Like most parents, perhaps especially New York City parents, I spend my days gripped by sudden, irrational anxieties—the latest of which involves our daily ritual in the bowels of the subway system. This is how it goes:
It’s evening, and I’m bringing Sasha home from daycare. We patiently wait on the sidewalk outside the East Broadway F-train station until the stream of departing passengers ebbs, then—with an “Yi, er, san!” (“1, 2, 3!”)—I lift Sasha and her stroller and schlep it all down the stairs. This provokes a mild bit of sub-anxiety, when I contemplate the stroller suddenly and catastrophically collapsing, but that’s just a minor concern.
No, the real concern comes at the turnstile. If this were a modern subway system, or if the MTA could afford to staff its stations properly, I would have no anxiety. Instead, what I do is position Sasha directly in front of the emergency exit, then whip out my MetroCard, frantically swipe it, and rush inside to open the door and drag Sasha in. Every single time, though, comes a terror: What if she’s not there when I open the door? What if, in that instant when I erect a barrier—an easily traversable barrier—between us, someone snatches her?
I realize this is completely irrational, and flies in the face of my utter willingness to endanger her by putting her photos online, but there it is. It won’t happen, not least because running away with 30 or 40 pounds of baby and stroller is a move no kidnapper can pull off, and the stroller’s clumsy, awkward seat belt system ensures the evildoer couldn’t simply take the kid and leave the cannoli Maclaren.
But the fear remains, taking the place of all the other irrational fears I’ve meditated on when I should’ve been doing other things: the fear that South American guerrillas would invade my family’s home and drive me into the woods behind the barn, or the fear that a zombie plague would trap me in my apartment with a dwindling supply of fresh water. Compared with these nightmares, my F-train kidnapping scenario feels almost plausible, and gut-wrenchingly so.
Surely I can’t be the only one who experiences this, can I? And surely this phenomenon—the practiced drop and dash through the turnstile, with or without anxiety—has some catchy name?