One of our guidelines is:
“Take the second to last bus or train home. Never count on being able to get the very last bus. Always make sure you have a backup.”
You might look at that and think we are controlling– but underneath that guideline (like so many others) is a real story of disappointment.
About 4 months after my second daughter was born, my colleague and I won an incredibly prestigious research award, which was to be presented at a conference in Toronto. (We lived in Virginia at the time.) I hadn’t planned to attend the conference, since it would be such a production with an toddler and an infant, but my colleague insisted that I come. “You get something like this once in a lifetime,” she said. “And you simply can’t miss it.
My DH was also pretty excited to be invited to the schmancy reception, so we made plans to go as a family. And, we planned to take our au pair. I wanted to be able to enjoy myself at the reception, and not worry about wearing my babygirl and sneaking into a corner to nurse her to keep her contented. Our au pair could watch the girls during the reception, and my husband would come with me and take a few photos for my scrapbook. During the day, our au pair could explore Toronto.
The reception was at 6, and our au pair was due back at 5 so that I could shower and get all glamorous in the way that professors get glamorous (which takes a bit of time, as you might imagine). But at 5 o’clock, our au pair had not returned. At 5:30, she still wasn’t back. At 5:45 I’d started to feel sick, and then she called from the first pay phone she could figure out how to use. (This was before cell phones were common).
Our au pair was at Niagara Falls. She’d missed the bus that she needed to take to get back to Toronto by 5. The next bus would get her back by 7:30.
My DH changed out of his suit, and settled in to watch the girls. I went to the awards ceremony alone.
The moral of the story
After this experience, we came up with the guideline of “Second to last bus”. If the last bus you could take would leave at 3:30 to get you home by 5:00, you were to take the 2:30 bus to get back by 4:00. That way, if you missed the 2:30 bus (or if the bus itself was late), there would still be a good chance that you’d be back in time.