“Baby on the belt number 5, baby on belt number 5,” a husky TSA security guard barked into his walkie-talkie as I was clearing the lane for my departing flight.
Over one line, a young mother struggled to get her 6-month-old chunky boy positioned into his baby seat. Mom had balanced the seat unsteadily on the rollers just beyond the moving belt. Juggling suitcases, coats, shoes, grey bins and the big baby, busy Mom did not notice that oncoming luggage aimed to bump and dislodge both seat and baby – who was flailing and unbuckled.
“Baby on the belt, number 5,” the TSA agent barked one more time bringing belt number 5 to an abrupt stop and a wave of people to help buckle up and move chunky baby off of number 5.
“Whew,” I mumbled, “nice move everyone,” instantly recalling a large sign flashed recently in my face. Waved by a loud, green-haired, multi-pierced, pissed off young woman at a demonstration, the gal and her black bold lettering declared:
Women Are Not Incubators
Staring at the baby on the belt, I imagined the sign I’d give the angry young woman to wave:
Women Are Incubators & You Are Going to Help Like It or Not
To “incubate” is to regulate the environment, to provide conditions, protection and care that allow an organism to grow and develop properly. Women, like it or not, tend to serve this role with respect to their babies with a natural talent. Men most certainly can take on the incubating role but the near-unanimous observation is that they do this function differently and, often, not as well. What we expect of men, and others around us, is to help and support us as we incubate the young.
Mom’s near miss on TSA belt number 5 is what, after all, we women expect and demand of the world. We expect and demand that others around us take notice that we hold in trust the future of humanity. Babies, after all, grow up to be humans – and somebody has to incubate those babies, keeping them safe in a busy, fast paced world not designed for them.
If luggage had knocked boy baby off belt number 5, TSA would have had hell to pay to Mom who, doing her job, fully and righteously expects everyone in the vicinity to support her. Her expectations and demands as the primary incubator of the baby not only dictate what Mom does going through TSA but, as importantly, imposes responsibilities upon TSA and everyone else going through security with her.
Women serve this role not only for babies but also for adults acting like babies. Women, in fact, incubate all of humanity with concern for nurturing, caring and empathy. We are called to this role even when we really don’t want to.
I live in San Francisco and take a daily walk. I typically wear a visor, sunglasses and earphones blasting Talking Heads, Tim McGraw and Amy Winehouse. I walk briskly and don’t wait for stoplights. I don’t make eye contact with other pedestrians and I most certainly do not stop to pet the hordes of dogs this city adores. I like to think of the time as my alone time.
But it never is. Nine walks out of 10, cars, pedestrians and even bicycle riders draw alongside me, point at my earphones (a hand signal for “You need to listen to me”) and proceed to ask, “Where is the nearest bathroom?” or “Is there a bus stop nearby?” or “We’re looking for someplace yummy to eat. What do you recommend?”
I Am A Walking Incubator Like it or Not.
Often, to be honest, I feel a tad resentful of the interruption. Inevitably, there is any number of men or couples or teenagers in the exact same vicinity of me, but no one stops them. The lost are riding around looking for a mature, motherly looking woman, preferably doing “nothing,” so they can say, “Help me.”
And I do. I push aside my annoyance, look at the trusting face needing some gentle directions and start telling them the best route to get where they want to go. I am after all an incubator for this ratty species called human. That’s why a car with 4 20ish young men recently stopped me in the Presidio … pointed at my ear phones … and then asked in embarrassed spurt and starts, “Where are the, you know right, the buffalo? This is San Francisco … and there are buffalo, right?”
Their trust that I would help them was so lovely, so ridiculous, that I had to make myself stop laughing as I leaned in the car window and said, “yes, but you are in the Presidio and the buffalo are in Golden Gate Park, my dears.” I watched them drive away following the directions I’d just given them. I’d done my part. For that, I hoped they’d do their part one day when they noticed a “baby on the belt,” a big baby in danger on belt number 5, like it or not.