This morning, as I left my apartment, I bumped into an upstairs neighbour whom I’d never met previously. He was carrying his baby daughter downstairs. I joined them on the staircase just outside the apartment. As we neared the front door he turned to me and said: “Is it OK if I ask you for a favour?” I figured he needed me to open the door for him, seeing how his arms were occupied with the whole baby-holding business.
I nodded, at which point he said the following:
“I’ve left the stroller in the apartment. Do you mind holding my daughter for a few moments while I run upstairs and get it?”
For a second I wanted to mess with his head by rolling my eyes wildly in their sockets, exclaiming “Yes! Yeeeesss! We would love to hold our precioussss!” and laughing maniacally. Instead, I calmly took the girl from him and held her for a minute or two until the father returned with the stroller. Boring, I know. He thanked me and we all went about our day.
As I continued my journey to work I started thinking, which is an activity I don’t really enjoy, yet am forced to engage in more often than I’d like. I thought:
“Wow, that’s a pretty brave guy. Handing his daughter to a complete stranger, with no witnesses around. Sure, I appear to be his downstairs neighbour, but what if I’m just a guest of his actual neighbours? What if my exact plan is to hang around apartment buildings waiting for hapless parents to forget their strollers? An extremely ineffective plan, but what if? What an irresponsible father, handing his baby over to a random, even if dashingly handsome and silky-voiced, man!”
Immediately following that, I thought:
“Wait a second? Why should this be so weird? Can’t a human being trust another human being with a third mini human being anymore? How did we become a society where being paranoid, cynical and mistrusting of others is the norm? I’m sure some people would crucify this man for leaving his child alone with a stranger, but why? Is he wrong to assume other people are decent? Isn’t this a bit of a heavy subject matter to mull over on a train to work? Get a life, Daniel!”
And immediately after that:
“That may be true, but would I leave my yet-unborn hypothetical child with a random person in this situation? Hell no, I wouldn’t even leave my child alone with myself. I tend to drop things, like, all the time! What was he thinking?”
This internal monologue continued until the moment I caught everyone on the train staring at me and realised I had been wrong about the “internal” part at the beginning of this sentence.
What I’ve learned from the thought exercise is this:
1. I can’t make up my mind on any issue that extends beyond picking a type of bread to make my sandwich with.
2. I should probably consult somebody about that whole “talking to myself in public” thing.
3. This is too divisive a topic to be adequately explored by a man playing Devil’s advocate in his own head for five minutes.
What do the rest of you think? Would you be OK with a stranger looking after your child in this situation? Is the father the embodiment of all evil? Is this even worthy of discussion? Most importantly: is Daniel a dashingly handsome and silky-voiced man?