To understand the gravity of this for me, you have to know a little about how my brain functions. Typically, I am not the kind of guy to lose an argument, surrender a point. I’m one of those who will hold on like a dog with a chew toy, and this is especially true if I know I am in the right.
And I definitely know I was in the right! So, so right.
Actually, to correct that, I should say left, since what we are talking about are car lanes.
To put it more bluntly, dropping my kid off at his school is a piece of hell. Let me repeat that, hell (devil, pointy ears and tails, flames, the whole bit).
I’m not talking about the emotional aspect of the separation, that was there for a bit (and always resides a little beneath the surface), but other less pleasant feelings than the accepted sadness in watching your kids grow up. No, I am talking about stress, frustration, and sometimes anger.
…And I know other parents feel that way towards me.
When you take on this parenting gig, you have to expect some struggles. Potty training? Sure. Sicknesses? Why not. But the pain of dealing with other parents frantic to get to their job and willing to throw common decency aside? No, I didn’t see that one coming.
To understand everything I must take you to the scene of the crime (my crime).
There are two lanes outside my son’s school, a right and a left. The right lane runs along the school, the left is closer to the road. They both snake around the parking lot which has been designated a one-way street. So, if you were dropping your child off at the school, you would keep to the right lane, since that is the one closest to the building, the left lane being for those simply leaving.
Makes sense, right?
For me, I’m a fan of walking my kid to the door. I like that last minute interaction I get with my son. I park my car, take his hand and give him a pep talk for the day as we take the short walk. So far, he seems to like our little talks. I know someday it will change, because this stuff always changes, but right now we both enjoy it, many times telling each other jokes as we do it. Once he is in the building, I head back to my car and prepare to leave… and this is when the frustration hits. If it was a movie, it would have a dark soundtrack underneath it.
See, like clockwork (evil clockwork from an evil clock) that left lane is filled, not with people leaving (no, that would be too easy), but parents hoping to jump ahead of the people on the right, skipping in line, just like… well… children.
Which means, for me, the guy who just wants to leave (leave!), I am stuck, drumming my fingers along my steering wheel, quietly cursing those stopped in front of me in the left lane.
I had even begun to make up stories about the parents in front of me. They are not pleasant tales, and over time things started to end badly for their children as well. Usually, at the end of these morality tales the parents shake their fists at the heavens wondering:
“Why, oh why!, could I have not been a better example to my child?”
The funny thing is, when I attend events at the school, everything is super nice. It is really a wonderful school and we all get along great.
Parents nod and laugh with each other, clap as their children perform songs or dress-up in costumes. And I have seen some of these same people give each other the middle finger, honk their horn! One morning, when I tried to sneak around a car that was holding up the left lane, I’m pretty sure that guy even tried to spit at me (but his window was up, not as funny as you might imagine).
Is this how society ends?
Not with an explosion or a whimper, but a bunch of parents making angry faces at each other as their children sit anxiously in the back seat?
My son has this game he loves to play with his friends at recess. They’ve played it now since Kindergarten and it has very little rules. All it demands is a big imagination.
They call it “superheroes” and each day they select another hero or villain to be. A few mornings ago my son’s big decision was whether he was going to be Green Lantern that day or The Flash (I argued for The Flash). Once they decide on their heroes they usually chase or pretend to fight those that are playing the villains. So far there have been no injuries. (Fingers crossed, but my son does keep asking to take karate so I am nervous for the future.)
It was on a Thursday when I became a super villain.
I had just walked my son to the school and during my stroll back to the car, I saw an epic vehicular mess in front of me. Both lanes were filled, cars fighting to get in front of each of other for the drop-offs. What I was seeing in front of me was 20 minutes of patience I didn’t feel I had.
“Think, think, think,” I demanded of my brain, but it was not moving (much like the cars). There was only one option I could take and I was not thrilled with it. Yet, as I looked at the unmoving line I realized I had no choice.
I took a deep breath.
This was not right (or left), this was just wrong. The line had not reached where my car was parked yet, and I could reach the exit, but… I could feel a little of society slipping away between my sweaty fingers as I drove the wrong way down the one-way street.
It was no more than a dozen feet, maybe twenty to the exit, but it got me past the line and free. My heart was racing as I did it. There was no loud cackling like some villains do. I just wanted to get out quick, hope that people don’t remember that it was me.
There were a few horn honks (and one parent glared and waved a finger). And I knew, at that moment right there, for many of the parents, I became their villain, maybe even imagining themselves in a cape pretending to swing their fists at me in the playground. Of course, for them they might have been making an impact, leaving me bloody and bruised.
The next day, I parked a block away from the school, starting a new tradition, a soul-saving tradition.
My son wondered about the shift as I helped him out of the car and strapped his big backpack on him. I said I wanted to try something new. We walked hand-in-hand around the corner and towards the school.
It maybe added a few minutes to our walk, definitely not five. But as I walked back to my car after, past that dreaded parking lot and line, I felt saved. A one-time hero returned to the fold.
Yeah, I could have talked with the school about the drop-off situation, argued for clearer signs, or maybe even a teacher or volunteer to help direct the traffic, but at that moment as I walked along the sidewalk back to my car, I didn’t care. I almost felt like skipping.
In time maybe more of those drivers will join me on the side street, throw away the anxiety of the line. Be like me, saved, free of hell. I had walked away from the battle, a reborn villain, and even that winter sun felt good on my cheek.
Maybe I will let him take karate.
My latest novel Permanent Spring Showers was just published by 5 Prince Books. You can find out more about my novel as well as my other books (including A Jane Austen Daydream and My Problem With Doors) and grab a copy via my author page on Amazon.com here.
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