The public transit here is fantastic. The tube and the buses run efficiently, there’s always another one in just a couple minutes if you just missed one, they’re typically clean, and it’s all one big incredible network that gets millions of people where they need to go every day.
It’s infinitely more difficult to get around via public transit with a 3-year-old. She actually does really well, for the most part, and likes taking the underground and the big red double-decker bus. But it’s still very stressful for me, for multiple reasons. For one, there’s an element of physical danger. I’m trying to juggle folding and unfolding an umbrella stroller while at the same time gripping E’s hand so she doesn’t run away into the crowd or fall down the escalator/onto the tracks/into the gap/down the stairs. One thing to note is that the tube stations are almost all NOT accessible, i.e., stairs, stairs, and more stairs. So I spend a fair amount of time making E get out of her stroller, folding it up, then unfolding it and coaxing her to get back into her stroller. I will say that quite often a kind stranger will offer to help carry the stroller up or down stairs for me. And more often than not, people really do pay attention when they are sitting in the priority seats (for disabled or pregnant people) and get up and offer me their seat. Sometimes they don’t, and I spend a stop or two glaring in their direction, hoping they will feel my pregnant-lady silent wrath, because I’m the non-confrontational type.
Yesterday we needed to go over to our new house for a scheduled mattress delivery, and I also wanted to go to the medical practice I’d decided to register us with as our GP (there will be another post about this whole process, once I figure it all out, assuming I ever do), and this required taking the tube and a bus. No big deal, right? Sure, if you are an able-bodied individual just taking yourself.
Get E into her stroller. Walk half a mile. Get her out of her stroller and onto the bus. Get off the bus. Calm temper tantrum over her not getting to push the button. Get back in her stroller. Walk to underground station. Get out of her stroller. Fold up stroller and hope a nice person offers to help carry it down stairs. Try to calm temper tantrum over her not getting to use the Oyster card to open the gate. Walk down a million stairs and two escalators to the tube, while holding onto her and to the stroller. Try not to let E fall onto the tracks. Get her onto the train and find a seat (not always possible, in which case, make sure she holds onto a pole). Get her off the train without falling into the gap. Get her and folded stroller up a million stairs and escalators. Get her to get back in her stroller. Now it’s raining. Put rain cover on stroller. Argue with 3-year-old who doesn’t want the rain cover over her. Push stroller in rain back to apartment. Too hard to hold an umbrella while pushing the stroller so just get wet. Hope rain cover drowns out the continual refrain of MOMMY I WANT ANOTHER SNACK.
The other problem is that she can actually get out of this stroller by herself; she has figured out how to undo the buckle, and if she is feeling ornery or tired of being in the stroller or just simply wants to push the button for the crosswalk signal (and oh, does she know how to push buttons), I will be strolling her along and all of a sudden, mid-busy-bridge, she’s out and running ahead of me. It’s horrifying.
Today we had a very simple transit journey. Walk to nearby Bank tube station, take the Central line nine stops to Queensway, walk across the street to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. Really easy. But we left before 9 a.m. and therefore found ourselves in rush hour. Bank station was really crowded, and then when the first westbound Central train arrived, it was so packed we couldn’t get on. We decided to wait for the next one, which came along just a couple minutes later. Also packed. Waited for the next one, which was only a minute behind. Also packed. I was in awe just watching train after packed train go by. This city is full to the brim. We finally squeezed onto the third or fourth train that came by.
On our return trip, we made a scene both getting on and off the train. Apparently E decided she wanted to wait for the next train, because that must be our new fun game, so she dug in her heels and wouldn’t step off the platform, so I was trying to drag her by the arm over the gap and onto the train, and tripped or got the stroller stuck or something, and we lurched on there, me yelling at her to be careful!!! because I was afraid she’d fall, as I very nearly fell over myself. Getting off, we almost missed our stop entirely, because her bucket of sand toys spilled all over the train just as we were trying to disembark, and I was again trying to wrangle her as well as all our stuff. It was a good thing the doors seemed to stay open a little longer at that stop, somehow. When I finally got us off the train, I seriously considered collapsing onto one of the platform benches and having a good public cry.
Instead, I bucked myself up, got us and all our stuff up all those stairs and out onto the sidewalk and E back into her stroller once again, and stopped at Starbucks for an iced coffee and a cookie. Because I earned it.