandon the beached pram, remove your child, fill your pockets with the valuable possessions you have safely stashed in the ‘parent organiser’, totter into the cafe, order your soy cappuccino then return the child to the pram whilst achieving the impossible task of not scalding him with hot coffee? I am sure it is clear that both options are unpalatable. It is also clear therefore that our letter writing campaign is both necessary and urgent; this is an issue that affects us all.
Standardising the pram gauge in Australia would also remove one variable from the process of purchasing a pram, which is already a baffling ordeal. Pram shopping is one of the many unique experiences of baby-growing that one does not give a second thought to until a moment before the experience arrives.
It is a shock similar to ordering a coffee in Zurich or a beer in Dubai. Having not researched or considered the matter in any way I presumed a pram might cost around $150. No, prams cost $1000; a horrific realisation to make late in a 40 week pregnancy. Next there are brands, and colours, and suspension, and inflatable wheels, and jogger attachments, and variations in the number of seating positions, and cup holders and features that could not possibly be useful that you begin to think you cannot do without. Yes, I do believe I need my pram to operate efficiently on the beach because I can imagine a scenario under which I will need to roll my child directly into the ocean without his feet touching the sand.
It is impossible not to be baffled and frustrated at this selection process but at the end of the day there are two, and only two, qualities that you require. Ease of folding and storage capacity. I would even be happy to do without my ‘parent organiser’, one-of-a-kind patterned fleece trim and cup holder so long as I can fold the pram in one movement and fit a 48 box of nappies and a barbeque chicken in its storage basket. That and it must be Cafemax compliant.
Today we continued our mission to extract value from our ‘eclectic mix of Sydney attractions’ annual pass and headed into the city to climb Centrepoint tower. We closely considered our options and decided to catch the bus. Without the safe bubble of the car this a hair-raising option which renders us vulnerable, and acutely susceptible to any unforeseen mishap.
Milo lost a sock on the bus. A one-socked child just looks bedraggled and poorly cared for, greatly diminishing any air of professionalism you are trying to cultivate. And once the sock is lost there is very little you can do, of course bringing a spare pair of socks just feels defeatist, and we couldn’t handle the extra weight travelling so far from home.
It is natural to briefly consider the possibility of removing the second sock to make it appear as if the sockless child was intentional. Appearing negligent is sometimes preferable to incompetent. But ultimately you know you would then be deliberately giving your child two cold feet in the interest of your vanity, so one sock it remains.
We climbed the Tower without incident; of course the lift attendant pointed out that Milo had but one sock. I thanked her for this observation and let her know we had lost it on the bus; incompetent not negligent.
Milo enjoyed the view somewhat but certainly enjoyed the lift ride up and down more; it was the tallest and most exciting lift he has ever been in.
Pointing at stuff
We then strolled further into the city, feeling more and more out of place, wishing we could have confidence in the width of doorways we were walking through and cursing the slow turning wheels of bureaucracy at the Australian Standards Board, before meeting a friend for suitably city coffees which were small and powerful.
Milo ate strips of chicken out of my pie and bashed his tea-spoon onto my plate with extreme vigour and enjoyment. This drew the ire of some retirees who were lunching next to us so I carefully replaced his metal spoon with rubber and nodded an insincere apology at their scowling faces.
It was drawing close to sleep time and we were many miles from any kind of safety, so I foolishly attempted to give Milo a bottle of formula in a park inhabited by pigeons and ibis. Of course such exotic bird-life is of extreme interest to my son and he could not possibly divert any attention to drink his milk. I then panicked and decided we would just walk the bus route and if Milo fell asleep we would walk until he awoke and then get on the bus. An hour and a half later we were home, Milo still asleep and me with sore feet.
Kuepps walked in the door shortly after, Milo refreshed and happy after a big pram day. I was out for the evening and Kuepps still banned from Milo lifting so Oma got to experience some evening ‘free-flopping’, which she executed smoothly.
- Suggested standard pram gauge – 800mm
- Number of odd socks in Milo’s cupboard – 3
- Minutes spent pressing Milo’s bare foot into wet concrete in the city – 0
- Minutes spent clipping our cats’ claws – 25