Imagine if there were a market in seat belts (by this I mean a real market, not a niche for those who want to pretend to be Lewis Hamilton on their way to Morrisons).
You’d buy yourself your new motor, then trot along to one of the shops specialising in all things car-related. Or, perhaps, you’d try online. If you were that way inclined, you’d read up in user forums about other people’s seat belt preferences and stories. You’d look at your budget, your car, your lifestyle, your social aspirations and your girth, and then, having made your purchase, you’d spend achingly tedious hours trying to fit the thing, knowing all the time that if you get it wrong you may as well never have bothered. Oh, and you’d get rid of it every year or two.
Except, of course, you wouldn’t.
Why would anyone go to such ridiculous trouble to meet a simple need for safety? Cars come with seat belts fitted, obviously. End of story.
Until you have a baby.
Then, you enter the hell that is the Child Car Seat Decision. The brand. The compatibility The fitting mechanism (Isowhat?). The endless safety reviews. The cost (oh, the cost). All under the hanging Damoclean sword of fear that you’ll pick something which will fail adequately to protect your imminent little bundle in the event that you should crash.
And then, your arm sockets tell you that the bundle’s days in the hard-won infant carrier are over, and you move on to the Next Stage. (The stages, by the way, all have numbers; which, when written together, are code for “sucker”). The original choices are all still there, but joined by new ones to reflect your progression to Advanced Parenting. Rear facing? Forward? Harness or rest? Is your child actually ready (because someone at toddlers and your next door neighbour will have completely different takes on it)?
And then, some years down the line, you realise that you’re ferrying around, not only your own little darlings, but half the Beaver pack too, on a motley collection of battered old booster cushions. Oh, and you’re not quite sure what the rules are about airbags.
It’s a mess.
When I rule the world, there will be a state monopoly on carseats. Choice in infant purchases will be restricted to valid areas of consumer discretion, such as co-ordinating nursery accessories or scratch mitts (themselves surely invented by someone who didn’t find baby socks sufficiently challenging).
Car manufacturers will be obliged to conform to an industry standard on seats. Midwives will issue an infant carrier shortly after they cut the umbilical cord. Health visitors will upgrade to the next size when they are satisfied that the child is big enough, and teachers will have a look around the inside of the cars of all Reception new starters and dole out high-back boosters as and when required. Plus, they’ll all be fitted by professionals.
Think of all the time and hassle saved. Think of the number of seats which wouldn’t just be junked (where do they all go, anyway?)
It could never happen, of course.
But wouldn’t it be nice?