May 29, 2019

The faded moms

I was finishing a draining and mostly circular conversation with the second customers of the morning, an older Australian couple who had a problem with their reservation. (The highlight was their certainty that if only the young man they'd spoken to on the phone yesterday were there, he would sort it all out. A cartoon scroll unfurled in my mind of the things he is constantly un-sorting out, but I smiled and said that unfortunately he wouldn't be in for a few hours. As it turned out, he would come a few hours later and be sent immediately to the emergency room, with symptoms of heart trouble. On his bike. But that's another story.)

I told two hovering moms with two little boys that I'd be right with them. While I was approaching a tentative truce with the Australians, I shooed the kids out from behind me and asked as nicely as I could for them to not run around the dense row of bikes, still lined up like dominoes that early in the day. The moms called the boys back. Then one slipped under the two-tiered rack. Dangerous! I asked more urgently that they keep them out. A mom hollered, and he climbed out and sling-shotted right out the front and toward the street. The moms watched without a twitch, as the other guy working sprinted after the kid.

While the blonde one slogged her way through the (brief!) paperwork, puffing on a vape pen, the brunette with a fanned-out topknot and dangly gold earrings was squatting on the other side of the desk saying, "Fuck, this fucking thing leaked all over the inside of my bag!" I didn't know what she was talking about.

They wanted to pull a wagon trailer behind a tandem bike. Can you picture that? It's a lot of bike. I said that would be long and unwieldy, but they insisted they had done it before. I reluctantly wrestled the tandem out, navigating it between the skittering toddlers, because I know I can be a little conservative about what's possible with bikes, and they seemed sure. The manager saw what they were going for and squashed the idea like a cockroach. "No way. It's too long. Can't do it." They insisted on getting all four people onto a single vehicle, so we wheeled the tandem back in and pulled out the Urban Arrow, with its long front bucket. Before they all piled in, I said it would be a lot of weight up front, and the driver might want to take it for a quick spin empty first to get the hang of it. Nah, they said.

As they were settling in, I realized what had leaked in the bag: a baby bottle that was now sitting in a puddle of milk on the counter. One of the guys ran the wet bottle over to them, along with the credit card they'd dropped on the sidewalk.

The driver mom gave a lurch forward to snap back the kickstand and put one foot on a pedal. In slow motion, the whole thing tipped onto its side. We ran over to help, and they laughed and said we should have gotten video. I rolled with it and said a boomerang would have been awesome, ha ha, and they agreed and offered to tip it again for the 'gram as the kids and mom crawled out. We asked them to please not.

They wouldn't put just the kids in a bucket bike with the other mom on a regular bike, the usual arrangement for this combination of people, because they said the kids would kill each other. So they very reluctantly agreed to the only sensible remaining option: two regular bikes with Yepp child seats on the backs – what we had originally recommended instead of the tandem. I gripped the counter as they finally rolled out, unsteady but enthusiastic, with the kids perched behind.

As they rode off into the morning, my coworker exhaled and said, "Dude, those moms were so high!" Then it all made sense. I went into the back to breathe a minute. 

A few hours later, they returned as they had left: lots of commotion, then the second one, red-faced and disheveled, slowed to a stop and tipped right over, kid still on the back.

When they were checking out, after one had dived back into the bike rack to rescue her oil pen from the bike bag, one of the kids started spinning the tall rack of sunglasses faster and faster. I asked if she could please have him take it down a notch so the shades didn't fly off. She did. "Evan, sweetie, stop spinning the rack," she said, side-eyeing me. "This lady doesn't have children."

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