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Larry Penkava: Where's a rocket scientist when you need one?

I didn’t sign up for this.


When I retired, there was no such clause in the contract. The Union of Senior Retirees had no mention of it in its Guide to Life After Work. 


In the 50 college courses I took, none of my instructors referenced such a topic. And my experience as a father gave me no insight into the technology.


In fact, there was no such technology when we were bringing up our three daughters.


When we began having grandkids, there were stirrings in the world of science to advance the safety of children riding in vehicles. Those new products were called child seats.


When our daughters were little, we either held them in our laps or tried fitting them with adult seatbelts. Then there was the rudimentary effort of a child seat that hooked onto the back of the passenger seat and “protected” our daughter with a three-sided bar that came down in front of her. She would have been safer sitting on the floorboard of the back seat.


By the time our grandchildren came along, the state began passing laws standardizing child seats. They had to face the rear until the child reached a certain size, then they could face forward.


What the state laws didn’t mandate was making the child seats practical to install and adjust. 


So, why should I be concerned about such matters when my children are all in their 40s, well beyond the age and weight of being under the protocols of child seat regulations?


Ah, there’s the rub. Even at my advanced age, child seats remain standard equipment in our family car.


We used car seats occasionally with our grandkids. Now that some of them have children of their own, the seats continue to be used more than ever.


Don’t get me wrong. I love our great-grandkids just as much — probably more — than our grands. Maybe that’s because they’re with us more.


I’d always heard that when you became grandparents, you had the young ’uns for a couple of hours and then they went home. I had no idea that “home” was where I lived.


But I exaggerate. We, as retired folks, provide safe shelter for the great-grands whenever the parents are working.


The gist of all this is that, as retirees, we eat lunch out most days and on many of those days we have great-grandkids with us. Now, nearly-5-year-old Ava is big enough that she can use a booster seat. She sits on the booster and I wrap the shoulder harness around her, legally.


Evie, at 2 years old, is small for her age, although her spunk is as large as they come. Anyway, she is still supposed to ride facing the rear.


That’s where the problem comes in. The child seat we have is facing forward, therefore requiring me to do some re-arranging for Evie.


If you’ve ever dealt with child seats, you will agree that the engineering is anything but user friendly. In order to secure the seat facing forward, you have to take the shoulder harness and reach it through a channel at the back of the seat and, while performing Houdini-like contortions, attempt to grab the metal end with the other hand and lock it into the seatbelt thingy where it fastens.


Well, with Evie required to face the rear, I had to undo the seatbelt and then turn the child seat around. I found the directions in graphic form on the side of the child seat. It was supposedly telling me how to adjust the seat.


The diagram showed the shoulder belt being attached to the front of the seat (which is now facing the rear). But, for the life of me, I couldn’t find anything on the seat that looked like something I could attach the seatbelt to. 


In frustration, I turned the seat around to face the front, did the contortions that would challenge a champion gymnast to refasten it with the shoulder harness, placed Evie in the seat and secured her in.


Please don’t tell law enforcement that I’m driving Evie around illegally. It’s just that nobody in the 21st century has found a way to make child seat installation as easy as, say, brain surgery.


I guess I should get on YouTube and do a search for “Installing child seats without pulling your hair out.”


Meanwhile, there should be a disclaimer on child seats advising that the installer should have flexible joints and a calm demeanor.


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.