Saturday, September 10, 2011

Life in the Car Pool Lane

I've entitled this posting "Life in the Car Pool Lane" because some days, I feel like my life begins and ends with dropping Gabe off and picking him up.  Yes, I'm a stay at home Mom.  Yes, we don't have much else to do during the day (unless you count spending mindless hours perusing the aisles of the Super Target).  But in all reality, people (aka the establishment) take this car pooling very seriously.  A LOT of thought, effort and planning went into this system.  And I do appreciate it, after all it keeps Gabe safe from being kidnapped by a stranger or getting hit by a car or being lost inside the elementary.  But I will say that it makes me feel a lot better about my own OCD tendencies when I try to explain the system.  It's a little intense.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

The car pool system starts in a line created by who ever shows up the earliest and parks in front of the gate that leads to the back of the school.  School lets out at 3:50pm and I try to leave the house by 3:30pm to get into the line by 3:35-3:40pm.  I've shown up at 3:25pm before (because we were running back from errands and I was worried I wouldn't have enough time to stop home first) and I was still five cars back from the front of the line.  In the below picture, you can see where the school is.  I am currently parked on the road leading into the school and it's probably around 3:35, based on the amount of cars parked from the entrance.  The grey and red cars are actually in the driveway entrance of the school. 

They open the gate that separates the parking lot from the back of the school at 3:45pm and line starts filtering into the back pick up area.  At this point, Zander is screaming his head off because he's sick of waiting in a parked car.  His water bottle is probably pouring out all over the floor, soaking whatever snack has also been cast aside and toy that was used to try and appease him.  The picture below is of the cars parked behind the school, this is the official pick up area.  You can see the first cone, but I don't really have a picture that represents this organized chaos.  Basically, there are six cones that cars (mostly vans) park next to.  In the windshield, you put a paper plate or something that says your child's name (or who you're picking up) and they call out the children based on those names. 

Side note:  I've begun to notice that the paper plate with the first and last name on it is rather antiquated.  There are people with big flashy signs in their windshield and even those that hang signs from clothes hangers on their rear-view mirror.  I guess that's how you can tell the car pool veterans from us newbies. 

Back to the point:  Six children (or families or car poolers) are released at a time directly into those vehicles.  Then those vehicles move, six new ones take their places, six new children load those vehicles, and so on and so forth.

Below are pictures of the glorious women that brave the car pool lines and announce the first and last names to the teachers waiting inside the school with the children.  First is the "Walkie-Talkie Lady".  She walks through the line first and radios back to inside the school which children will be let out first and gives a running list of names from the boring paper plates or cool flashy signs.  I feel kind of bad not knowing her name and taking a picture of her to post on my blog, but this is an important part of the system.  I couldn't NOT document this phase of the car pool pick up.

Anyway, as you move slowly forward to the actual cones, you hear the "Blow-Horn Lady".  You actually hear her before then because she's yelling names and lanes (cones) for kids and parents to meet.  For example, when I get close enough to be in one of the lanes, she'll look at our ho-hum plain white paper plate and yell "Brong, Lane So-and-So.  Gabriel Brong, Lane So-and-So."  At that point, Gabe has already been waiting outside because "Walkie-Talkie Lady" has announced that I'm in the line and for him to be released from the building.  He and I listen to which lane we've been assigned from "Blow-Horn Lady", I drive to that cone.  I park the car.  Open the side door.  He climbs in and gets buckled.  I drive off.  Lane So-and-So has opened up for another parent.

All in all, it's a fairly smooth system.  There are teachers or volunteers inside the building with the children, letting them know when "Walkie-Talkie Lady" calls their name.  There is one adult making sure the child/children go to the right lane (cone) and an adult at each lane (cone) to ensure that the child/children KNOW the person driving the vehicle.  It runs pretty fast and usually we are out of the line and on our way within 5-7 minutes of school letting out.  Once we get to the "Walkie-Talkie Lady", Zander's usually calm enough to understand that it'll only be a couple more minutes in the line.  It helps that by that time, the line has started to move and we're not completely stationary. 

Things I have learned while wasting away in the car pool lane -

-Your child has to be listening, at all times, for his name to be called.  If he's not (as mine usually isn't), and is instead wandering around not paying attention, you will get very funny looks when you try to explain to the adult at the lane that the kid with the Batman t-shirt and Star Wars backpack really is yours and you're not trying to kidnap him.  Then you usually have to pull out of the line, so he can meet you in the extra space (or holding area, as I like to call it) and you don't screw up the flow of traffic by taking an extra couple minutes trying to get your kid's attention.

-Make sure your child is paying attention to his name.  It saves face for everyone.

-Don't try to get out of the car and yell for your child.  You get even more weird looks.

-Minivans really ARE the preferred vehicle for families.  I had some idea, but not nearly as much as when I wait for 10-15 minutes with nothing to do except stare at the vehicles in front of me.

-Bring a book with you in the car.  Then you're not stuck looking at the vehicles (vans) in front of you.

-There are three other red Dodge Caravans that wait in the car pool lane.  Two are almost always ahead of me.  One has a "Proud of my Eagle Scout" bumper sticker.  I like to think our families would be friends and smile at them whenever I see them.  They probably think I'm crazy.

-When picking up your child, you have to have a door that opens on the right side of your vehicle.  Children are not allowed to walk around vehicles for fear of getting hit by the car pool traffic.

-There is always a "father" picking up a child on his motorcycle without a helmet.  It makes me extremely nervous every time I see him.  I wonder how having my child walk around a vehicle is less safe than having one hang on the back of a motorcycle with no helmet.

I'm sure this is much more than you ever wanted to know about the car pool lane and my time in it.  I have to wonder, does anyone else have a system like this?  Or did we just pick a school with a crazy OCD car pool organizer?

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