Like a lot of people, my first reaction was, “How can anyone
forget a baby?” But then I remembered a story from the early
At that time, I had a cat named Geoffrey. I
thought he should be an indoor cat, but he wanted to be an
outdoor cat enough that in spite of how much bigger, stronger,
and smarter I was than he was, he quite often got out the door
when I got home.
He didn’t want to be outdoors for very long at a time, and he
seemed to have a healthy fear of cars, so nothing very terrible
ever happened because of this — he would prowl around for half
an hour or so and then come sit by the front door and wait for
me to open it. I had the pet owner’s physical sense of where
Geoffrey was in relationship to me, so I always remembered to go
open the door a half an hour after this.
But one night, when the temperature was in the teens and headed
down to the single digits, I got home to a full answering
machine of messages I needed to do things about. I handled them
as well as I could, and tumbled into bed.
I think it was about 3 PM that I woke up to the sounds of a
very indignant cat outside on my front steps, and realized that
I had completely forgotten to let Geoffrey in.
I think I took this as a sign that I was trying to do too much,
and that this incident was one of many that led to my resigning
as chair of my neighborhood association, which had been the
source of all the answering machine messages.
But in any case, this happening gives me more sympathy for the
parents who somehow got their mental wiring screwed up enough to
forget a baby in a locked car on a hot day.
Thinking about this on my walk with Sunny this morning, I can
think of several reasons why this baby-baking phenomenon is
happening more often now than it used to:
- More people trying to do too many things at once. You can
make a case that just having a baby in this era is already too
many things at once.
- The technical problem alluded to in the article, where
current thinking on physical safety of babies in cars leads to
the car seat being in the back seat with the baby facing the
rear of the car, that is, away from the driver.
- Increased worry about security leading people to leave their
cars locked with all the windows closed as a general rule. I’m
sure when I was growing up (before most cars had air
conditioning), most people left some windows open when they left
their car on a hot day. When I leave Sunny in the car, which I
try to avoid on days that are particularly cold or hot, I always
leave two windows open several inches. Of course, he looks like
a pretty formidable watchdog, even if he’s mostly retired these days.