It’s a ruthless arena where a driver can expect no quarter. Miscalculate, hesitate or guess wrong and you can find yourself in a world of hurt. The stakes are high. Failure is not an option.
Think NASCAR is tough? Think Formula One is vicious? Think again. You can scour the earth’s speedways and you will not find a race more sinister and invidious.
I’m referring, of course, to the morning school drop-off.
Each day as the sun peeks its weary face above the horizon, stressed parents prepare to make themselves and everyone else more miserable by driving their precious offspring to school.
If you live 30 minutes away, okay, drive but most of the people dropping off kids at school live a few blocks away. Still, each morning they scold their brood into their minivans and Volkswagens and race to be part of the daily 8:25 to 8:45 traffic jam.
The scene in front of the average elementary school is bedlam by BMW. Massive SUVs speed while Prius-driving papas jockey for the chance to block school bus zones. Oh, yeah, and just to make things interesting, there are small children everywhere.
Have you ever dreamed of seeing a deranged maniac driving 90 km/h on a residential street at 8:40 in the morning? You can make it a reality with great ease. Just stand a few blocks from a public school and you’ll see the super moms, drunk on anxiety, mining the empty shells of their dopamine receptors as they rush to get our country’s future prime ministers to their leaf-waxing classes on time.
Tragically, kids are sometimes hurt during the drop-off, more often than not by accident, but occasionally with criminal intent. A California dad was recently charged with striking two 10-year-old crossing guards in a bout of road rage.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “prosecutors say Vernon Suriaga, 43, of San Mateo lost his temper when he wanted to turn into a John F. Kennedy Elementary School parking lot to drop off his young daughter.” The boys, who were directing traffic, told “Suriaga he couldn't enter the parking lot for 10 minutes.”
After making a U-turn, Suriaga allegedly “revved his engine and struck the boys with his car. … The boys were bumped in their abdominal area but did not fall down.” He then parked his car, chased the crossing guards, grabbed a third kid and screamed at a bystander. Then he dropped his daughter off and went home where he was arrested.
It may seem a tad excessive but, in Suriaga’s defence, if he hadn’t done all that his daughter might have been late for school. I repeat – late – for school. Late for school.
That’s the reasoning behind the school drop-off, right? No one wants to be late, for school or for work. Parents turn the trip into a scene from Death Race 2000 because they don’t want their kids to be late and because them want to keep them safe. Apparently, the best way to keep your kid safe is to fill a small street with cars driven by over-caffeinated lunatic parents.
Once upon a time, everyone walked or biked to school. Your mom opened the door and out you ran. It was a win/win. We didn’t want to be around our parents and they didn’t want us to be around them.
Now we pile into our cars. Statistics from Green Communities Canada show a decline in two-legged scholastic commuting. Eighty per cent of children from grades three and up once walked but now less than 50 per cent of Canadian kids rely “solely on active modes of transportation to and from school.” In the United States, it’s worse, just 13 per cent of kids walk or bike. As a result, many North American kids are so obese they look like they could play offensive line in the NFL.
I see the school drop-off as a perversion of the automotive experience. Everyone knows that cars are for sex and racing (at a proper, legally sanctioned track). You don’t put children into the back seat of your car to take them to school. You put yourself into the back seat of your car to create children. We’re sending the wrong message to our young people.
If the issue is lateness, there are a few options hurried parents can try: get up earlier, leave earlier, send your kid to a local school (not some pumped-up far-flung school an expert or a social climbing friend says they have to attend or their life will be ruined). Let them walk and, if you’re worried about your child’s safety, walk them to school. Every once in a while, you may be late for work but you’ll be early for having a decent life.
If you’re still having trouble with this concept, apply the Road Sage Three Points to Freedom:
1) Approach being late as an opportunity to teach your child how to make excuses.
2) If you can’t find 15 minutes to walk your kid to school you’re not trying hard enough.
3) Remember the advice given around 2500 B.C. to Gilgamesh, the world’s first commuter (Andrew George translation):
Gilgamesh, wherefore do you wander?
The eternal life you are seeking you shall not find.
When the gods created mankind,
They established death for mankind,
And withheld eternal life for themselves.
And as for you, Gilgamesh, let your stomach be full,
Always be happy, night and day.
Make every day a delight,
Night and day play and dance,
Your clothes should be clean,
Your head should be washed,
You should bathe in water,
Look proudly on the little one holding your hand,
Let your mate be always blissful in your loins,
This, then, is the work of mankind.
You’ll note that nowhere does it say, “Gilgamesh, it’s okay, if you live two blocks from your kid’s school take the minivan. No problem.”
Wise folks, those ancient Sumerians. Wise folks.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy