A great imposing shadow falls across Queen Street. Small dogs cower their tiny Aran knit sweaters and scurry into alcoves and odorous bus shelters. Bearded bikers and boozy bottle-drivers turn their heads and stand their ground mid-sidewalk. And here I come, my side-by-side double stroller full of children trundling down the steps of my house and out into public space.
Yes, I am aware that you hate me. Join the rest of the world. Some folks scowl and comment under their breath, “why would anyone buy a side-by-side double stroller in the city?” Well, in my experience of living in Toronto, many people are just natural scowlers anyway, and we Torontonians from West end to East love to be disgruntled about a great number of inconvenient things – our “mayor,” potholes, the TTC, cold weather, hot weather, the Gardiner. Why would I use a side-by-side double stroller - as opposed to a tandem double stroller - in an urban centre? Well, let me tell you.
I love my double stroller. Not unnaturally, but, if there were a fire engulfing my house, and I was able to get the children and the husband and the family heirlooms out, I’d probably then go for the double. It has a nice big and accessible basket, it turns on a dime, it’s not a monster – fitting through most doors and aisles – and it keeps my boys safe and sound in their five-point harnesses as we pound the hot and cold pavement of our city every day.
Though I drive, I don’t have a car. My husband and I pitched our clunker after spending far too much fixing it for the umpteenth time and opted to use public transit and – brace yourselves – our own feet. That’s not to say that I don’t giddily accept a gloriously liberating vehicle loan from my parents now and again. I shouldn’t tell you how excited I get with the prospect of being able to buy 24 rolls of toilet paper at once while grocery shopping. In any case, my double stroller needs to pretty much be my car. It needs to be able to carry one fat baby and one tall toddler, two boxes of diapers, six bags of milk, two boxes of cheerios, 30 pounds of Goldfish crackers and my empty wallet. It’s a minivan but in stroller form. It also needs to be steerable, as I walk a lot with my boys and I really don’t want to be simultaneously negotiating with a cranky three-year-old and a bus of a stroller as I dodge the dog turds in the park.
As part of my research, pre-purchase, I – as a good thirty-something should – put the word out on social media, “I’d like to buy a good double stroller. Facebook, what are your thoughts?” The answers were mixed. Many simply advised me not to “waste my money,” including some of my older friends, parents of grown children. They justifiably e-rolled their eyes and in-my-dayed me. One thing was clear, most people hated the side-by-side double strollers for the amount of space they took up. One friend claimed his feet were once run over by a side-by-side double in a store. I felt bad for him for a minute. I swear. But, like the good Facebook friend that I am, I ignored everyone’s good advice and bought what I wanted.
In the end, I compared a lot of measurements and weights and wheel sizes and kid-weight limits and canopies and I bought one that suits us well. Mind you, I had to sell my expensive single stroller that I loved even more to buy the double. Oh, the sacrifice…What I didn’t anticipate was this jerk of a winter with all its damn salt that is now destroying my investment, but them’s the Canadian breaks, I guess.
In roaming the neighbourhood with my unpopular stroller, I have come up with some laws of responsible side-by-side double stroller owning.
- Share the sidewalk. Be aware of your fellow pedestrians and scooterers. It takes but a moment to give way to another person and 75% of the time, they will be delighted that you did so and smile at your beautiful babies. The other 25% of the time, that grumpy, confused, wig-wearing, sarong-in-the-middle-of-February-sporting man-woman will call you a strongly-worded name for which you will have to wash your childrens’ ears out with coal tar soap.
- Don’t spend all your dough on it. There are many people on Kijiji or Craigslist selling perfectly good used strollers that you can happily run into the ground… And then resell on Kijiji or Craigslist.
- Check and compare widths to make sure it fits through your own front door. There’s nothing more enjoyable than unloading two half-asleep, disoriented kids on your front porch in a minus twenty Polar Vortex. Also, if it fits through your front door that likely means that it fits through shop doors, but don’t count on it. Practice detachment if – no matter how hard you ram – you can’t fit through the door of the fancy purse store. You can’t afford a fancy purse anyway, you have two kids, and you just bought a massive stroller (unless you followed my advice in #2.) The good news is, usually, you can go virtually anywhere that is wheel chair accessible.
- Unless it is an emergency, don’t use your double stroller on public transit. If it’s rush hour, the most you can get away with is bringing it on folded up, but what kind of superwoman can drag a half-ton double stroller in one hand, wrestle a an excited three-year-old into a window seat at the very back of the streetcar with the other hand, while carrying a 21 pound baby and 40 pound diaper bag? There is already a large group of stroller-hating TTC users, don’t give them more fodder to feed their blackened, empathyless hearts.
So, if you see me out strolling with my boys, please don’t run or leap out of the way. Unless I’m lost in thought, imagining all the other wonderful things I could’ve spent all that double stroller dough on, I will likely smile and give you the right of way on Queen Street.