We just got back from an amazing vacation. There are lots of stories of sun and sand and sweet chubby baby thighs, but first, a detour to a ramshackle local car rental agency in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the middle of the night, where we met with a tiny bump in the road.
In the weeks leading up to the trip, I had been obsessed with the issue of whether to bring or rent a car seat, now that we’re no longer using the easy-to-carry infant sized seat. Obsessed. Talked about it all the time, with friends, with casual acquaintances, with my therapist.
The deal was, that though car rental agencies offer them as an upgrade to your rental, I was terrified of giving up the control of bringing our own. I was afraid that we’d arrive late in the evening (our scheduled arrival time was 9:30 pm), and there wouldn’t be a car seat, or it would be the wrong size, or it would be broken. It would be the middle of the night and we’d be stuck in Puerto Rico, unable to remove our child from the car rental agency and unable to come up with an alternate plan.
Sandy talked me down, convinced me that lugging our own through the airport was way more trouble than it was worth. The thing weighs over ten pounds and is bulky and awkward, and we were going to be carrying on all our luggage as well. We both called the car agency to double-check that they’d have a seat. “Don’t worry about it!” one guy told Sandy. “We’ve got too many car seats!”
After a three hour delay (aside: holy shit, our magic baby weathered seven hours on an airplane with great aplomb), we arrived at the car rental agency close to 1:00 am. At which point, everything began to go as if the rental agent was doing a skit called “Sarah’s Car Seat-Related Anxieties!”
The guy went in the back room to get the car seat. When he came back he announced, “it’s really dirty, so, no charge!” It was really dirty. Filthy. Also: broken. Totally broken. Could not be buckled.
So off he went, scouring the agency and its parking lot for car seats, and each time returned with a different unworkable option. This one was too big. This one too small. This one too broken. Minutes ticked by.
Then, miracle of miracles, just as I was starting to take deep breaths to keep the anxiety at bay, he marched back in with a perfectly serviceable car seat in the correct size. And we all lived happily ever after.
I’m trying to sort out what psychological lesson to learn from the whole experience, and I think it’s this: that while things often are exactly as bad as you feared they would be, they’re usually only that bad for a really short amount of time. Then, you figure it out, resolve it, and move on.