I’ve been face-to-face with danger a couple of times in my life.I’ve done a 180 in my car while driving down I-35. (It was my husband’s fault.) I’ve shared personal space with a big brown bear. (Once again, husband’s fault.) I’ve chased down thieves at a McDonalds. Okay, so they were in junior high and stealing Happy Meals, but that is still thievery. I’ve accidently gotten off the wrong chair lift and had to ski a black diamond slope. Considering I have the coordination and grace of an Asian One Horned Rhino that was danger with a big D for me. And I’ve almost been trampled to death by horde of love sick ten-year-olds at a Jonas Brothers Concert. That time my life truly did flash before my eyes.
The fact that I managed to save not one, but two Lemon Chills in commemorative Jonas Brothers cups during the stampede denotes some degree of bravery and financial planning. Those lemon chills were seven bucks each and I wasn’t going let $14 worth of chill fly out of my hands. But, the one thing that has scared me more than all of the above and childbirth combined was working ”Parent Patrol” at an elementary school.
For the uninitiated let me explain the inner workings of Parent Patrol. Simply put, it is a group of parents who volunteer to help out at the school drop off area in the morning. Helping out includes keeping the traffic running smoothly and escorting kids across the street. Now, I know that sounds harmless. But, this is one volunteer position where I suggest your life insurance and living will are up-to-date because my first foray into parent patrol was a killer.
I naively signed up for the position because it met my stringent volunteer criteria. I did not have to groom. You’re working outside. That means – pony tail and a baseball hat, sunglasses – which means no makeup except perhaps some lipstick if you want to go all out and I could get away with my “everyday” Target track pants (i.e. day pajamas) and tennis shoes.
Plus, you get to wear a one size fits all neon yellow jacket that’s emblazoned with the Parent Patrol logo that covers half your body. (Neon yellow is not my color, although I noticed it did bring out my highlights.) Another positive was that you only had to volunteer for a mere 25 minutes before school started. I had no idea why no on signed up for Parent Patrol. It seemed so easy.
My first day I grab a yellow jacket from the school secretary, walk to the circular drop off /pick up area and got ready for the Parent Patrol experience. Another mom, wearing a yellow jacket and an orange safety vest (I was kind of jealous. That vest look cool. Why didn’t I get one?) and what I think are construction steel toed work boots comes up to me and growls, “Are you ready for this?”
I tried not to laugh she sounded like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry and those boots, that’s pretty hardcore for a mom. I replied, while putting on my 3 in 1 Bath and Body Works chapstick/ lip gloss/breath freshener, “Yeah, like all we have to do is open car doors and walk kids across the drop off zone right?”
She said, “You’re a first timer aren’t you?”
Now, I’m really trying not to burst out laughing. This is one Mom who takes her volunteer duties seriously. “Uh, do you mean the first time to open a car door – no. The first time to do Parent Patrol – yes.”
“Be prepared,” she says, “It can get a little scary out here.”
“Well”, I said, “I’ll just follow your lead and I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
I’m thinking the mystery of why no one has signed up for Parent Patrol has been solved. It’s because this Crazy Lady standing next to me has freaked everybody out. It’s now 20 minutes before school starts and cars start rolling in. Crazy lady yells to me, “Assume your position!”
What position would that be? Do I need to suck in my stomach and throw my shoulders back? I holler, “What do you mean?”
She screams back again, “Stay alert and try not to get run over!”
Yeah, right. Like someone’s going to run me over.
Holy crap, someone is trying to run me over! A mom in a huge black Cadillac Escalade with a massive custom bumper that looks like it’s used to herd longhorn cattle on the weekends is accelerating towards me. She begins weaving through the other cars that are lined up to drop off their kids.
Sweet mother of Slim Fast, she’s not even looking in her windshield. All her focus is on her rearview mirror where she’s putting on mascara and talking on her cell phone. How is she even steering?
“Slow down!” I scream, while waving my hands and jumping up and down looking like a kangaroo on speed. If the SUV gets any closer I’ll have its logo branded on my stomach. Oh no, oh no, she’s jumping the curb and she s-t-o-p-s.
Praise the lord. I walk over to the car to give her a severe scolding and she rolls down her window and hands me her kid’s backpack. All while talking on her cell phone and never making eye contact with me. She then begins to roll her window up while my hand is still inside her car.
What? Who does she think she is – Marie Antoinette? I’m not some 18th century French footman here to do her bidding. First, you almost run me over and now you want me to be a pack mule for your kid. I think not. I lean all the way into her window and say, “Excuse me, but you almost caused a serious accident.”
She gives me a “how dare you speak to me look,” puts down her cell phone and says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Well,” I say, “I can see how you would be clueless because you were talking on your cell phone the whole time and applying make-up. Please try to be more careful.”
I thought, for me, I was being nice. Especially, the please try to be careful sign off. Mrs. Black Escalade apparently didn’t agree. She flips her hair and asks me my name because she’s going to text the school authorities about me harassing parents at the school drop off zone. Uh oh, now she has done it. Two words for you – “THROW DOWN.”
I leaned into her car more and said, “My name is you better carefully back up and get out of here because you’re holding up the line. Go ahead and text all you want because I intend to have the P.D. (That’s police department. I like to use initials when I’m trying to sound tough. I think it makes me sound more official.) and the sheriff’s department review the tape of your driving which, trust me, would qualify as endangering life and property. (Does the school have cameras at the school drop off area? I’m thinking probably not but, she doesn’t know that.)
I slowly remove my upper torso out of her car window and then she backs up off the curb, drives away – and – flips me the bird. Really, the middle finger before 8:15 in the morning.
My co-parent patroller – Crazy Lady walks over and says, “I told ya.”
That she did. But, I have no time to talk more cars keep coming. I run over to check on a car that hasn’t moved in a couple of minutes For the drop off to be successful the cars have to keep on moving. It’s called the “kiss and go zone.” Parents are instructed to have their kids ready to hop out. If not the school traffic backs up into a very busy street. So, a car that isn’t moving is a bad thing.
As I get closer to the car that has parked itself in the drop off lane I hear a mom gone cuckoo. Yes, it happens, mothers lose it sometimes. But, you’ve got to pick and choose where your going to go non compos mentis and the school drop zone would not even make it to my top 100 list of places to have a breakdown.
She’s in full scream mode at her three kids. I knock on the window and ask if she can move her car. The kids have their hands on the car handle ready to jump out. I sense they are waiting for their mom to catch her breath and then they’ll make their escape. I tell the mom, “Hi, the kids need to go or they’ll be tardy and we need to keep the line moving.”
She puts her head on her steering wheel and tells the kids good-bye. They haul out of that car like they’re on fire. The poor mom begins weeping. I whisper to her that based on my vast experience, if she goes up the street and drives to the Exxon carwash she can sob her heart out. “Inside the carwash no on can hear you scream,” I explain. She nods and slowly pulls out of the line.
The closer it gets to the bell more and more cars pull up and more and more are in hurry. Okay, folks it’s elementary school. It’s not like a tardy is going to keep them out of the Ivy League. Slow down.
Cars begin jostling for position and then it happens. A grandma is behind the wheel. You can tell she’s a school drop off virgin. The poor thing is probably helping out her daughter and she’s entering into the drop off line the wrong way. This means she has blocked the way out to the street and for parents the street means sweet, sweet freedom.
There’s honking and some head-case actually tries to drive up on the sidewalk to escape to the street. I jog over and tell her (nicely, I swear) to not drive on the sidewalk because she’s posing a danger to the kids. She informs me that she has a hair and nail appointment across town in 10 minutes and has to get out of here. I feel her pain. A hair appointment almost trumps any other kind of emergency. But, it’s not enough for me to allow her to pull a James Bond on the school sidewalk.
“Just give us a second,” I say, “Another parent volunteer is trying to help the grandma in that car to back up so everyone can get out.”
No can do. She keeps driving on the sidewalk. I follow her and knock on her window again and say, “Hey, you really need to get off the sidewalk.”
By now, my comrade in arms – Crazy Lady has come over to help me. She says, “I’ve got your back. Let’s get her.”
I feel like I’m in a buddy cop movie. I like it. No one has ever said out loud before that they have “my back.” Sure, I assume my spouse and my very good friends have “my back.” But, to say it out loud is an adrenaline rush. I’m like – yeah, let’s do this!
We form a human chain and stand in front of her car forcing her to back off the sidewalk. Mission accomplished. Until the sidewalk mom flips us the bird. Two middle fingers now before 8:15. That maybe a personal best for me.
Next we go to the confused grandma’s car and tell her to “Just get out!” Then I get behind the wheel of her car, turn a hard left and gun it into the street, put on her hazards, get her back in and tell her to take off.
Who’s next – Anybody feeling lucky? I’m on fire. I’m standing in the middle of the drop off zone with my new “besty” friend Crazy Lady directing traffic like I was born to it if only I had a whistle it would be perfect.
Finally, the school bell rings and my Parent Patrol volunteer shift is over. I did it! I survived Parent Patrol. I am awesome! (In my mind I’m playing a montage of the last 20 minutes of Parent Patrol over Gloria Gaynor singing “I Will Survive.” And in my montage I’ve been photoshopped to look wrinkle free and about 20 pounds thinner.)
I’m almost ready to take off my yellow jacket when Mrs. Black Escalade pulls up and gets out of her monster SUV. You can tell she’s itching for round two of the throw down. Crazy Lady comes over to offer me protection, but I tell her to,” Stand down. I’ve got this one.”
I say in a voice I imagine I would use if I were leading a special ops troop in Iraq. “Is there something I can do for you?” I ask Mrs. Black Escalade. She’s wearing, in my opinion, a way too tight, hot pink Juicy Couture sweats outfit with flip-flops that spell out her first name in rhinestones and what I swear are false eyelashes.
False eyelashes before 9 a.m. – my grandma Stella would call that vulgar. She then utters my number two least favorite phrase in the English language. “Do you know who I am?” she asks.
Please, that’s the best she’s got? That’s her A game? This is going to be easy. I answer back, “I know you can’t drive.”
My five word sentence launches her into temper tantrum. She recites her family tree in an effort, I guess, to illustrate her social superiority over me. Since I’m not that worried about launching my grade school daughter into society any time soon I’m not overly interested in Mrs. Black Escalade’s historic local lineage. What did she want me to do – curtsey? Like that’s going to happen.
I let her finish her tirade and then go in for the last word. I take off my Parent Patrol jacket hand it to her (more of a shove into her face to be totally honest) and say, “Guess what – tomorrow it’s your turn. Have fun.”
She stares at me, her collagen plump, overly glossed lips gaping open and says not a word. Crazy Lady and I turn our backs to her, walk off the school property, with our heads held high and a spring in our tennis shoe and steel toed boot step. The few, the proud, the Parent Patrol.
*Attention Snarky Friends, I have a new book out and for a limited time only it’s just 99 cents for a heaping helping of Snark! You are now gazing at the second book in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon. It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read. I hope you like it! 🙂