By Mordechai Schmutter
I don’t mean to complain, but “car pools” are not as much fun as the words might imply.
From a kid’s perspective, it’s probably better than taking the bus. I took the bus to school as a child and I hated it. Every morning I had to be ready to leave about 45 minutes before school actually started so I could stand by the window and wait until the bus zoomed by and then run outside yelling, “Wait!” with my knapsack hanging open.
Then I got on the bus, where I had to find a seat to sit in while the bus went around the entire city making weird noises like it was going to break down any second, and picking up random kids who didn’t live anywhere near each other. Every time the bus stopped, we’d all smash our heads into the seat in front of us because, for some reason, big vehicles full of kids are not legally required to have seat belts. And then I’d get to school late. No matter where I lived, and no matter what school I went to, I was always one of the first stops in the morning and one of the last stops in the afternoon. It was like my parents chose schools for me based on which one was farthest from our house at the time.
I had car pools occasionally, but those were mainly on Sundays and legal holidays when the bus company didn’t run because, a few hundred years ago, a guy was born on a random day in February that was not necessarily a Monday, but we’re going to celebrate it on Monday anyway because everyone hates working on Mondays.
Now that I’ve grown up, I’ve somehow chosen a school for my kids that doesn’t have bus service at all, for reasons that are not entirely clear. So everything is car pools. We have to carpool twice a day for each kid, and some of them don’t end at the same time as the others, and some of them do, but get out of different buildings that are across town from each other.
Not that I’m complaining about car pools. Car pools, by definition, make things easier. For example, on Mondays, you go pick up the boys from the boys’ building while whoever you carpool with picks up the girls from the girls’ building, and on Tuesdays you pick up the girls and the other person picks up the boys. So yeah, okay, you’re going out every day, but you’re only waiting in line once instead of twice, right? That must make something easier. Or maybe you can add a third person to your car pool.
But first you have to find people you can carpool with. This isn’t easy, because every kid has to have a car seat, and you didn’t realize when you bought the car that even though there are three seats in the back, that doesn’t mean you can fit three car seats side by side. So if you have too many kids, or your neighbor has too many kids, you can’t carpool together. Plus, you might not want to carpool with Person A, because you don’t know them, and you don’t want to carpool with Person B, because you do know them, and they sometimes forget to pick their kids up until the next day, or they let their kids roam around in the back seat like buffalo, with no seat belts, because if it’s good enough for the school bus, it’s good enough for car pool.
“They don’t need car seats,” these people tell you. “We’re only driving around town.”
Yes. On the single busiest street in town. On a block full of honking minivans pulling out into impatient lines of cars.
“And besides,” they add, “I didn’t sit in a car seat when I was his age.”
“Maybe. But you wore a seat belt when you were his age.”
“No, I didn’t. Because my parents said, ‘I didn’t wear a seat belt when I was his age.’”
I don’t know what’s worse—morning car pool or afternoon car pool. My wife usually does afternoon car pools, and from what I hear, it’s not easy. You can’t honk outside the school like you can honk in front of houses in the mornings, unless you want 5,000 kids to come running out. You have to wait outside the school in an impatient line going all the way down the block while the school’s PA system announces the name of your kid several times, because the kids don’t exactly listen for their names. After sitting in class the whole day, the last thing they want to do is more listening. So they call your kids, again and again, and the kids mosey out, one at a time, about ten minutes apart, and whenever you send one kid in to look for the others, the others come out and that first kid does not. And you can’t get out yourself, because you have toddlers in the car, and because you have to “keep the line moving,” not that it’s moved in the last half hour. My wife keeps her sanity by keeping a pile of magazines on the front seat.
Meanwhile, I keep my sanity by driving mornings. Mornings aren’t much better. You have to get out in time, or your kids get in trouble, and then you have to honk outside people’s houses at Way Too Early in the morning, and then you wait for like ten minutes until finally you see an adult-sized hand come out through the mostly closed front door, which usually means it’s a parent in pajamas, and you get either a wave, which means, “I’m sorry I didn’t call, but my kid isn’t coming,” or you get a single finger pointed upwards, which means “five more minutes.” Or else someone else drives car pool, and the entire house is awakened by their horn every morning, and everyone springs into action, making lunches and snacks and signing homework and trying to figure out where your kid took off his shoes and whether he came home with them the night before, and scurrying over to the door to hold up one finger, and basically putting your kid together just enough so you can shove him out the door and lock it.
So I take my own kids to school. Every morning. It saves some of the hassle, and it is technically a car pool, inasmuch as, if I went over the bridge, I would get a car-pool discount. But I still view it as even, because my wife doesn’t have to get up, according to my calculations, until about 3:30.
But it’s not all peaches and cream for me either. I can get there in the morning with plenty of time, but I still have to wait in that long line of cars, which, as far as I know, are still the parents waiting to pick up their kids from yesterday afternoon. Unlike the car-pool lane on the highway, this one doesn’t move at all. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve accidentally gotten in line behind a bunch of parked cars. I don’t understand what’s taking so long. You’re not waiting for your kids to hear their names and come out of the building. You’re kicking them out of your car. What are the kids doing in there? Eating breakfast? Or do they just never respond to their names? “Chaim, get out of the car. Chaim! Chaim! Chaim!”
Am I complaining? No. I’m doing afternoon car pool today, and I’m just writing to pass the time while I’m waiting for my kids to get out.
Oh, there’s the other one now! Great!
Wait. Where’s the first one? v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of three books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.