May 22, 2012

The Pick Up (And Wait) Line

There are only 7 more days left of school and I can't wait. Not because I'm sick of getting up at 6:30 every morning (which I so am), and not because I am looking forward to having my kids around more (which, again, I so am), but because I need a break from the twice daily, taking-my-life-in-my-hands gauntlet that is known as the pick up line. I was raised to be a polite person, yielding the right of way and generally avoiding anything that even hints of conflict, but every morning and every afternoon those ingrained manners are forced to take flight so that I can call on my hidden aggressor genes and bully my way through the parking lot.

At the beginning of the school year, I thought everyone was just excited about the new year and I gave them a little slack for cutting others off, for blocking traffic, for not being generally courteous. After all, it's easy to make mistakes when you are busy blowing your fiftieth goodbye kiss to junior while he heads off to his first year in kindergarten. But I soon realized that driving as if you own the whole parking lot and can therefore make up any driving rules you want as you go along was just a normal, every day occurrence. And since there is no bus service at either of the schools, that's a lot of selfish, entitled drivers weaving in and out of the lot every day.

At Bubba and Sassy's school, parents are supposed to pull into the lot and then either park at the curb or, if it's full, find a spot in the parking area. There is enough room next to the curb-side cars that once a mom picks up her kid, she can pull out and drive right off the lot, leaving that space open for someone else. The problem is no one does that. No, what we get are parents double parking it and blocking in the people who have been sitting at the curb for an hour waiting for their little minions to be dismissed (and yes, some of them actually get there that early). Heaven forbid someone should have to park their car and then walk the 30 feet up the to sidewalk to get their kid. No, it's much better to just stop right in the middle of the drive-thru lane where their kid's class is and then just wait, causing a back up that extends the length of the school.

So now we have 2 lanes of parked cars. There is still room enough for one more line of cars to squeeze through which is the only space left for anyone who actually wants to make it home the same day. But you have the curb cars trying to get out, the lane blockers trying to get in, and no one willing to yield to anyone else. You can try using your turn signal to let those behind you know that you do intend to pull away from the curb this semester, but most people deliberately look away and claim ignorance. "What? You wanted to pull out and drive home? I had no idea. My bad. Let me just get in front of you and then you can go." Your only choice is to inch forward until the other cars have no choice but to stop or hit your car. Of course, they find this rude and it angers them, and to relieve that stress they start cutting other people off. "See how YOU like it!" It's a vicious cycle that only results in migraines.

It's the same way at Howdy's school, only in a smaller space. They only have 2 lanes that circle around the front of the school in the shape of a giant "O". Each lane is distinctly marked; one says "pick up/drop off" and one says "drive thru". There are apparently quite a few illiterate parents out there because every day someone in the drive thru line stops...and just waits for their kid to come out. This line is even longer than at the younger kids' school and so cars up end backed up into the street. It's a circular drive, people! If you don't see your kid right away, drive around and try again. These are middle school kids; they won't cry if they don't see you right away! Some parents wait out in the parking lot, but again--they block the parked cars and prevent other cars from going around to get in the pick up line.

I've learned the hard way that if I am polite and wait my turn, we will never make it home because I won't get a turn. So I have to muscle my way through, and, occasionally, I do cut someone off (but then I give them the "thank you" hand wave so that makes it okay, right?), but it's the only way to emerge from the pick up line before dark.

I'm sure my kids are learning all kinds of fun little phrases as I give a running commentary on the intelligence of the other drivers. I just hope that at the same time, they are learning how NOT to drive.

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