Steve published a short one the other day about a practice that the US Postal Service observed a hundred or so years ago of mailing children. Sounds preposterous, doesn't it?
This was well before my time, but I've been searching my memory banks to see if I had even heard about this. Some very dim memory, perhaps, but nothing concrete enough to relate in any detail.
Reading his post, however, reminded me of a time when I was driving a taxicab and was dispatched to an apartment complex. I was given a woman's name as the passenger.
When I arrived, she was waiting outside carrying a baby - just a few months old. She immediately opened the front passenger door, placed the baby (who was now sitting up) on the front seat and strapped him in. Then she gave me a piece of paper with the destination address. I was to be paid at the other end.
I was in such a state of shock, I think, that I simply drove away. The baby never took his large luminous eyes off of me the whole trip. Didn't cry. Didn't laugh or even gurgle a little. Never uttered a sound. Just watched me.
I remember being so nervous about that trip. What if I had an accident? What if the baby started screaming? What if he had the world's most tremendous bowel movement and it went all over the place? What if no one was there at the other end to receive him? What if I got stopped by the police? What if some irate relative tailed me the whole way, ready to beat me up at the other end for abducting their son, younger brother, nephew, whatever?
Well, I got to the destination safely with none of the above happening, someone was there to take the baby and I got paid. What a relief!
It was the only time in my nearly 18 years of driving a taxicab that something like that happened. That occurred fairly early on in my professional driving career. A few years later, the state laws changed - no child could ride in the front passenger seat, even in a taxicab, unless they were fourteen years old - and she would have had to place him in the back seat, all alone. I wonder how that would have gone over?
Would you have allowed your baby to be picked up by a Yellow Cab driver, a complete stranger, and trusted that your loved one would be safely delivered to another person?
Well, that's exactly what people expected the US Postal Service to do, isn't it? Meanwhile, en route, who fed the baby? Who changed its diapers? Who burped it? Who held it? My goodness, the questions that come to mind!
Go to Stamperdad's post, linked above, for a bit more information on the history of mailing children. As an added bonus, he includes a photograph (from the Smithsonian archives) taken in 1913.