What About This? By Wayne William Cipriano

Left Shoe Off!

I’ve written about this before and it is worthwhile repeating. “Left shoe off” is a protective strategy that will help us remember we have little kids in the car with us who can be injured or worse if left in a parked car for a surprisingly short amount of time in the summer.

It is as simple as it sounds: whenever we have a child in the car with us who is too young to understand how to operate a car door, or is restrained or otherwise unable to open a car door, we just slip off our left shoe when we get behind the wheel.

I heard the other day that so far this year more than 31 kids had died when left in overheated, parked cars. In a country of three hundred twenty million residents, 31 doesn’t seem like such a big number – unless your kid was one of the 31, and even more significant if you were the one who left the kid in the car. Thirty-one died, but how many did not? How many were rememberd just in time? Before a horrible ending? We sure wouldn’t hear about that almost-tragedy, would we? No one is going to admit they almost did such a terrible thing, are they?

I’ve seen some “tele-experiments” (to coin a phrase) where the temperature of the interior of a parked car with the windows rolled up during a hot summer day was recorded – but we all know how that happens when we return to our car in the parking lot at the mall and get burned by every surface: seats, steering wheel, arm rests, window ledges, door handles. And I’ve heard how little kids are much more susceptible to heat damage than adults; I think it has something to do with reduced body surface area and perhaps fewer  and less active sweat glands, something like that, but whatever the reason, kids get wasted by the heat much more quickly than we do.

There are, of course, other protective strategies we can employ: untie our left boot lace and leave it dangling loose; leave our purse in the kid’s lap; one I just thought of is leaving a spring-type clothes pin attached to the kid’s carseat and clip it to my shirt cuff when I drop the kid in the seat. I am sure you can think of several others, if you don’t like these (Left Shoe Off, might, for example, be a problem if you drive stick shift with a clutch) but DO SOMETHING!

Keep in mind that we will step out of the car occasionally putting our bare feet on the pavement, or notice that clothes pin, missing purse, loose bootlace, and then, in a flash, remember that well-behaved sleeping kid in the back, and look around to see if anyone noticed. But many, many, many times, we will be inconvenienced by our strategies unnecessarily – we weren’t forgetting the kid. But, aren’t those inconveniences a wonderfully small price to pay for the one time we would have left the kid in a carseat on a hot day because we were so very busy, and it wasn’t our normal routine, and we were distracted by a work problem, and the kid was so well-behaved and dropped off to sleep the second we began to drive…?

I guess I have to mention a legal thing here, although it galls me to do so. I think there are some jurisdictions in the United States of America (maybe in all?) where driving a car without shoes is illegal. I suppose if our car got stopped by police and our left shoe off was noticed, we’d be in some trouble. But I cannot believe any police person worthy of the badge they wear would have anything but praise for us when we explained why that shoe was off. And that would go double, triple for any police who had ever faced the tragedy of a child injured, or worse, after being left in an overheated car.

Loose bootlaces, purse in the back, clothes pin, left shoe, something, anything that would serve to remind us there is a munchkin in the back of the car that I might forget would be so much more preferable to the entire life of regret I’d face if, just that once, I failed to remember the kid.

LEFT SHOE OFF, EVERYTIME!