My cousin Patti had come to visit us in London awhile ago when the twins were still rather small. Despite being in the midst of a flare-up of my autoimmune disease I felt that playing hostess was the 'right thing to do' and took her out for an 8km walk down London's South Bank on the Thames, pushing the twins along in their giant beast of a stroller.
Overdo it? Me? Nah. I've spent the last two years feeling as though I'd 'overdone it' just by getting properly dressed in the morning. I needed to live a little and hey, I could sleep all through the next day if I had to. So off we went, me heaving away pushing my beast of a stroller and Patti effortlessly prancing around the Christmas market like an over stimulated hippie at woodstock.
'I'm fine!' I kept assuring her. I was lying. I was breathing again like a wounded, asthmatic hippopotamus but kept pointing out lit up iconic sites of London to distract her. She'd feel bad.
And probably try to put me in the stroller.
By the time we had more or less finished our tour of the South Bank and I had wrestled my beast of a stroller through a tiny health food store I'd had enough - I was done. We needed to just call it a night and go home. Directions to the nearest tube station brought us to London Bridge which, being a tourist area, thankfully had an elevator from street level to tube level.
So we got on, and headed home.
The train itself was fine - but things went downhill quickly at our first line change. There was no elevator. Just a set of long and winding circular stairs down to the next level. Okay fine, we could do this. We just had to power through. I'd seen Paul pick up the giant stroller before and he seemed to do just fine, surely I could too.
God no. No no no no no. I picked that thing up, waving off Patti's offers of help. I tried shifting it. I tried dragging it down the stairs (too dangerous). I tried balancing it on a hip, only to confirm that I am now too round to actually have hips. Nobody was offering to help us with this thing, clearly we were about to maim two innocent toddlers. But I guess it's a London thing.
We even had a line up of passengers behind us tsking and scoffing and trying to squeeze by. Alright, we had to get down those stairs. Something had to be done.
I took a deep breath, grit my teeth, grabbed the gigantic stroller holding my children and heaved, clutching the double stroller to my middle and powering down those stairs. Patti asked if I was okay but I couldn't speak, too focused. I was like the Hulk. Just get out of my way!
I reached the bottom and threw down the stroller, ready to collapse and die on the floor of the tube station but weary of the rats, the twins squealing for us to go down the stairs again. Like hell.
We got onto the next train and I was able to rest for a few stops before coming to Tottenham Court Road - yet another station without an elevator. It did, however, have an escalator. I was far too tired to Hulk-Rage up some more stairs with the double stroller. I was going to go for it.
There is a reason that you aren't supposed to take strollers down escalators. A reason!
We got to the top of the escalator and looked down, this was a particularly steep one. I was not feeling very strong. Best to take the children out of the stroller to do this. But... they were twins.
Patti, not being overly comfortable holding squirming toddlers, took one. She was nervous about it. I was nervous about it and told my baby to hang onto Patti for dear life, just in case. See, Patti is the kind of person in which things just happen to. Left alone for a moment on an escalator with one of my children on the London underground she would surely be attacked by something completely random and out of place like a small bear wielding a didjeridoo.
Okay. There was a line starting to form of people behind us. Patti was holding one child and I was holding the other while gripping the stroller behind me. I was having horrible visions of just how badly this was about to go.
Suddenly Patti was off, she went for it! I was left standing at the top of the steep escalator holding a baby and a giant pushchair and causing a hold up - not wanting to let Patti get too far I took a step onto the escalator and went for it, holding onto the giant stroller with one hand behind me and my baby in the other.
And then everything went horribly wrong.
I felt a tug and the stroller was yanked out of my hand - it was so long and so large that a part of it had caught on the entryway to the escalator and tipped backward, falling to the ground and blocking off the entire escalator like a gigantic Graco barricade. Oh my God. It started kind of rolling over itself at the top of the escalator with a huge crowd of people piling up behind it - some of them were already on the escalator's moving stairs but couldn't get off due to the pushing crowd behind them. I stood there in shock as I traveled downward with my baby and without my stroller, watching dumbstruck as a man tried to jump my rolling stroller of death but failed, falling over it and being pulled back up by the crowd.
I had no choice. I had to go get my stroller.
And so I started running. UP the escalator. With my baby and Patti now nearly at the bottom. It was the slowest run of all time - a heaving, rather large woman powering up the down escalator holding a laughing baby and shouting frantic apologies to the angry mob above.
I finally, finally made it to the top and could barely breathe, bending down to tug the rolling stroller free. This thing had a mind of its own and was twisting and turning, clearly out for blood and mass destruction. I pleaded with the crowd for help but nobody moved - they were all riveted by the ridiculous drama before them and the out of breath mother trying to free the stroller of doom as it writhed around. I was darting my hand in and out of there trying to make a grab as it lunged at me with its wheels. A cup holder flew off into the abyss over the rail and we all watched it soar. I was still running on the damn escalator, trying to get a good hold so I could yank it free.
A man pushed through the crowd and started kicking the stroller in an attempt to dislodge it - no regard whatsoever as to what would happen if it went suddenly flying toward me and my child. I held up my hands to stop him and he jumped like a damn gazelle over the stroller and to my side, turning in the air. He must have been a dancer. He pushed me to the side, grabbed the twisting stroller and gave a great heave - dislodging it in a single go to the cheers of the crowd.
He then handed me the handle of my stroller as it lay, defeated, vertically across 4 steps as the escalator carried us slowly down to Patti and the gaping crowd below.
That was the longest escalator ride of my life.