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Baby on board


June 22, 2016

When I think of the term “baby on board,” I think of those signs that used to be popular in the back window of cars. They were meant as a warning to other drivers that the car did indeed have a little one in the back seat, with the hope that they would slow down and use a little more caution when driving past the vehicle. Then somewhere, somebody complained that they were blocking the driver’s view and could cause an accident, yadda yadda yadda; they passed a law and the signs went away. On New Jersey Transit, “baby on board” has a whole new meaning, partly good and partly not so good, but always interesting.

As we pulled into the Harriman station I could see the family of four ready to board. Mom had a newborn swaddled in a pink blanket in her arms. Dad was holding his two-year-old son’s hand in his left hand and the baby stroller in his right. I could see from the size of the stroller it was one of these double-wides, built to let both children ride in the comfort that they deserved, complete with hanging toys, water bottle holders and an awning to shade the precious gems from sunstroke.

As the train slowed to a halt, you could see Dad going over the instructions of the day. Young Mom was dutifully nodding her head and putting on that brave, “I-can-do-this” face. I could see the wide blue eyes of the boy under his blond bangs. He was dressed in his cleanest of outfits, shoes, socks, shorts and shirt all perfectly coordinated. He was also bursting with excitement for the coming train ride, maybe his first.

All seemed well as Dad spoke briefly to the conductor and then helped the family on board. This tale could end here with the family riding peacefully, but it doesn’t. When they were all settled with the conductor standing in the door, Dad did the unthinkable. He leaned over, patted his son on the head and told him to behave, kissed his daughter’s cheek. Then he turned, hugged his wide-eyed wife, kissed her and said, “Don’t worry; everything will be fine.” Then he stepped off the train and, as the conductor closed the doors, I could see him waving good-bye and his son waving back. His wife, on the other hand had a look of dread on her face as if to say, “What am I doing?”