Monday, October 18, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Carpool

So once a week, I get to drive the kiddies to school. Well, not so much "get to" as "have to." The S/O plays "volleyball" one night a week and stays in town at the apartment that night. I know, suspicious, huh? Well, I guess he's really playing volleyball, because the next day he's basically a sack of jello, whining about his "rotator cuff." Besides, if a girl ever got a gander at the "Star Wars Suite" the apartment has become, she would run screaming the other way.

Anyway, my one day of morning driving duty, the alarm goes off and I get up at 6 AM, walk the dogs, get the kidlets dressed, and leave the house by 6:50. I have it timed perfectly so that I arrive at school exactly at 7:04, which is the minute before you can drop your munchkins off for breakfast. This gives them plenty of time before the bell rings at 7:35.

For some unknown reason, this week the alarm was set for talk radio. Talk radio will not wake me up. I hear talking and I just incorporate it into whatever nonsensical dream I happen to be having. This particular morning, I did happen to hear the phrase "seven o'clock" and one of the more alert people who live inside my head said, "Put down that octopus, I think you're late."

I sprang up, knocking the dog into the cat (they try to occupy the same space on my feet). They crashed into the other dog, who is old and cranky and yelled at them to get off her lawn. I yanked my two sleeping offspring out of their beds -- well, out of one of their beds and out of my bed: the five-year-old still always ends up sleeping with me. He is a ninja of middle-of-the-night bed roulette.

Within 9 minutes I had them dressed, with hot little toaster waffles in their hands. I, of course, was not dressed. Now came the calculation. If I left at that second, I reasoned I had 25 minutes to make what is normally a 15 minute drive. I could stop and get dressed, wasting valuable time trying to disentangle something out of either the laundry basket of unfolded clothes or the bottom of my closet (not recommended for amateurs), or I could trust that I'd make it to the carpool line before they locked the gates. Piece of cake, I thought. Lesson one, don't make important decisions if you've been awake for less than 10 minutes and are stimulant-free.

You see, between my house and the school, there are four school zones and 5 stoplights. If it's before 7:00, speed zones are not yet enforced, and there's very little traffic. Once you hit 7:00, it's a bit like stepping on an anthill. My brain was not thinking that far ahead.

So I pulled my little darlings down the steps and shoved them into the spymobile, clad only in a nightgown. And it's not the kind of nightgown that can pass as a summer dress or something. It's clearly a nightgown. I am also not wearing a bra, because who wears a bra to sleep? I haven't been able to get away with going braless since I was 12. Yes, I was that girl in your sixth-grade class. The only other thing I'm wearing, by the sheer fact that they'd been in the kitchen doorway, is a pair of lavender moccasins. If I'd left the shoes elsewhere I would have been barefoot too.

4 minutes in when I'm stuck at the first light behind a school bus, kid #4 tells me he forgot his belt. That'll be a demerit if it gets noticed, but I tell him to blouse out his shirt like a pirate and hope for the best. I'm not going back.

6 minutes in, I am stuck behind another school bus, and kid #5 throws the remains of his waffle at my head. I asked him why, and with perfect sincerity, he explains, "I was finished with it."

9 minutes in, I've come to the high school zone. Regardless of the trust his superiors have in him, the cop "directing" traffic is not particularly competent at that particular task. He seems to tell two cars in opposing lanes to go at the same time, which confuses them, which seems to confuse him, so he gestures at them more vehemently to go. Neither is willing. It's a standstill game of chicken. I'm unsure  how this is resolved, as I'm looking in the rearview mirror attempting to extract the waffle bits from my hair.

15 minutes in, I'm finally leaving the high school zone, and into my buffer time.

17 minutes in, and I'm stuck at the light, because the chicken in front of me did not understand that yellow means to SPEED UP OR I'M GOING TO BE LATE.

20 minutes in, and I'm at the university, which houses the lab school. The rent-a-cops that man the crosswalk at the lab school are not nearly as competent as the cop at the high school intersection. Which is to say that they randomly wander into traffic and their idea of helping the girl trying to push her bicycle through the crosswalk  is to approach gingerly and somehow become entangled with the bike itself, falling to the ground in a mass of ill-fitting polyester pants and bent spokes, then laying there looking helpless.

23 minutes in and I have made the turn to the approach, there's one car in the carpool line, and I think I'm going make it. But as I draw closer and the seconds tick off, I realize that the car isn't moving. And the car isn't moving because it's 7:34 and they have already locked the gate.

At this point I actually consider telling the kids school has been cancelled for today and going home. But that would be irresponsible. And it would also mean the kids would have to come home with me. I pull to the front of the school and make the mistake of trying to run my fingers through the tangle of my hair. I have a lot of hair. A lot of hair filled with waffle bits.

I exit the car with as much dignity as I can muster and march the kids up to the steps. Seems that lots of parents are late, an extraordinary amount of parents. Most of them moms dressed for work in business sets and high heels or dads in Polos and dockers. Well, at least the lavender moccasins don't clash with the nightie, which is black with purple flowers. Thinking about it, a lot of my wardrobe is purple and black, and I must go around all day looking like a big bruise.

There's a passel of parents in front of me, so I take a seat on the bench and wait my turn, hoping that I look like someone who's making a bold fashion statement and not an escaped mental patient. I'm slouching slightly to hide that fact that I'm not wearing a bra, and glad that at least the nightie is mid-thigh length. I cross my legs in an attempt to look classy, and nonchalantly run my hand over the owls nest on my head. A piece of soggy waffle falls in my lap. No one sits down next me. Eventually it's my turn.

By way of defense, I explain to the secretary -- loudly -- that my husband didn't set the alarm correctly. The kids don't care, and the fact that they have long since lost the ability to be embarrassed by me should probably worry me more than it does. I chalk it all up as a valuable life lesson to them: do what you need to do withouth worrying too much about what other people think about you, and always set your own damn alarm.

1 comment:

  1. least the nightgown wasn't sheer!! xox Laura

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