Monday, August 24, 2009

Saved by the Bell!

School has been in session for all of four days now, and I am completely over the carpool line already. Each weekday, along with what seems like 700,000,000 other parents, I dutifully line up to retrieve the little darlings. It’s a scene that reminds me of the end of “Animal House” when the parade has been sabotaged, and people are running amok in the street. Kevin Bacon is standing in the middle of the chaos and screaming, “Remain calm! All is well!” In this case, it’s not Kevin Bacon. It’s the assistant principal shepherding confused five-year-olds to their cars and smiling apologetically at sweaty parents who have been trapped in their cars for half an hour in the hell that is South Carolina in August. We wait and wait and wait as we swoon from the dizzying exhaust fumes.

My son’s school is a public magnet school located in one of the worst neighborhoods in town. We moved him there because of the amazing curriculum being offered and the promise of (gasp!) teachers that actually care. When you have a school in a lower class attendance zone mixed with parents from across the district taking advantage of forward thinking studies, you are going to have quite a diverse group of families in the carpool line. I decided to make the best of it today and take note of some of the folks around me.

The first thing that caught my eye today was the action from the car in front of me. In the car was a very skinny woman with a blue bandana on her head. For some reason, she opened the door to her Chrysler every couple of minutes or so to spit on the pavement. My guess is that she was enjoying just a pinch between her cheek and gum. She got me the first few times (not literally). I would see movement and look up just in time to catch a glimpse of the spit hitting the ground. After being disgusted over and over, I finally learned to avert my eyes any time the door would swing open.

Beside me in a late-model Ford Mustang was a white-haired, grandmotherly woman sporting a hair net and an iPod. Her head was down the entire time, as she seemed to be feverishly writing something very important. My guess is that she was preparing a draft for her blog about the spiky-haired woman in the red Honda parked next to her who was also feverishly writing and craning her neck to get a good look at the crowd.

Next, I saw a young man who had parked his car and was walking toward the office. He caught my attention because I noticed that his belt was precariously positioned in the space where the bottom of his rear end meets the top of his legs. I stare at him, mystified by the science that allows his pants to stay in place even with his pronounced swagger. He heads back to his car with a very small girl by the hand, and I am praying for two things at this point – for a spontaneous wardrobe malfunction to occur and that the little girl is his sister and not his daughter.

Just a few cars ahead of me was a young dad in a black pick-up truck. He had both windows down and his country music cranked up to a level that was certainly less than appropriate for a school parking lot. Even though the music was loud, his singing was even louder. Actually, I have to admit that he sang fairly well. What impressed me most was his complete lack of inhibition. I wish I were that free. Maybe he was hoping a record producer was in the line behind him. Either that, or he was just really digging that song.

At the front of the line, you will always find the same kind of people – the kind that don’t have jobs. This group usually consists of soccer moms and grandparents. The soccer moms are most likely to be those in behemoth SUV’s with various types of stickers on the back of the vehicle that say, “I’d rather be at Edisto” or “OBX” (short for the Outer Banks). Sometimes they are proclaiming their support for their favorite college team or proudly informing all who have the luck to be in their wake that they are, in fact, a “USC Grad” or in the alumni association at Clemson. I’ve noticed one of the latest trends in car decorations is the decal that shows a family of stick people, one for every family member and usually even the pets. “We’re the Russell’s!! Aren’t we lucky to be so cute?”

The grandparents are also easy to distinguish. They are the smart folks who actually get out of their cars and walk up to the front of the school to sit on the bench in the shade and read the newspaper, while the rest of us either swelter in our cars, or burn 6 gallons of gas to keep the engine running and the air conditioner blowing.

I am sure that, with fall just around the corner, the carpool line will be less and less dreaded. I can sit in the car and read while the crisp autumn air swirls around me. It might even be nice to have a few quiet moments of “me” time. I can write or rest my head for a short nap. And, if I’m lucky, I’ll have that good ol’ boy three cars up to serenade me with his fabulous version of Alan Jackson’s greatest hits.

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