Saturday, September 10, 2016

Of Babies and Bombs

We're a baby-wearing family.  It's mostly because I'm just not cut out for strollers.  I get that they have a certain convenience, and a certain traditional flair, but long before we had kids, I was ruined by the baby-bearers of Boulder.  I watched mom after mom come into coffee shops where I worked with babies strapped to themselves in various positions.  Some of the babies rode high on their mother's shoulders, backpack-style, others were nestled into their wraps just below their mother's chin, still others were riding side saddle strapped to their mom's side, taking in the whole world in tandem.  Babies that were awake would be popped out of their wraps to wander about the coffee shop.  A bit later, the mom would put the baby back into the wrap.  Sometimes the baby would be settled into the same position, sometimes into a different one that suited a new bundle of stuff the mom had picked up, or the baby's newly sleepy mood.  For me, the image of rugged convenience, and connection was addictive.  So, when our first kid was born, she was plopped into a wrap a few hours later.  No one warned me that what seemed innocent, and even adorable in Boulder would be taken as threat to national security a thousand miles to the East.  You see, I'd forgotten one thing.  I'm a man, and men don't carry babies.

About a month after junior was born, we departed the toasty environs of the Southwest, and headed back to Brookhaven National Laboratory, home of my wife's physics dissertation work.  It was still the height of winter there, but we soon discovered that when I strapped Junior to my chest, and then zipped her and I up in a Dickies hoodie one size too large, she was snug as a bug in a rug.  I realized I looked a little absurd walking from building to building with a large amorphous bundle strapped to my chest.  Occasionally onlookers were curious enough to ask what I was carrying.  I'd  unzip a bit so they could take a look at Junior snoozing happily.  Exchanging adoring grins, we'd both carry on, headed for our warm destinations.  The system worked as well as it had for the baby bearers of Boulder! Until the bomb scare.

One morning, I was happily trundling along my way to talk to a man about a magnet.  The kid, dozily settled into the wrap for her morning nap.  Half way there, I noticed a police car following us about 20 yards behind.  The police in Brookhaven were a bit of a curiosity in and of themselves.  Not everything they did always made sense, so I shrugged it off.  As we turned into the curved drive leading to the magnet building's parking lot, the cruiser lurched ahead, and pulled to curb.  The officer inside was now facing us with his window down.  Things had become a bit odd it seemed.  The officer, obviously agitated, shouted,  "Stop right there!"

"OK.  What's going on officer?"

"Don't move.  What's in the jacket?"  I reached for the zipper below my chin.  "Don't touch that zipper!  Someone called concerned that a bearded man in a hoodie might be carrying a bomb!  What's in the jacket!?"

Both offended, and about ready to guffaw at the inanity of it all, I fought to stay calm as the officer began to fumble his way out of the car.  Apparently adrenaline can make car door handles difficult to grasp.  Speaking as calmly as I could, I said, "It's a baby.  Officer, there's a baby under my hoodie."

"A what?"

"A baby.  My kid is under this hoodie."

"Well, ummm, unzip the hoodie slowly."

Unaware until then that babies were quite so dangerous, I cautiously eased down the zipper so that the kid emerged for her little cubby.  She 'urped gently, snuggled in deeper, and conked back out.

"Are you allowed to have babies here?"

"Well, yes officer, you're allowed to live on lab property, so yes, you're allowed to have babies."

"Where are you going?"

"To talk to a physicist about wrapping a magnet in Lintz wire."

"With a baby?"

"She'll sleep through it all, I promise."

"Well then,ummm, carry on."

Ultimately, the officer and I became pleasant acquaintances.  I'd had my comeuppance though: one man's baby is another's bomb.




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