I am paging through the ground-breaking work of investigative parenting, Babies Ruin Everything -and doing a little baby dissing of my own in the process - when I see the small adorable woman and her small adorable baby next to me.
"Oh," I say. "I didn't mean your baby. Your baby is adorable."
It turns out she is one of the book's creators, accompanied by the very baby who ruined everything - with an assist from a couple of babies who preceded him.
Still, as baby and book collaborators Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr can tell you: it only takes one.
I think we can all agree they have their hands full, even though it takes at least a dozen years for babies to reach their full capacity for ruination.
There's the baby, two other smallish children at home in Maryland, and the family business, Idiot's Books: "a (very) small press that publishes odd, commercially nonviable illustrated books." Swanson "writes the words." Behr "draws the pictures." The baby does his best to ruin everything.
Recently, the couple packed up a selection of their odd, commercially non-viable illustrated books and products and drove to Chicago, baby on board, to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, where I came across their booth.
I would have bought one of everything except for the fact that I also work in the commercially non-viable words-on-paper industry. We are pretty much a perfect fit in the marketplace. Other baby titles include The Baby is Disappointing and Baby Apocalypse. These people know their babies.
But as someone who has shared a house with babies and their aftermath, I feel like I have to warn them about the teenage sequel in their future: The Babies Who Ruined Everything Now Have Your Car and Your Credit Cards.
Photo: Matthew Swanson, Robbi Behr, and the baby who is poised to ruin everything.