Excitement in the suburbs

My husband drives carpool. Every afternoon, he picks up four boys from the local elementary school. However, today he is in Michigan enjoying some guy-time with his college buddies.

My neighbor, the morning carpool driver, drove afternoon pick-up yesterday and will pick up tomorrow. Today, though, I had no choice. I was the designated Carpool Driver.

I was also scheduled to work from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., then had a phone conference from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., drove a kindergartener to school at 12:30 p.m., and was scheduled to work again from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight. Having no choice, at 2:55 p.m., school dismissal time, I instant-messaged a co-worker and told her I’d be back in ten minutes.

An optimistic estimate, sure, but I’ve done it before. I time my departure so that my boys will be the last ones to be picked up so I don’t have to sit in line and inch my car forward while wondering why everyone in the world is so inefficient and slow-moving.

I did not count on road construction and a detour. Drat.

I did not plan on waiting for the departing buses to pass by on the road which was narrowed to one-lane by yet more construction.

When I pulled up, though, no children were in sight. A moment of panic struck, but then the boys emerged from the school and crowded into the van. When the last boy sat, I backed my van up slightly, looked to make sure no vehicles were approaching and caught sight of a furious woman leaning out of the car window behind me.

A car behind me? Where did that car come from?

I rolled my eyes, rolled down the window, waved exuberantly and said, “Sorry! Didn’t see you!” Then I pulled around the van in front of me and intended to go home.

Irresponsible, you might conclude . . . leaving the scene of an accident, you might say . . . hit and run, call the police, you might accuse.

But I didn’t even feel my van tap her little silver car. I knew that if I’d actually hit her, I would have felt a jolt, a bounce or at least a bump. I felt nothing.

Still, she pulled her car faster than necessary past me into a parking spot. With a sigh, I pulled mine into a spot, too, and got out. She was standing with an outraged look on her face, studying the front of her car and said (with some disappointment, I thought), “Well, it’s just a ding.” She ran her fingers over the bumper and I saw absolutely nothing. Not even a smudge of blue paint from my van. HELLO? That’s why God gave us bumpers, for those occasional little bumps, even imperceptible ones.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “I didn’t see you there at all.”

She didn’t acknowledge me. I returned to my car.

Then back to the detour, where I found myself in a line of ten cars. I swerved onto a side street, went a block down and raced through town. I was like Jason Bourne, on the run through an Italian city.

I pulled into my driveway and saw the neighbor’s dog loose, the dog that bit a kid last summer. I turned to warn the kids and one of the boys said, “Uh . . . ” and I said, “OH! I was supposed to drop you off! But I don’t have time . . . can you stay for awhile?” and I’m thinking that if I were a fifth grade boy I might have said something to the driver if she appeared to forget to drop me off at my house several blocks away . . . but he said nothing until I had pulled my keys from the ignition.

I warned the boys, “Do not stay in the front yard. Do not run. That dog bit a kid.”

We got in the house, I looked at another boy and said, “Was I supposed to drop you off?” And he called his house and his dad was home, so he walked a few houses over to his house. (And luckily, he was not eaten by the dog.)

I was away from my computer for a good twenty minutes. And in that time I’d managed to:

1) Get stuck in construction.

2) Hit a car. (Barely, invisibly, hardly at all.)

3) Get stuck in traffic (in a tiny little town with no stop-lights!).

4) Forget to drop a kid off at his house.

5) Scare all the kids spitless of the wandering dog.

Good times were had by all.

At 5 p.m., my mom arrived to accompany me to the mall parking lot where I waited for AAA to come and open my van with its keys locked inside. He arrived after only twenty minutes and wasted no time in breaking into my van. Awesome.

I can’t believe I backed right up into someone’s car and then immediately thought of half a dozen reasons why it was her fault. I am very good at deflecting blame, at least in my own mind. Also? I should not be allowed to drive carpool. I do not have the patience nor the driving skills.

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