Caveat Emptor

I now find that the bulk of my thinking time is taken up with impending thoughts of parenthood. It’s in this vein that we finally made a decision to start buying the baby some items that might be needed for its upcoming birth. It is three months to go and we’re finally getting “in the game”.

Now as a general rule, I hate shopping. I think most men do, except for the cases where they get to buy a new car, television, or the latest electronic gadget. I especially hate shopping, mostly because of the shoppers. But baby shopping is like regular shopping on crack. Hormone rattled mothers and beat-down fathers ogling over which car seat this, and which crib that. It’s shopping as competition. It’s human nature to keep up with the “Jones’”, its borderline insanity to keep up with the Jones’ baby.

Bearing that in mind, I am a welcome shopper on the internet. It’s comfortable, convenient, and readily absent of shoppers hyped up on their grande mocha’s with a double shot, prowling the aisles like Serengeti tigers waiting for their first real taste of blood. I don’t have to hear their phone calls to their mothers regarding the print or pattern and the functionality of the hanging diaper bag. And I certainly don’t have to hear about what color the baby’s room is and whether the present motif you are looking at would suit his/her tastes. There is only one “taste” that a child comes out with, and your significant other knows right where they are at…like two milk cans strapped to the front of her chest. The kid couldn’t care less about whether he/she has cows or giraffes, they care about the breasts. Motifs and themes are for parents. Any attempt to convince me otherwise is futile.

We scour the internet baby sites with no hopes or expectations. Our only real requirement is that it serves as something functional. It may look cool, but the fact of the matter is that if my kid can’t sleep in it, it doesn’t matter how many race cars it has on it. We’re bad parents already. We have no theme picked out for our son. We’re playing it by ear. How will my son know if he likes horses or cars, sports or music, if I don’t have a theme for his pre-life preparations?

We find an item that we liked. It’s called a Nursery Center, but it’s really a playpen and bassinet on steroids. It’s got more gadgets and gizmos that a full day at FAO Swartz. Now we just have to find where to buy it.

Apparently in the baby consumer world, the company that makes the item you want doesn’t actually make the item. They get it from a manufacturer. Now before you go and think I am giving you a remedial course on economics and consumerism, there’s a hitch. The company that “has” the item you want to buy doesn’t actually “have” the item to be purchased. You have to go to a “retailer” to purchase the item. So I am now at a site that neither makes nor sells the item that I want. What they do actually do remains a mystery.

We find a retailer that carries the item, from a link on the “company that neither makes nor sells” site. But the one and only retailer that the company chooses to sell the product that they do not make has a “dead link” (which means that the company that doesn’t make or sell the product has linked to a retailer that apparently doesn’t sell the item either). So I have now spent the better part of an hour looking for an item that a company doesn’t make and a retailer doesn’t sell. I’m beginning to think that maybe my time would have been better spent looking for the Holy Grail.

Back to square one. We find an alternate pattern, with the same features we were looking for in the other pattern (in the interest of self-disclosure, the “features” referred to are a diaper and storage keeper for her, an MP3 input for me). So we go searching for this present version of our now ever-growing obsession. The link from the site leads us to a retailer that carries the item, but is presently out of stock. I’m beginning to think that this search is a cruel joke to be played on expecting parents. I fully expect someone to leap out of the computer screen to tell us that this is just hazing for new parents and we will now be welcomed into the “fraternity”. We decide to call the retailer.

“Hi. I was just wondering when you might be expecting the item. I have the item number here if you need it.”, she says rolling her eyes, and I know the person on the other end of the phone has no idea what we are asking of her.

“So no idea then when it might be in stock?”

I see by her face, that the answer brings us no closer to the end of this saga.

“Well, what did they say?”, I ask hesitantly.

“Could be tomorrow, could be 8 weeks.”

Now I’m just frustrated.

“Call the company” I say.

The company answers after 3 rings. Not a great sign, but not a bad one. At least you get to talk to an actual human being. But then again, the human being is only as useful as the information it knows. And the human at the company…knows nothing. When I say nothing, I don’t mean anything useful, I mean NOTHING. The customer service rep has no idea what the order status is from the manufacturer, and no idea IF the retailer has even ordered anymore of the item. I want to strap a live cow into a trebuchet and launch it at light speed.

As a firm believer in the rules of baseball as they are applied to life, I figure three strikes and you are out. It’s a 0-2 count in the bottom of the ninth, and my batter is standing there with the bat on his shoulder. Swing for the fences.

We decide we like it enough (our own personal version of pre-parental insanity), to give it one more shot at the third pattern. At this point I’d settle for a bed made of oak branches and pine straw, with a gourd for a diaper holder. I’ll call it the “Cro-Magnon” line.

The third pattern is carried by a retailer and is in stock. It’s that fine line between seeing the batter take his cut, and not knowing if it will be a home-run, a double off the fences, or a fly ball snatched from the air for the third out.

She looks at me. I look at her. And suddenly a weight that Sisyphus would not be jealous of, sits on my chest like a petulant child. What if this is not the right one? What if my son is supposed to have another bed out there that he is predestined for? One that will challenge his awareness of life, and give him the character he needs to be a kind and loving human being. What if the giraffe mobile scares him? What if the color doesn’t match anything else that we buy for him?

“Let’s just get it”, she says.

“But what if it’s not THE one?”

“Gandhi is not sleeping in the bed, our son is.”, she replies as calm as a Hindu cow.

And I order it. Questions and apprehensions swirling in my head like the perfect storm. It’s done. It’s clicked. It’s on its way.

I need a break. I need to clear my head. This is important right? Isn’t every decision I make now going to affect my child for the rest of his life? This bed could be the impetus for my child’s scorned rage.

Then again…maybe it’s just a bed.

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