Posted by: Jamie Stamm | August 8, 2008

The line

I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania, in a town gridded from one direction to the next with tree-lined sidewalks. I could reach just about anything by walking – the pool, the grocery store, my relatives’ houses and my elementary, middle and high schools.

The latter was a blessing, especially my senior year, when I moved in with my grandparents and lived so close to the high school that I could leave the house when the final warning bell rang. I never had to rise at the crack of dawn to wait for a bus – in fact, the only times I ever rode a bus were for field trips or sporting events. In elementary school, I was always home in time for the good cartoons, and in high school, I rarely missed an episode of “General Hospital.”

Walking also was a bane at times, like on mornings when it was so cold that your nose hairs froze before you reached the end of the first block (if you’ve never experienced this, it is one of the strangest feelings ever) or days when the powers that be decided the weather was bad enough to not run the buses but not bad enough to cancel school all together. So we walkers were the only students on campus.

So when it came time to make a decision about whether Cera was going to ride the bus or be dropped off and picked up at school, I didn’t really feel qualified based on my own experiences. As a mother, however, I was a bit leery of putting my 5-year-old on a bus by herself.

We opted for the carpool line.

On Cera’s first day of kindergarten, I was assigned a number (412) and given an information sheet – printed front and back – with carpool rules and etiquette. I read it right away, but still wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to pick her up that afternoon. Would there be 411 other parents in line as well? The school secretary had explained to me that the number I was assigned would belong to my family through both Cera and Anthony’s elementary school years, so I was pretty sure some of the numbers ahead of ours had already passed out of use, but what if they hadn’t? How long would I be waiting in this line?

The answer to that, so far, is an average of 10 to 15 minutes each afternoon and much less time in the mornings (today, our a.m. drop off took less than a minute – I guess I got there at just the right time). And aside from the knowledge that I’m wasting gas while waiting, I don’t mind the carpool line. Except for one day this week, Anthony has been quietly napping in his car seat, so I’ve tuned my stereo to National Public Radio and done one of my very favorite things – people watch. I’ve wondered if the burly man driving the car emblazoned with an advertisement for a sewing business is actually the one who does the sewing. I’ve imagined what the woman having a cell phone conversation in the van beside me could have been talking about that had her so animated. I’ve figured out personalized license plates, laughed at silly bumper stickers and sneered at those I disagree with personally or politically.

And I’ve been amazed at how smoothly the whole carpool line works. Once you reach the school parking lot, the line divides into two, with a school employee monitoring when each line moves. That employee checks the number hanging from your rearview mirror and radios ahead to the cafeteria so that your child is waiting by the time you reach the cafeteria door. A safety patrol student then opens the car door (if you’ve got a younger child like mine), wishes you a good day (I’m really impressed at how polite these kids are), shuts the door and off you go. It’s easy and efficient.

Although I am quite pleased with the carpool line, Cera is enamored with the idea of riding the bus and already is asking when she can start. But while I’ve stopped walking her into her classroom every day (which many of the kindergarten parents are still doing), I’m not quite ready to take that step. At least until next year.

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Responses

  1. Jackson asks to ride the bus every day. We finally told him we’d find out about where it stops in our neighborhood and when. He, being the smart child he is, pointed out that the car like was going to be hard come January. He’s probably right, but I’m still not really ready to take that step.

    But then, our car line is much longer and it’s not much fun waiting. I’ve been listening to a lot of NPR, too.

  2. Ask your sister about the bus.


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