The school drop off lane. This is where parents catch fleeting glimpses into the real lives of the families you see every day. It’s a peek behind the curtain into the economic, social and (if you’re lucky) occasional mental dynamics of the names you know through your children but will probably never become more than acquaintances with. This place can get to me. Most likely I’m imagining this, but the drop off lane can feel like most judgmental place this side of 7th grade.
I’d love to say that I’ve evolved enough as a person that I’ve transcended the effects of personal judgements upon me and that I give it no thought. However I’d be lying to myself. I certainly care. I’m as affected by marketing and media as anyone is and I care what others think to a certain degree. So when I’m rolling up to my kids’ school my brain kicks in and I start wondering what people are thinking about me and my brood. I wonder what conclusions they are coming to based on those moments of utter exposure.
We pull into the school parking lot line amongst everyone else. Together we are a long creeping parade of minivans and SUVs all hoping the bell doesn’t ring before the hasty unload. I start getting a bit stressed. Suddenly I realize how filthy the outside of my car is. When was the last car wash? Had to have been over a month ago. Maybe 3. Well, at least the dirt is uniformly crusted along the entire exterior. Perhaps everyone will think we chose “Muted Dust Storm” as the color rather than the silver it’s supposed to be. Luckily the inside doesn’t reflect the unkempt neglect of the outside.
It’s far worse.
Coming from a theater background I know a bit about staging. Audiences can see different things from different angles, and every morning I try to hastily mask all lines of sight. From the open side door, you’d think my car was immaculate. Not a cheerio or an errant baby wipe in sight. But should someone lean inwards and break the illusion, you’d discover a wasteland of old fruit crushers, tissues, apple cores and God knows what else tucked into the alcoves and recesses of the van. I sort of cleaned my car the other day and it was as if I was on an archeological dig. I probably should have called in experts from the local museums to catalogue my finds. I found myself thinking “Where did all these Goldfish come from?? I haven’t bought them since mid 2012.”. It hits me that they are artifacts of that time period, unearthed in the cleaning process. Then while I stand there and ponder this fact… “crunch crunch crunch” —— “NO!!! don’t eat that, it’s too ol……..” dang, too late. When they say “5-second rule,” they actually mean “3-5 year rule,” RIGHT? I hope so for my son’s sake.
Well, we are now near the front of the drop off line and I need to get out to help my daughter gather her things quickly. The worst thing you can do is become the family holding up the steady machinations of the drop off. I glance at the guy 2 cars ahead getting out of his shiny and pristine Maserati (true story) donning an immaculate tailored suit and suddenly am all too aware of my state of dress and grooming. I am exceptional, in how sub-standard I appear. Surely parents, teachers and possibly grade schoolers around me are thinking:
“Well, I wasn’t aware that her father was a homeless man.”
“It’s nice that he’s trying to pull his life back together.”
“We should probably start a collection.”
One of the perks of being a writer and doing social media is that I get to mostly work from home and don’t have to wear a suit to the office each day. But, damn. Should have gotten out of my pajamas.
Now that I’m out of the car and walking my daughter to her drop off spot my son has unclipped himself and is messing with the volume to the radio which connected to my iTunes. No problems there though. The last 2 songs were from Tangled and Beauty and the Beast. Surely we’re listening to my daughter’s playlis………. oh no…… is that???……. it is.
It’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
On FULL volume.
With the doors wide open.
If I hurry back I can turn it off before the song gets to the more colorful descriptions of how his industrious workforce of women should distribute their earnings and….. “Oh, hello Ms. Smith. Yes things are going fine…..” Small talk with the principal. Nuts. People are definitely looking at me now.
But wait!!! My salvation has arrived behind me in the form of a 5th grade girl in full psychological meltdown! Hooray! What’s even better is that her mother is responding in an eruption of fury, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the destruction of Pompeii.
“GET OUT OF THE GODDAMNED CAR AND GET YOUR LAZY BUTT TO YOUR CLASS NOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW!!!!!!!! I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS BULLS$#!&!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
“Wow, that mom has some issues” I think to myself before realizing that I’m now the one that’s judging. Damn. Who cares though, she’s provided just enough distraction for me to slink away swearing to myself that when I get home I’ll clean the car, shave, get dressed and be presentable for tomorrow’s drop off.
You know, just like I did yesterday and every single other day before that.