Attack of the Mega-Strollers

Chicago Tribune’s RedEye April 22, 2010

The sun is shining, the trees are budding, Chicagoans everywhere are shedding their winter coats and coming out of hibernation. Spring is (timidly) coming into focus and the sidewalks are suddenly thick with a plague more plentiful than a zombie outbreak and more annoying than Rod Blagojevich: enormous strollers. It seems that, overnight, parents ditched streamlined, fold-able strollers for baby buggies so obnoxiously huge they rival SUVs.
Like an ant that wandered into a radioactive lab in a ’50s movie, strollers have blown up to monstrous proportions. There’s a war out there. It’s being fought on sidewalks, in crowded “L” cars and in malls with even the widest of aisles. Baby carriages have been supersized– and you had better get out of the way.
Allow me to pause here and assert that not all parents are sidewalk hogs. The ones I’m after plow through innocent bystanders with a sneeringly passive-aggressive “EXCUSE ME!” and an eye roll.
The wheeled behemoths seem to have a hypnotic effect on the parents who helm them. The bigger they are, the more of a right parents seem to think they have to most of the sidewalk. They’ve turned pedestrians into that doomed amphibian in a real-life game of “Frogger.” God help you if you’re faced with the dreaded double-wide strollers.
Gargantuan strollers have become symbols of ridiculous yuppie decadence, and their price tags can climb to more than $1,000. The already unwieldy baby buggies are made even more so as the parents pack them full of baby essentials. These strollers resemble the Joad family’s truck, piled high with every possession they own spilling out as they migrate west looking for work.
But these baby carriages aren’t fleeing to California to pick oranges; they’re only going to the corner Starbucks. Diaper bags hang off the handles, multiple cup holders are filled with sticky sippy cups, toys are shoved underneath the seat and the stroller’s nylon storage pockets swell to resemble cancerous-looking growths full of binkies, tubes of sunscreen and tiny pairs of socks. I half expect the newest Bugaboo model to come with a Gatling gun option on the off chance that the apocalypse arrives on the return journey from Trader Joe’s.
Sometimes, the wretched parent isn’t even pushing his or her charge. The parent is carrying the baby in a sling or pulling the toddler by the hand. As I dodge to get out of their way, I sneak a peek inside the massive carriage only to see it is holding dry cleaning.
The battle of stroller bloat rages on with no end in sight. The cavalry of over-the-top strollers grows as my fellow childless pedestrians are forced into the street by colossal carriages and left clutching our sore ankles post-accidental-buggy-bash. We’re tired of being pinned against an “L” car’s wall by clueless babies and their pretending-to-be-clueless parents. We need a downsizing revolution.