Noe Valley Voice April 2002

Buggy Mishap Throws Baby Out With Bathwater

By the San Francisco Herel-Tribune

The sidewalk in front of Small Fries is expected to remain closed for at least a year as city crews sweep up after a 15-pram pileup caused by yesterday's dense fog, said Rhodes Block, spokesman for the Department of Public Works.

"I've got to say, I've never seen anything like this," said Block, sorting through a box of debris in the parking lot of Bell Market this morning in search of a lost "binky."

No one was hurt in the accident, which occurred shortly before 4 p.m. on April 1, and was attributed by police to the carpet of fog that blanketed 24th Street in the afternoon.

"We've got unclaimed pacifiers, bottles, blankies, hankies, switchblades, Nuks,... and look," Block said, unraveling a baby-blue blanket, "one unclaimed bundle of joy."

The startled infant in question promptly burped and bit Block's finger.

"We were lucky to reunite about half of the babies involved with their proper parents right away," he said. "I'm confident that in the coming weeks, the ownership issue will sort itself out."

Block noted that many of the families involved also owned dogs, which are adept at sniffing out strangers and will be more curious about a baby who was brought home in error.

"Sometimes parents get confused," he said. "Babies are almost all smallish and bald, they all say 'goo,' and they all tend to look like either Truman Capote or Genghis Khan."

Police said the accident happened when June Cleaver, mother of Noe Street septuplets, stopped her six-seater stroller to admire the pink fur-footed Versace jammies in the window of Small Fries. "I was just wondering if they came in my size," she claimed.

Moments later, Cleaver told police, she heard a crash and saw that her neighbor had rammed her stroller-utility-vehicle with another pram. When she reached to untangle the two, she tripped over a baby bottle of tofu-apricot juice that had fallen from one of the buggies.

"It was mayhem. Stroller after stroller just piled up," Cleaver said in an interview this morning, covering her ears as if she could still hear the zweiback crumbling and babies laughing.

"There was even a small dog, a tiny thing no bigger than my fist, at least I think it was a dog...anyway it got trapped under one of the stroller hoods," she said. "I was sure the Fire Department would have to use the Jaws of Life."

Police Capt. Noah Nahnzens said the skidmarks reached clear back to the Coyote Club. He quickly added, "There's no sign that any of the stroller drivers or passengers had been drinking anything stronger than Enfamil and tonic."

At least one childless couple tried to take home an infant who was not theirs, however, Nahnzens said, and a young woman claimed false ownership of the tiny trapped dog. They are being held for further questioning, and charges may be forthcoming.

More disturbingly, he said, one child -- discovered drooling in the evidence box by Block -- remained unclaimed.

"We're thinking it's either a really big family that doesn't realize he's missing yet -- or new parents who returned home and were seduced by the quiet of their house."