Last week when we sat down on the train Nico decided that he desperately wanted, no, needed to touch the Japanese salaryman sitting next to us. I let him pat the man quickly on the sleeve in the hopes that this might quench his desire for just a bit. Unfortunately it did just the opposite and when he tried to touch a second time and I pulled his hand away, he screwed up his face with frustration and let out a piercing whine. Because it was definitely the sort of whine that promised more to come, I reevaluated the situation. Since I believe that Nico and I are usually seen as quite a charming pair and I’ve discovered that many people don’t actually mind being touched by a cute baby, I was hoping that this man might be one of them and that he’d let Nico fondle him all he wanted. The day before we’d ridden next to an elderly woman who was wearing a diamond pin which Nico coveted with all his little heart. He’d stretch out his hand repeatedly towards the pin but didn’t have long enough arms to reach it. Luckily the woman didn’t realize that she was being accosted by a 66 cm tall pickpocket and mistook his efforts as mere friendliness. She let him hold her finger and made kissy noises at him for the entire ride. He never did get his hands on the pin but everyone was more or less happy.
This man however, was clearly not in the mood to be touched by a drooling baby with bananas smeared all over his eyelids and he didn’t even crack a smile as Nico pathetically cried and lunged towards him only to be restrained by his frazzled and profusely apologizing mother. I began to hope that if I let Nico touch the man just one more time, he might lose interest and move onto his next target. Perhaps the teenage girl who was sitting on our other side and had a cellphone from which hung a variety of shiny sparkly Winnie the Pooh (or “Pooh-san” as he is known in these parts) trinkets which would tempt even the most jaded of babies. But no, Nico had his sites set on this drab looking man and while he seemed like a fairly unappealing creature to me, Nico apparently felt otherwise. I allowed him to touch the man’s sleeve once more but this time it wasn’t so easy to pull him away and I had to pry each little finger one by one from the man’s shirt cuff. The screams became even louder and more frantic. No, it was clear that nothing short of a full exploration of the man and all his possessions would satisfy him. From past experience I knew that this would entail a good slurp on the man’s jacket, a gnaw on his briefcase, a lengthly licking of his cellphone and a leisurely perusal of the inside of the man’s mouth and nostrils.
Since that was clearly out of the question, I had no choice but to get up and move, leaving a visibly relieved man behind. Nico on the other hand, was devastated and wailed as though I had just torn him from the soul-mate he’d been searching for all his life. I didn’t feel too badly though because he was just as attached to the scotch tape I’d tried unsuccessfully to pry from his hands a few hours before. “Nicolas,” I told him as I tried to calm him by holding him and then making a series of epileptic like jerks with my body, “You really shouldn’t have both scotch tape AND a businessman in one day and until you’re old enough to choose which is more important to you, you can’t have either one. Personally, I’d pick the tape”. Slightly faulty logic? Perhaps. But when your child is trying to attach himself to random strangers on public transportation, it’s time to pull out the big guns and if that means spouting nonsensical statements in your best wise-mommy tone of voice, well, that’s what you have to do. Besides, it’s true that I would definitely choose the tape.