America, we must address an imminent threat of civil insurrection: The school carpool line
In an America filled with tension, fear, violence, mistrust and risk of imminent civil insurrection, when something triggers such abhorrent behavior, especially around our children, we must address the problem with all the seriousness it deserves. Right now — this very week — is the time to address one such issue.
I am talking, of course, about the carpool lane at your local school.
For those of you who are unsure of what I am referring to, you clearly either do not have children, or you had them in an era when entering and exiting a school was primarily a task left to the children themselves. Perhaps you, like me, have hazy recollections of being among a crowd of kids, propelled by our own happy feet, cheerfully carrying our reading, writing and ‘rithmetic books, pausing only to let Norman Rockwell paint us as we strolled along.
Times have changed. And to give you, the uninitiated, a sense of what it is like, I would like to play for you a recording of an anonymous actual driver trying to navigate traffic at a local school recently. I would like to, but I cannot, because this is a family newspaper, and you won’t believe what gets yelled while I am stuck in that mess.
I have three children, the oldest of whom is in college now, which means I have been dealing with pickups and dropoffs for … um, I can’t quite do the math, because I lost my ‘rithmetic book one day when I paused to let Norman Rockwell paint me, and I have never quite recovered. But it has been a lot of years. Or, if you subtract the times that my wife was actually driving while I came up with some reason why I needed to be elsewhere — at least 37 minutes.
But it felt like a lot longer. And I think we can all agree that real problem is … well, I suppose this is where things get political.
Because one way of looking at it is: We have had a complete breakdown for the respect of law and order. Every school has a clear system for where cars should go, and where they should not, and everybody is fine with this until the one person shows up who did not bother to read the three emails from the principal and decides to put his car wherever he wants just because he needs to run to the office and now it’s all, “Well, if HE’S breaking formation, then I CAN TOO!” and this is how the Roman Empire crumbled.
Another way of looking at it is: School-lane gridlock is what happens when that one mom in her Schwarzenegger-esque SUV — the white one, with the bumper sticker of a pink whale — thinks she has the right to pull up to the front of the line and just sit there spewing carbon emissions and a sense of privilege while blocking the other 99 percent of us from pulling forward.
Given such divisions, I’m not sure where solutions might lie. Because if you take the law-and-order stance, it’s going to require more enforcement. This would require additional teachers on extra-early morning duty. But I am recalling the withering stares that teachers on extra-early morning duty are capable of, and frankly, I am not sure we want to raise taxes enough to pay for all the coffee it would take to placate them.
If you take the it’s-the-fault-of-the-one-percent approach, well, let’s face it — if you tick off that woman in the white SUV, who’s going to overbid for the one halfway decent prize at your fund-raising auction in the spring? You know, the one that pays for the teachers’ coffee? That they eliminated from the budget last year because the school tax hike failed? Do you really want your child educated by underpaid AND uncaffeinated teachers?
No, there has to be a common ground. And maybe everything will come down to this: Realizing that the people in the drop-off lane are our neighbors. The same ones we will be seeing at pickup. And, possibly, every day until graduation. So we need to treat them politely. And follow the rules. Even when we don’t want to. Because we’re all in this together.
Unless I’m in a hurry. In which case, do you mind if I just park here while I run into the office? I’ll be just a few minutes. Thanks.