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National Editorials & Columns

Conversations at the Pump

“Can you sign for this package?” asked the UPS deliveryman as he handed a large package through my car window to where I sat. I made no movement to take the package.

“Just bring it inside.” I nodded to the back door of my office, where the deliveries usually are made.

“Oh, c’mon, Did. I’m swamped. Just take the package,” he pleaded.

“I’m a little busy right now, Roger,” I said, still making no motion to pick up the package.

“Just do me this favor. What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal,” I said, “is that my hands are a little busy right now holding suction cups to my boobs!”

Roger pulled the package back out from my window, averting his eyes, as if he suddenly were granted the gift of X-ray vision and could miraculously see through the blanket that was covering both me and my breast pump.

I pump breast milk in my car. My office doesn’t have a suitable place to pump, so twice a day, I head out to my parking spot at work. I turn on the car battery, plug in my pump, lower the window so I don’t die from fumes and pump for 15 minutes.

Over the years, there have to have been a thousand times when I’ve sat alone in my car with the window down. I swear, up until I attached a machine to my breasts, those moments of privacy always remained private. But now that I have the super-fun daily task of getting hooked up to an alien-esque contraption, every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to yell over the crunching noise of the pump and chat.

Co-workers have leaned their heads through my window and started up conversations without a moment’s hesitation. I had a stranger do the same, inquiring whether my car was for sale. Once, a woman opened my door, attempting to forcibly recruit me into finding her runaway dog. And some kid asked me whether he could bum a cigarette. When I told him I don’t smoke, he kicked my tires. I considered running after the teenage twerp, but what could I do, threaten to squirt milk in his eye? My breasts aren’t Super Soakers, and if they were, I wouldn’t have to be hooked up to such a God-awful machine.

My friend Marco says this bizarre attention is caused by a subconscious magnetic attraction to a breast-feeding mammal. “It’s biology,” he said. “They can sniff you out. No one knows you’re breast pumping. They just know they have a desire to talk to you.”

This premise is a little disconcerting. What if I’m a culprit, too, and all the women I find myself randomly engaging in conversation with are secretly pumping like me? Any woman sitting alone and wearing a blanket or oversize clothing is now suspect. I always have wanted to carry on a conversation with Judge Judy, and who knows what she’s hiding under those robes?!

The sudden influx of Chatty Cathys has been so irritating because trying to feed your child only breast milk when you are a working mom is hard enough as it is. I actively have to work on keeping up my milk supply. I hydrate all day, and it’s never I enough. I add flaxseed and brewer’s yeast to nearly everything I eat.

And let me tell you, those ingredients are not known for being flavor enhancers. I drink a lactation enhancement tea that makes me smell so much like syrup that I could be mistaken for Mrs. Butterworth. Give it another month and truckers will pull off the highway, thinking my office is a Waffle House.

I hate pumping. And conversations at the pump are the worst. The only awesome thing about pumping at work is that twice a day, I get a 15-minute break. And as a sleep-deprived mom, that’s something I cherish.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in my car, battery running, window down, taking my pumping break, and for the first time in a very long time, no one harassed me. No stranger came to my window or even made eye contact while walking by. I was just about to think that my personal pump station on wheels wasn’t so bad, when my car battery died.

I needed a jump because of the pump. I could’ve used a friendly stranger — one with jumper cables.

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