It was extremely crowded, and the sampling of humanity attending that day didn't exactly give an encouraging picture of the future.
Now, before anyone declares me horribly insensitive, let me state for the record that I understand that parenting is extremely tiring work. The people staffing the Tennessee Aquarium understand this as well. This is why they have a young man sitting in the hot sun armed with a PA system and a singular purpose: his job, all day, every day, once every fifteen minutes, is to inform those in attendance that the aquarium offers, free of charge, these very nifty and well-designed backpacks. The purpose of these sturdy-yet-light metal-framed wonders is twofold: it places the little darling up above eye level so that snookum-wookums can easily see the exhibits without the parent having to lift the little rascal every two seconds. Not to place a lack of emphasis on Junior's education in the wonders of aquatic life, but this solution also gets the little angels out of the way of other pedestrians and clears the ramps of stroller traffic.
Although the aquarium will gladly hold strollers and other belongings until visitors are ready to claim them, it seems some parents are unwilling to part with them. Now, they do get in the way tremendously, but I understand that they are a convenient way to transport children. I'm with that, and I can totally sympathize with that. I am willing to suffer the inconvenience as a pedestrian who is content in the knowledge that the human species is being perpetuated. Yay, fertility, rah-rah.
Where these people cross the line of my magnanimous patience and proceed to turn into Selfish Cretins is when there are no children in the strollers. Yep, they're rolling an empty cart. It's doing nothing but taking up space.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but it is my understanding that most of these ingenious technological marvels fold up. That day at the aquarium, progress ground to a dead stop, in part because of these nimrods. How much is it to ask that they take a minute and make it easier for the rest of us not to clot up in little knots trying to get around them by folding up the bloody stroller? I wanted to perform an immediate vasectomy in the interest of public service when I saw a father pushing an empty DOUBLE stroller, folded out for maximum lane congestion. I own a Swiss Army knife. It is a thing of great utility, and while it might not be up to the task of on-the-spot tubal ligation for the equally-offensive empty stroller mommies, I feel sure its functionality could include severing any number of vas deferens if the situation required it.
It's not like an alternate solution doesn't exist. On the contrary, it's actively encouraged by a young man on the plaza whose economic well-being depends on his heralding this officially-sanctioned option every quarter hour. Oh, I realize that some children are too large to fit in the nifty child backpacks. However, a congested ramp is not the place for free range chickens or free roaming toddlers. I do not have a problem with fully-occupied strollers. They have my blessing. Ditto for empty folded ones.
Fully-unfolded empty ones? Rude, inconsiderate parents, fear my wrath . . . and my Swiss Army knife.
Unfortunately, bad parenting wasn't restricted to those accompanying the preschool set. There were a couple of teenaged boys who were playing with the revolving door to the point of impeding the rest of us getting from point A to point B. The parents were right there, and didn't do a thing. Now, fortunately, they tired of this amusement and proceeded to catch up with their redneck progenitors just as we got to the door, but they'd been at it for a bit. I'm pretty sure the younger one had undiagnosed ADHD. No, that's not a criticism based on annoyance while observing poor parenting, it's based on analysis after three years working in a psych clinic. I felt sorry for him, because I know he could have a better life if his parents paid attention. It wasn't that they couldn't afford it, it was just that they clearly couldn't be bothered.
If you'll forgive the stereotyping, I would be quite surprised if these people weren't also redneck pro-life Southern Baptists complete with at least one truck. We were packed in tightly at points, and overhearing some of their conversation was unavoidable. I wasn't eavesdropping, but I got the impression that the beefy father was less interested in observing the flora and fauna and more interested in baiting a hook and casting it into the tank. Deductive reasoning at work.
Please forgive the sweeping generalization, but why is it that the ones who are most pro-breeding are so often the ones who can't seem to manage the offspring they produce?
Like my very wise mother has always said, don't have them if you're not going to take care of them.