Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Making whoopee

When I returned to work after my six-year-old was born, I automatically became one of those mothers who are convinced they would be infinitely happier at home. These mothers think that quitting work would rub away the years on their face and boost both the IQ and life-chances of teenie-tinies who do not yet know how to cut up their own food.

My work-station consolation was a silver-framed, happy days photograph of the children and the thought of a patient and loving nanny at home who cared for my children with greater efficiency and better humour than I ever did. We saw our former nanny during the weekend in London and, about the moment she gave the children whoopee cushions, I went off her. Whoopee cushions - there is a good toy for the train especially when your husband insists you sit in the quiet coach because the other carriages are so busy.

The "quiet coach" has signs which dictate the terms of the peace: no mobile phone calls; electronic equipment to be used in silent mode and "chatting" (a past-time the railway company obviously does not approve of) to be done "quietly and with consideration for others." As my husband pointed out, the signs said nothing about whoopee cushions.

We took up our seats, blew up the cushions and the party began. "Daddy, daddy, listen." The whoopee cushions did their job. A gift, as they say, which just kept giving. It gave so loudly and with such ferocity that one of them popped and the boys were forced instead to decorate their baby sister with googly bloodshot eyeballs, drooping in brass loops from black plastic spectacles. Another gift from the ex-nanny who does not have to live with that picture in her head.

I heard the slightest "tut" as a fellow passenger in court shoes and a neat business suit marched by our mobile joke shop on her way to the buffet. She met my eye and glared. I looked at the boys realising with sharp horror that she was not just tutting at the grotesquery of the babe and the tomfoolery of my sons. How do you explain to a stranger who despises you that your children have not just spent 55 minutes burping their little bottoms off? Which is worse: "I'm so sorry my children are inveterate bottom burpers," or "I'm so sorry, I let my children play with whoopee cushions in the quiet coach. Shoot me now but put a silencer on the gun first."


dexey said...

What it boils down to is that you and your husband deliberately sat in the quiet coach and allowed your children to make enough noise that it disturbed other coach users.
Seems a selfish attitude to me.

Sophie said...

Don't be so limp-wristed. Here's a novel idea: just tell your children to behave, take the whoopee cushions away and give them something else to concentrate on. It's really not that hard, and much nicer for everybody else. L'enfer, c'est les enfants des autres, or something like that.

Anonymous said...

What the heck is the point of having a 'quiet carriage' if people like you think you are above all that and sit there anyway ?

Of course, if you were travelling alone and someone was playing their mp3 player in the quiet carriage at full volume, I suspect you would be the first to be sanctimonious and complain. Inconsiderate bat.

Anonymous said...

my husband said 'it says nothing about whoopee cushions'.

Is he even more stupid than you ?

I get royally pissed off when on the 'quiet carriage' [the clue is in the title, folks!] and people will try and use any excuse to make a racket.

'It only says 'mobile free', nothing about laptops'

'It says mobile free, nothing about having a business meeting that can be heard three carriages away'

What ever happened to consideration for others ? Which part of 'Quiet Coach' don't you understand ? Why do you think they have 'family coaches' on the bloody trains ?

wife in the north said...

I could give you the spin and tell you how my children sat there in mute silence, broken only by the sound of their felt-tips in their little colouringbooks or I could let you into my real world where real people live - including me - and occasionally (make that quite often) act with immense stupidity. Not everything I am going to tell you is going to put me in the best light. Is it better not to take you into those moments?

Anonymous said...

oh god, she is telling us about her life, not asking us to disect and ridecule it. I think of it as observing from afar. If it was advice she was looking for I am sure that she would write to an advice column. I know that Hillary Clinton said that "it takes a village to raise a child" but please let this nice lady and her husband have a go at it on their own.

Anonymous said...

The Guardian had a feature today on the 'Most irritating noises' and the whoopee cushion was number 7 in the top 10. Vomiting was the number 1.

Anonymous said...

Some of these people need to meet some real children. real children are enuthusiastic, full of energy, fractious and love/hate their siblings in equal measure. They also can behave wonderfully and with great love and respect but not all the time.