The 104th Circle of Hell, otherwise known as Car Line…

For today’s fun, let’s talk about the School Traffic Line. Or Car Line…Drop-Off Line…Pick-Up Line…104th Circle of Hell Line, or whatever it is that your child’s particular learning institution calls the long line of cars pulling in to either deliver or remove those students who don’t take a bus or walk.

There are myriad things that are irritating in this universe. Cuddly hipster couples blocking the grocery aisle while they peruse the organic, gluten-free snacks. The lady who walks down my street every day at 6:30 in the morning while squawking loudly into her cell phone. People who leisurely stir the creamer and sugar into their coffee while still sitting at the drive thru window. All irritating.

But none more so than the people who don’t know how to use the Traffic/Car/Pick-Up/Drop-Off/Circle of Hell Line at the school. They are just the most irritating. Why? Because it is not a hard thing. Except for when it is. Every school has its own system. Cars drive through the designated area, line up, doors open, children get out and/or get in, doors close, cars go forward, and the next group drives in. This isn’t freaking rocket science. It is not even preschool science. I’m pretty sure any four year old with a set of matchbox cars understands the concept of moving forward, stopping, and moving forward again. Can’t say the same for some adults.

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We experience the effing Car Circle of Hell Line on a daily basis. And because I am a well-meaning, yet slightly foolish human (or just plain stupid,) I actually volunteer to help control traffic a couple of days a week. And every day, whether I am sitting in my car or attempting to wave other people’s cars along, I see mind-blowing, preposterous, and wholly unnecessary bulls*** that brings the nice, speedy flow of traffic to a stop, thus rendering whichever kids are at the back of the line late for school. I have seen it all, and most of it is not good.

Like the dude who refused to move forward, thus stopping the line three cars in, because apparently his child could not walk an extra 20 seconds to the door on picture day. Which is totally fine, because the rest of us can wait. What’s a bell for, anyway? And then there was the random car that in the process of turning into the parking lot, just stopped.The guy gets out of his car, which is still partially in the road, lifts his kid out, and then sends the child wandering through moving traffic before hurrying on his merry way…

Traffic Line. Car Line. Drop-Off Line. Some mornings it feels like the Parade of Idiots.

In an ideal world, here is how we would prevent this:

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Rule #1: Pull your car all the freaking way down. Like, to the end. To the furthest point at which you can stop, thus allowing other cars to fill in the space behind you. This is not typically a great distance. School parking lots are only so big. What? It’s raining, you say? Well, unless Princess hails from the west end of Oz, I’m pretty sure she won’t melt. So pull all the effing way down, pack a damn umbrella, and let the rest of us get our kids to school.

Rule # 2: Put some freaking pants on your kid. I am not even kidding about this one. If your child, for whatever reason, has failed to put clothing on, do not get in the effing Car Line with your half naked kid. If it is winter, put a f***ing coat on. If it is any season, put f***ing shoes on. Those people honking at you? That is because they want to drop their fully dressed children off, and you are preventing this as you frantically search for Junior’s left sock while helping him get each little finger into last year’s too small gloves. Get. Your. Child. Dressed. Before. You. Leave. And if you are having a rough morning and can’t…just park. Those yellow spaces exist for a reason.

Rule #3: Do that sh*t at home! Things that should be done at home, and definitely not done while stopped in the Traffic Line: Seventeen kisses goodbye. The administering of cold medicine. Packing up sporting gear. Finishing a math assignment. Eating pancakes. Applying a full coat of sunscreen. Wrapping the teacher’s gift. Anything requiring glue. Putting three dolls in three seats and then putting the seat belts across their laps. Exiting the car while stopped in the car line to re-arrange the diaper bag for no apparent reason. All of these things…and more…should be done at home. And if you are having a rough morning and can’t…just park. Park your effing car. Again, those yellow spaces exist for a reason.

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Rule #4: Orange cones mean you can’t effing go there. If you are a human that drives on roads, than you should know that if there is an orange cone in a place, your vehicle is really just not supposed to be in that spot. At all. So when you pull into the Drop-Off Line, and you think, hey, I’ll just drive over here because it is closer to the school…don’t. Because that line of orange cones you just ran over, they were meant to separate your moving car from the moving children, and that is why we are all frantically chasing you and yelling things…some of which are not very nice. So please, do not drive over the f***ing orange cones. If you are still confused about the orange cones…park. Just don’t park on the cones.

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Rule #5 (And I say this with vehemence) You are not a f***ing bus driver. I’m sure, at times, the noise level and salty stench of your overcrowded minivan may make you feel like a bus driver; but trust me, you are not a f***ing bus driver. Unless you are driving a large, numbered yellow vehicle that you need a special license to operate, you should not be stopping where the buses stop. Even if it gets you three feet closer to where Princess comes out of the school. More important, you should not ever, ever park your car and get out where the buses stop. Why?  Because if you do this, it jacks everything up. The buses can’t get in. The other traffic can’t get in. And then you are the dumb*** who parked in the bus lane. And everyone will be looking at you like you are a dumb*** when you finally return to your car. So please, believe me. You are not a f***ing bus driver. If you are confused as to where the cars and the big giant buses belong…just park. I guarantee the vehicle you are driving will fit in the yellow space.

Rule #6: Clear the effing egress. While it is pretty much a given that any parent of any age child will have a slightly messy vehicle, Junior should not be climbing out of something that could be on an episode of Hoarders. If your car lets loose an avalanche of toys, sippy cups, empty kleenex boxes, fast food bags and certain other stuff no traffic volunteer should see, or ever know about, then you should probably take a minute to either clean the damn thing or at least shift the mess over to where no one is exiting. Junior scrambling under your car to get five bouncy balls that rolled out…not good. And the vehicles behind you crunching over sixteen empty plastic water bottles…well, that sucks too. Clear the effing egress. And again…if you can’t, please PARK your freaking car.

Rule #7: This is not f***ing valet service. Repeat after me.There are no VIP’s in the Car Line. There are no VIP’s in the Car Line…So that time Princess hung herself halfway out the window yelling for someone to open the door and no one did? Well, last time I checked, the teachers and parents working the Car Line weren’t getting any tips. I will say it again, though much less politely than I said it to the mom who snapped her fingers at me to open her child’s door one blustery winter morning…This is not f***ing valet service. Junior should be able to open the door and exit the vehicle of his own free will. And if Junior, who is clearly of an age to be able to exit said vehicle on his own, cannot or will not do so, than good luck to you. I hope you have a finished basement for him to live in when he is forty-two. In the meantime…just f****ing park. Then the rest of us can let our independent children out of the car in a timely manner.

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Rule #8: The freaking crosswalk exists for a freaking reason. The crosswalk, whether marked with paint or cones or a human with a stop sign is not an obstacle in the way of your timely drop-off; nor is it a mere decoration for you to glance at as you and your child dodge between moving cars. The crosswalk has an actual purpose, and that purpose is so that other humans can safely get past the Traffic Line without being taken out by a family friendly crossover vehicle. So don’t stop on the f***ing crosswalk. Don’t drive on the f***ing crosswalk as other humans are walking across it. Just stay away from the f***ing crosswalk.

On the other side of this, if you are one of the people who has actually parked, so as not to disturb the Car Line with your need for valet service or gift wrapping, please use the f***ing crosswalk when you finally get out of your car and take your kid to school. Just. Use. It. Even after you no longer have Junior with you. Because when you’re too impatient to wait for the cars to come to a stop, and you stroll out in front of some giant black SUV, and the mom wearing giant sunglasses while blowing on her coffee and texting on her phone and helping Princess with her homework and Junior with his gloves doesn’t see you…well, Darwinism. Clearly, you have not adapted to your environment. I will happily call 911, but I can’t fix stupid.

Rule #9: Just be nice. Be nice to the volunteers. Be nice to other drivers. Be nice to pedestrians. Be nice to the buses. Don’t run over impatient jaywalkers and watch out for kids chasing after bouncy balls. Follow directions. Avoid the orange cones. Turn on your listening ears and respect the humans in charge. Don’t shush them. Don’t yell at them. Don’t flip them the bird. We are all doing the same thing with the same goal…to either deposit our children at school, or take them away from the school. All of this can be done in an efficient and non-irritating manner if we just do what we are f***ing supposed to. And we can be nice while doing it.

Happy driving!

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That time I bought snob juice…

It is officially back-to-school time, and I just made my first set of lunches. Lovely, reasonably healthy school lunches. It was fun.

No. It was not fun. Making lunches is really not ever fun, but now it is worse.  Because here’s the thing. While grocery shopping, I went to get all the things I would normally get that my kids like and I did this: instead of buying the usual whatever juice boxes/bags my kids like, I shelled out the extra $2-3 for the supposedly much better organic 100% juice made from exquisite fruits picked on a sustainable farm by fairly paid farm workers living in a democratic country. Or whatever.

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I did it. I bought the expensive all-natural, better be freaking Nectar of the Gods for that price juice boxes. And my kids are going to hate them. Even if they have way more sugar than the regular old crappy juice boxes. But this magical juice will look so nice next to their lunches…all pretty in the recyclable packaging the bright label that screams…”look at me, I’m so healthy and this responsible mom is super healthy and so are her kids and they all drink pricey juice that is way better than that other juice that isn’t even really juice and…”

F**ck. I just became THAT mom. I did it. I totally caved in to peer pressure and bought Snob Juice.

What the hell was I thinking? I know what I was thinking. I was thinking about that one time  I had to bring snack for a school event or club, it was just really kind of horrible and stressful. Can you bring fruit? Fruit is good…but what if isn’t organic? Right? Because you can totally tell these perfectly plump strawberries are not organic. But organic strawberries for 35 kids? Not happening. What about little ham-roll ups? Nope…nitrates. Goldfish crackers? Don’t you know Goldfish crackers are bad?  The organic little bunny things that are supposed to taste like Goldfish crackers? Nope…my kid says they DO NOT taste like Goldfish crackers. Cookies? Sure…cookies. Just not the kind with sugar.

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Fruit snacks? NO. Under no circumstances are you ever supposed to bring fruit snacks to anything ever anymore. They are horrifying little nuggets of gelatin filled with dyes and chemicals and corn syrup and probably some eye of newt and the blood of a virgin as well. You don’t ever bring fruit snacks. Or Kool-Aid. Trust me. Don’t ever bring Kool-Aid.

It is bad enough now that if you sign up to bring a snack to any kid-related thing it is expected to be some cutesy themed cocktail toothpick skewered masterpiece created by using special order cookie cutters and multi-step instructions from various internet websites. It is even worse that if you dare to send a packaged goody, it has to come with a carefully printed label containing a cutesy pun that sort of explains and makes it okay that you bought packaged goodies. But now your packaged goodies can’t just be packaged goodies. They have to be the RIGHT kind of packaged goody. The non-GMO, all-natural, totally organic sawdust and twig flavored kind of goody. Why? Because it is better? Because it is healthier?

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F**k no.  Because *gasp* other moms might judge you if you brought the regular stuff.

There. I said it. We do all these crazy things because other moms might judge us. We make bento box lunches with cartoon character shaped sandwiches and little cubes of cheese in cupcake liners and perfectly julienned carrot sticks because, well…a sandwich and an apple (a non-organic GMO apple) just won’t cut it anymore. We scour the shelves in the supermarket during the spare 10 minutes we have for the brand specific, gluten free, salt free pretzels on the Halloween party sign up.  Sure… the big bag of pretzel sticks would probably do the trick, but hey… we might get the side eye if we brought that s**t. Yep. Other moms might judge us. Or they might not. We might just be worrying that they will, and so we go to extremes, because hey, opinions matter, whether they exist or not.

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I’m not saying it isn’t okay to be health conscious. Because it totally is. Being healthy is wonderful and wanting our kids to be healthy is even better. And as a former teacher, I can tell you that not feeding the kids eight kinds of frosted cupcakes at the holiday party is really just a GREAT idea. So yeah, being healthy is fabulous.

But so is reality. And being a mom. And sometimes, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. Occasionally that involves feeding her kids, and maybe other people’s kids, some stuff that is not the greatest.

Like fruit snacks. Because maybe the mom that brought those bad fruit snacks in had a really rough day. Maybe the dog projectile vomited all over the house, and she was late for work, and the kids were late for school, and one of them forgot to finish their homework, and there were 100 other errands to run that day because her husband was sick, and it was late and the kids were crabby and she ran into the store and grabbed the fruit snacks because they were the first thing she saw. And then she grabbed the Kool Aid because it was next to the fruit snacks. And it was on sale. And she really didn’t feel like spending and extra $50 in that moment to come up with a really super healthy awesome snack the kids would actually like.

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Pssst…I am so sorry for that time I fed your kids artificially flavored non-organic GMO fruit snacks. With Kool-Aid. 

Except I’m not. Because it was late and I was tired and the display was right inside the door so I bought them. And I made up for it later in the year by cutting up approximately 64 equally portioned cubes of non-processed mild cheddar cheese for another event. So there.

And then several years later…because I was maybe a little scarred by that fruit snack incident, I caved and bought Snob Juice. I did it. And now I’m sending my kids to school with Snob Juice. And a regular sandwich. With a GMO, non-organic apple. Of course.

Maybe, for the next classroom party I will create beautiful artistically crafted individual organic fruit bouquets.

Or maybe I will just send a Costco sized bottle of neon green punch. With potato chips.

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Either way, I’m sure the kids will enjoy it.