Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snug Ride

After weeks of calling and getting nothing but voice mail, O.P.P. Traffic Services finally returned our messages on the day after Carter and Nathaniel were born. There are no shortage of PSA's and guilt trip advertisements stressing the importance of a properly installed infant car seat, but there sure is a dearth of professionals willing to provide the service, at least in my recent experience.

Unable to talk to anyone in law enforcement (I had also tried 52 Division near Mt. Sinai), I went online and found a local fellow who identifies himself as "The Car Seat Guy". His website features earnest testimonials and much pontificating on the subject of child safety, etc., but when I called him, Mr. TCSG showed complete indifference to my request for his services, griped about having to come downtown to meet me (he asked if I could drive to his place in North York, but I explained the small matter that we were in the hospital with newborns!), reluctantly took my number and said he'd get back to me if he was in the area, and eventually did, but a day after he said he would originally. This didn't exactly inspire confidence in his self-professed expertise, so I ducked this loser...

I somehow managed to set up an appointment with a constable at 11 Division on nearby Hannah Street, only to have her cancel it, and reschedule to this morning. When I showed up promptly at 8 am at the precinct, the surly desk clerk scowled that the appointment was supposed to be 7:30 am, but relented when I offered to call my voice mail and replay the message requesting that I arrive "sometime between 8 and 8:30"...

Turns out my contact had called in sick, but in her place was the very friendly Constable Steve Burns (who just happens to have the same name as my brother-in-law). He ushered me into the garage, and promptly got the business at hand.

He was somewhat amazed--justifiably--at the size of my vehicle: a compact 1993 Mazda Z23 that while roomier-than-expected and efficient, was no one's definition of a "family friendly" vehicle. I'd tried to install the seat bases on my own, but could never get them tight enough. "It is a two person job" he admitted, plus, the seat buckles in the back were loose and had no means of being secured. The solution? To twist each one until it was tight--a maximum of three turns allowed by the Ministry Of Transportation. That did the trick--the belts snapped in, secured with a locking clip, and Constable Burns gave me a few more pointers:

1) the car seat must be back far enough from the front driver and passenger seats to allow for one hand to slip between them.

2) the straps securing the infant should allow for only one finger space (not two, as most documentation would tell us). Also, it's important not to overdress the baby in cold weather--the car heats up, finicky Toronto weather changes daily, and the little ones can get too hot.

3) blankets can be stuffed into the seat around the infant to provide additional anchoring.

4) we should test the harness' security by buckling in the babies, and holding them over a mattress or pillow to ensure they don't fall out, esp. since they're preemies and prone to slipping through the straps.

5) we should seriously consider investing in a larger, four-door vehicle in the near future, as our current wheels are seriously limited in terms of speedy accessibility. He recommended the Mazda 3 and 5...

With that, I left to brave the caravan of doom that is morning King Street West traffic, vowing to never drive again, and walk the babies home from the hospital instead...

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