When Caroline gets an idea she puts one finger into the air and carols, "Liiiiiiightbulb!" more or less to the tune of the opening bar of Born Free.
I had that reaction a few times as I read the comments on the last post and not just when Cori articulated my own peeve so nicely. To wit: as long as I am obeying the local traffic and parking ordinances by putting my car in a legal spot on the street and crossing at the marked crosswalks why the effing eff do my fellow parents [or more importantly The Rules] care how I reclaim my child? It's not like I am trying to land my helicopter on the basketball court.
To briefly advocate for the angels, however, I should probably note that the pick-up procedure that the school has devised is quite logical based upon the fact that they host a school-within-a-school that pulls kids from the entire district, which is biiiiiig. In fact our district is 50% longer and four times wider than the island of Manhattan - roughly 120 square miles, if you can believe my thumb which is what I used to measure the distances. We live at the southernmmost tip of the district (one of Patrick's friends lives all the way to the north - we did a playdate once and it was a 50 minute drive) and the school is in the approximate middle. I clocked it today and it's 9.9 miles door-to-door, which I think is about average for most families. To further complicate things, budget constraints prohibit the district from offering bussing so - with the exception of the handful of children for whom this would have been their home school anyway - everyone in Patrick's program is driven. They did go to great trouble at the beginning of the year to connect families for carpools (someone in the comments asked how that would work - the carpooling families have all of the last names printed on their windshield cards. It makes them look like the last of the landed gentry; all hyphenated hyphenations: The Wysckoski-Jonsen-Filbert-Jansons) but, you know, 120 square miles. Patrick, for example, is the only kid from our town at this school.
Anyway! The point is that although three-quarters of the school walk or take the bus the remainder are stuck being driven and to that end the carpool lane does seem the most efficient solution. I mean if every one of those people tried to park on the street at the same time there would not be enough parking so... I guess the only reason that I am/was able to do so is because all those other people are willing to sit in the line. And that is why I am ashamed of myself because as much as I want to believe I am justified in bucking the system I'm not, really*.
So my lightbulb moment - or one of them - came when Kristi mentioned that she picks up her child deliberately late. Her daughter gets homework done and they avoid the crush. Since my primary reason for staying out of the line is to give Patrick adequate time to get his act together (a transitional process that can take anywhere from two to twenty times longer than it should depending upon what is going on in his sphere at the moment) it occured to me that a modified version of this could work for us too. Rather than have fifteen cars stuck behind me in line while they attempt to locate a Patrick who has paused outside the school library having just noticed after two years that there is an aquarium there, I could plan on always picking him up ten minutes after dismissal.
And! Another illuminating thought came when... I'm sorry I forget who it was at the moment... someone mentioned that their school makes you go back through the line if your child isn't ready when you are. I think that is brilliant. Talk about a natural consequence. If, say, your child is making snow angels rather than standing at attention then he can just continue to make snow angels for another ten minutes until you work your way back up to the front of the line again. Ha!
As always I thank you for your interesting comments. I found myself not only playing with mapquest as I tried to figure out just how far I drive and why (I put what would be Patrick's home school in as well - it's five miles from here. we're doomed to drive or bus) but as I contemplated all of these apple-cheeked children in charming faraway countries walking to their schools I found myself wondering if there are simply a billion schools elsewhere or if everyone lives very close together and if they do where is the, I dunno, the arable land? That lead to the fascinating rabbithole of food importation and exportation (the only thing we can walk to from my house are working farms and the trout stream) from which I emerged considerably surprised. I really had no idea who grows what and where - go Australia; not only are you people crazyfun, you're practically self-sustained. But to return to my original thought: do kids in the Netherlands or Finland or Switzerland or Spain or whatever walk (or ski!) four or five miles to school or are there more schools or are the populations universally that much more dense? Surely everyone does not live in cities? I have actually been to some of these countries but at the time I just noticed that there were very desirable tavern/pub/cafe-to-person ratios and left it at that. Did I notice schools? Not so much.
*Unless I hide out in the church parking lot. Which should bother, exactly, no one.
PS AH HA! Public transportation! Clearly I have been out here waaaay too long. I seriously forgot that public transportation is even an option. I, who took the metrobus to school starting in seventh grade (after walking half a mile to the bus stop - uphill.) Criminey. I wish you could see my face right now.
PPS Hmmmmm bicycles. M'yes. I am trying to think of some perfectly reasonable, regional reason why Patrick and I could not hop onto bikes every day and breeze up to school. I'll let you know when I come up with one.