The Auto-Bond Society: Encounters in Carpooling

The world of parenting is dotted with countless commitments, responsibilities, and extracurricular activities of our children. You know, soccer practices, swim meets, school functions, and the like. Whenever these events occur regularly and for an extended period of time, mini-societies are spawn. Societies in which the kids are the focal point. Societies in which most parents play but a supporting role, usually that of chauffeur. Societies in which these chauffeurs are bound by the laws of common decency to engage in awkward conversation with the other chauffeurs regardless of how well they know their counterparts. Societies in which a ruling class of adults will govern. Societies in which many interesting dynamics exist.

With the triplets now at preschool two days per week, and with Lovie in charge of getting them there safely, I’ve suddenly become a member of yet another society. Only this one doesn’t require that I bullshit aimlessly with strangers. In fact, my only requirements are to pick kids up and drop them off. That’s right. I’m now a proud member of the Carpool Society. Piece of cake, right?

Wrong. First off, it turns out that being prompt is a big deal. Which shouldn’t present that big of a problem. Unless, of course, the driver thinks school starts at 8:30 when it actually starts at 8:15.

No wonder Lovie wanted me to leave so early.

Luckily, I got Pookie and her friends to school on time, albeit barely. A wave of relief swept over me until the sight of carefully orchestrated, soccer-mom-operated SUVs brought upon another wave. One of anxiety. After all, if this rookie was fumbling with incorrect start times, no telling what else I didn’t know. I had the sinking suspicion that these right-hand-only-turning divas would make mince meet out of me in short order.

As if my peers in this Auto-Bond society weren’t daunting enough, suddenly before me stood the ruling class of adults presiding over the carpool line, their smiling faces belying the steely disposition required to attain such a lofty and authoritative post. My hands trembled, struggling to maintain their grip of my leather-covered steering wheel. My right foot sat like a boulder atop the break pedal, rendering me unable to lift it, and, therefore, unable to coast the few feet that now separated me from the car in front of us.

What was I to do? Pull up and bridge the gap? Or wait until the three cars at the very front rid themselves of their backpack-toting cargo such that I could assume the foremost position of the unloading area, thereby allowing those behind me to fully occupy the yellow lane, thus allowing for maximum unloading? In a moment, my mind locked in on its answer.

Pull up and unload now, it said. Who’s to know how long the cars in front of you will take? Better to keep the unloading process going rather than to get greedy and wait for a maximum unloading opportunity which may not quickly present itself.

Wrong move. Or so one of the kids told me. One is to wait and pull all the way up. Embarrassed, I quickly put my car back in gear to follow protocol, the lead cars having vacated the lane and permitting me access to the very front. But one of the kids had already the door open. Which allowed the sinful sounds of my stereo to pollute the carbon-monoxide-filled air, a no-no, I have since learned. All stereos are to be turned off in the carpool line.

How Footloose-ean.

Surely my peers scoffed at my embarrassing faux pas and would delight in recounting my cumbersome navigation of the carpool society at the water cooler, gym, country club, or wherever their day might take them.

Not to mention the ruling class. The only thing that could have possibly drawn more disapproval from the elite would have been a poorly timed cell call.

I drove out of the parking lot that morning with hampered pride, but also with an unwavering determination. One that will compel me to one day master the intricacies of the carpool line such that I can promptly, safely, responsibly, and efficiently execute my commuting duties, thus pleasing both my peers and superiors.

Incidentally, if any of y’all have the handbook, would you mind emailing me?

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About john cave osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as DisneyBaby, Babble, YahooShine, TLC and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. He and his wife, Caroline, live with their five children and spastic dog in Knoxville, TN. Nothing annoys him more than joke-heavy bios written in the third person, with the possible exception of Corey Feldman.

  • Jeanna Thomas

    Love this post, JCO. Two comments:

    1) I am a carpool line veteran, currently in my fifth season of trying to navigate that insanity, and it continues to be the bane of my existence.

    2) Footloose-ean is definitely my new favorite word.

  • Jeanna Thomas

    Love this post, JCO. Two comments:

    1) I am a carpool line veteran, currently in my fifth season of trying to navigate that insanity, and it continues to be the bane of my existence.

    2) Footloose-ean is definitely my new favorite word.

  • Patrick (yeah, that one)

    Yeah, you can master this. No worries. In almost no time at all you’ll pull up at speed, navigate the tight turn, slip effortlessly between the two automotive leviathans fore and aft, pull exactly into the space, eject the kids with a minimum of fuss, and then cruise off into the sunrise, turning the radio back on to jam out as you go.

    Yeah, you’ll have it made. Just don’t sneer too much at the newer rookies as you rise through the ranks. 😉

  • Patrick (yeah, that one)

    Yeah, you can master this. No worries. In almost no time at all you’ll pull up at speed, navigate the tight turn, slip effortlessly between the two automotive leviathans fore and aft, pull exactly into the space, eject the kids with a minimum of fuss, and then cruise off into the sunrise, turning the radio back on to jam out as you go.

    Yeah, you’ll have it made. Just don’t sneer too much at the newer rookies as you rise through the ranks. 😉

  • http://lifeofanewdad.blogspot.com Otter321

    You have helped me make up my mind. I am not partaking in any carpooling, drop off lanes, or the like. My kids can just walk to school 10 miles up hill both ways in the snow.

  • http://lifeofanewdad.blogspot.com Otter321

    You have helped me make up my mind. I am not partaking in any carpooling, drop off lanes, or the like. My kids can just walk to school 10 miles up hill both ways in the snow.

  • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/ Jack

    Dude- at our school there are Hummers, Escalades, Yukons and 5 million minivans trying to get into a space that was mean to service sedans and station wagons.

    As a helpful safety tip you want to refrain from telling some of the mothers that they are in desperate need of servicing. Apparently it is considered bad form to do so.

    Sigh, the burdens of being the nice Jewish boy are many.

  • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/ Jack

    Dude- at our school there are Hummers, Escalades, Yukons and 5 million minivans trying to get into a space that was mean to service sedans and station wagons.

    As a helpful safety tip you want to refrain from telling some of the mothers that they are in desperate need of servicing. Apparently it is considered bad form to do so.

    Sigh, the burdens of being the nice Jewish boy are many.

  • http://worldofweasels.blogspot.com WeaselMomma

    Don’t drink the Koolaid, man!
    I hate that stuff. I get being orderly for the sake of safety and ease, but I hate when it goes overboard to the point of treating parents like kindergartners.
    Hang tough, learn the rules, but don’t drink the Koolaid.

  • http://worldofweasels.blogspot.com WeaselMomma

    Don’t drink the Koolaid, man!
    I hate that stuff. I get being orderly for the sake of safety and ease, but I hate when it goes overboard to the point of treating parents like kindergartners.
    Hang tough, learn the rules, but don’t drink the Koolaid.

  • http://sahdinlansing.com Chris (@tessasdad)

    I’m with Weasel Momma! Fight that pressure to conform! LOL…man, it’s going to be a long school year isn’t it?

  • http://sahdinlansing.com Chris (@tessasdad)

    I’m with Weasel Momma! Fight that pressure to conform! LOL…man, it’s going to be a long school year isn’t it?

  • PJ Mullen

    I’m with Otter, WM and Chris. Screw that! I’d roll up with spinners on, Jay Z blaring and stop wherever I felt like it. Fight the power!

    • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/ Jack

      Yep, 99 Problems isn’t just fun to sing along with, it is educational too. 😉

  • PJ Mullen

    I’m with Otter, WM and Chris. Screw that! I’d roll up with spinners on, Jay Z blaring and stop wherever I felt like it. Fight the power!

    • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/ Jack

      Yep, 99 Problems isn’t just fun to sing along with, it is educational too. 😉

  • http://tracey-justanothermommyblog.blogspot.com/ Tracey – JustAnotherMommyBlog

    Ok, if you only live 3 minutes away, why not wait until 8:00 and walk there? At least on nice days?

    Car pool lanes suck. They’re all the same. They never fail to remind me of Mr. Mom with the “South to drop off, North to pick up, MORON!”

    Not that you’re a moron. You know. :)

    • http://www.johncaveosborne.com john cave osborne

      school is 25 minutes away. our friends house is 3 minutes from ours — in the opposite direction from school. hence getting to our friends house at 7:45 is like getting to our house at 7:50 in terms of predicting arrival at school.

      not that you’re a moron. you know. :) (sorry, couldn’t resist! i see how that reads confusing.

      and HERE HERE. car pool lanes SUCK.

  • http://tracey-justanothermommyblog.blogspot.com/ Tracey – JustAnotherMommyBlog

    Ok, if you only live 3 minutes away, why not wait until 8:00 and walk there? At least on nice days?

    Car pool lanes suck. They’re all the same. They never fail to remind me of Mr. Mom with the “South to drop off, North to pick up, MORON!”

    Not that you’re a moron. You know. :)

    • http://www.johncaveosborne.com john cave osborne

      school is 25 minutes away. our friends house is 3 minutes from ours — in the opposite direction from school. hence getting to our friends house at 7:45 is like getting to our house at 7:50 in terms of predicting arrival at school.

      not that you’re a moron. you know. :) (sorry, couldn’t resist! i see how that reads confusing.

      and HERE HERE. car pool lanes SUCK.

  • Jen

    Ha ha. This post really hits home as my oldest just started Kindergarten at a private school where every child has to be dropped off in the morning, and picked up at the end of the day. The carpool line terrifies me. I’m never quite sure whether I’m doing it right, and also paranoid that I’m going to hit someone else’s child. Sigh.

  • http://www.amateurmama.blogspot Jen

    Ha ha. This post really hits home as my oldest just started Kindergarten at a private school where every child has to be dropped off in the morning, and picked up at the end of the day. The carpool line terrifies me. I’m never quite sure whether I’m doing it right, and also paranoid that I’m going to hit someone else’s child. Sigh.

  • http://www.margeryraveson.com/ kim

    I am a 20-year carpool veteran.

    Trust me: You are no match for cell phone-wielding Southern soccer moms in SUV’s.

    Just try to go with the flow, and don’t take it personally.

    It’s a jungle.

    I am soon to re-join the ranks with the next generation.

    Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you. Deal?

  • http://www.margeryraveson.com/ kim

    I am a 20-year carpool veteran.

    Trust me: You are no match for cell phone-wielding Southern soccer moms in SUV’s.

    Just try to go with the flow, and don’t take it personally.

    It’s a jungle.

    I am soon to re-join the ranks with the next generation.

    Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you. Deal?

  • http://www.almightydad.com Keith Wilcox

    I have no handbook for such a thing. It sounds way too complicated for me. Who would have known there are rules involved? I think if I were to try that I’d be compelled to break every rule in the book (just to stick it to the man you know) :-) Anyway, I’m glad you came out in one piece!

  • http://www.almightydad.com Keith Wilcox

    I have no handbook for such a thing. It sounds way too complicated for me. Who would have known there are rules involved? I think if I were to try that I’d be compelled to break every rule in the book (just to stick it to the man you know) :-) Anyway, I’m glad you came out in one piece!

  • Karin

    HA! Just this past Friday I lost my mind and accidentally turned the wrong way in the preschool parking lot. I forgot I was at “pickup” (turn left) instead of “drop off” (turn right). The Vice President of the school witnessed my faux pas, as did many parents. I’m certain I will be hearing about this on Wednesday….