There are some things in life I have never, and will never, understand. How an aeroplane stays in the sky. How a small circular shiny disc, for all intents and purposes looking like a silver coaster, contains music. How Lady Ga Ga gets away with it. And sitting in traffic the other day (do not fear, the long-term fatigue has not quite made me lose my marbles yet, I was in the car) I suddenly realised that there is one more mystery to add to the list: Baby on Board signs.
I hadn’t really paid them much attention until that joyous moment in the contra flow traffic jam, but ever since, I see them bloody everywhere. It seems they are multiplying like some car-borne virus. I was staring at this yellow diamond-shaped sign swaying gently in front of me and it provoked a thought comprising just one word: Why? What possible use has a sign such as this? It is like ears on children’s cardigans: utterly pointless and highly fucking irritating.
It can’t possibly be to tell people that there are children inside the vehicle, with the aim to warn other motorists that just in case they were thinking of ramming into the back of them, think twice please as the heirs to their Ford Focus and extensive collection of popular crime thrillers are sitting not five foot from their front bumper. Now, whilst I am not always conscious of every thought that slips across my grey matter, I am pretty damn sure I have never considered that it might be a laugh to rear-end someone, and then change my mind when I see the Baby on Board sign suckered to the back window.
But what else can their ‘look at me I’m the colour of sunshine and make you want to scream’ purpose be? Maybe it’s fertility bragging. ‘Check me out, with my perfect ovaries and my works-like-a-dream cervix, there’s a baby on board’. But babies are two a penny, one look at Costa coffee at 11am will tell you that, it’s not the most impressive brag. And then yesterday I saw it. The same jaunty yellow diamond, with the words ‘Twins on Board’ stamped across it. If that is not a boast about your reproductive capabilities, I don’t know what is. I am praying against all statistical hope to be sitting behind a car with a sign proclaiming ‘Triplets on Board!’ I fear I would be overcome by the overwhelming urge to get out, punch them in the face for the sign and then shake their hands in utter admiration of having three children.
And then today, sitting again in that same traffic jam, enjoying a kid-free car – with no Zingzilla’s soundtrack on repeat, no requests to read out the road sign for the eighty-sixth time, no strange clicking noises that have me straining to see in the rear view mirror if E has opened his door, no pokes in the neck from the twig that he insisted accompany us on every journey and no strangled gurgling sounds from B that makes me glance backwards repeatedly to see if my youngest is choking – it dawned on me. It’s to warn other drivers that there is every possibility, at any given moment, that the driver will be doing 30 miles per hour with one eye on the back seat, one hand on the CD player, half an eye on the carton of juice that is being waved between the front seats and a foot trying to flick away a Smartie that is under the brake pedal. Leaving very few limbs driving the car and approximately half and eye on the road. Baby on Board is just a nice way of saying: ‘Warning! Distracted parent on board. Liable to swerve as beverages are handed to thirsty off spring, brake hard inadvertently as they shout at their kids or lose control of the car as they try to explain what a speed camera does’. And let’s face it, you’d be bloody hard pushed to fit all that onto a yellow diamond.
And it isn’t much better if there are two of you in the front. About a year ago, we were out in the car with E. We had nursery rhymes on the CD player, I was struggling to open a box of raisins and hold E’s beaker of drink between my knees, and we were all singing along merrily. We were like the bloody von Trapps but with less smocking. At a particular rousing chorus of If You’re Happy and You Know It, M momentarily took both hands off the steering wheel to clap. At the precise moment a police car was coming the other way. M clamped his hands back on the wheel and we held our breath, just waiting for that siren to come on. But thankfully they carried on, not having seen the flagrant dangerous driving on display. They must have had kids in the back.
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