So apparently a German coffee bar owner has “outraged” parents by banning pushchairs from his shop. He thinks they’re a distraction from people really appreciating his coffee. Leaving aside the general nonsense of this – an ipad’s pretty distracting, I believe, or a good book, or a massive personal problem that you want to work through in your head while grabbing some caffeine, I mean come on! It’s coffee, you pretentious twat… – anyway, leaving aside the general nonsense, I’m not particularly bothered. Though it seems short-termist, since parents don’t have buggies with them all the time and won’t have them forever. Many of them, however, do like coffee and may well be avoiding his shop now.
Last week I was thwarted in my quest for coffee by the pushchair unfriendliness of Nottingham’s coffee shops – I was just in the wrong area and couldn’t be bothered to walk to the better places. The most family friendly place I’ve found – the Broadway cinema – is full of, not just families, but all ages and lots of cool media types. It might seem like a strange mix but as far as I know, it works. Anyway, as I said, I’m not too bothered by one man’s quest for coffee pretentiousness.
But what it this story does raise is the general attitude towards pushchairs these days. I should make a confession here – I used to be of similar mind. When, in my childfree days, I walked to work, I used to find overbearing mothers with their pushchairs to be one of the worst offenders of pavement etiquette. However I have now realised something. Many of them (perhaps not all, but many) are probably taking up a lot of space or walking in what you may find as an aggressive manner as a defence mechanism.
I recognise this. When I used to cycle to work, as well as my lights, my helmet and my day glo outer wear, I used to don an invisible but necessary defensive attitude in order to counter all the crap I took for cycling. You get a lot of abuse when you’re just trying to get to work in a cheap healthy environmentally friendly manner. And I used to stop at red lights. I’d finish my journey feeling bruised by encounters.
It’s similar with pushchairs. The comments section of the Guardian sums this up nicely. Some people clearly see new parents with pushchairs as a personal affront to their day. Because we’re clogging up their public space, getting in the way as we do. I mean, why can’t we just stay at home or restrict ourselves to parks? Large parks with wide pathways. And heaven forbid we go to the coffee shop in the park. Apparently it comes from the modern parent’s sense of entitlement, or something. We want, we expect, bigger, better things.
I have quite a large pram but it converts into a pushchair and should last E until she’s at least three years old. Pram choice is pretty bewildering for new parents, I think. I realise now that the mistake I made was in judging my purchase on the pram’s flexibility, comfort and durability when really I should have made the convenience of coffee house dwelling hipster musos my top priority.
A lot of things annoy me when I’m out in town. People who stop when they reach the top of an escalator to get their bearings. ‘Greeters’ in shops bearing down on me as I walk in. Anyone who stands in a doorway. Bad piped music. But that’s just how things are. I don’t expect special treatment because I’ve chosen to have a child. I do, however, expect people to be polite because I’m a person, the same as them. And, hey, sometimes I need to have a coffee. So I’m sorry if you have to climb round my pushchair or even, horror of horrors, have to say “Excuse me” in order to get past (not that people do, they just barge.) But it’s not really a problem is it? Not really.