Why Is The School Car Line So Damn Complicated?!

Marilyn Nieves / Getty Images

Marilyn Nieves / Getty Images

I consider myself to be a relatively intelligent person. I’m well-educated, with a pretty firm grasp on traffic laws and regulations. I mean, I’ve been driving for 23 years, which is the equivalent of a person going from infancy to college graduation. It’s a long a*s time.

But, I have a confession to make: I’ve been a mom for almost a decade and I still don’t understand how the school car line works. When I was a kid, I attended a school small enough not to require an intense system, so the whole idea of it seems complicated. I mean, people actually park where the line starts near my son’s school an hour or more before school lets out, so that they will be in the front of the line. I have so many questions about this. What are they doing to pass the time? Are their cars running? Don’t they have something else they’d rather be doing? Are they hating life while sitting there?


And finally: WHY?!

For the past four years, my children have been bus riders, partially due to convenience, but also because the thought of dealing with the school car line terrified me. No way was I going to give up an hour plus of my day sitting in a line of agitated parents, trapped in our crappy van with a preschooler. Just … no.

The bus was totally fine, until it wasn’t (another story for another day), and then I had to face my fear of the school car line like a grown a*s woman.

“It’ll be fine,” I said out loud, to no one in particular on the first morning that I drove my sons to school.

“Who are you talking to, Mom?” asked my fourth grader.

“Myself,” I answered.

On the first morning that we entered the car line, I got mad waiting for the line to start moving. We were parked two blocks away from the school, just SITTING. Fu*k that noise. I asked my boys to climb on out and walk the rest of the way, which they were happy to do, except that I just broke a cardinal rule of the car line: children are not allowed to hop out and walk. Oops.

Once I was informed that what we were doing was, in fact, illegal, I decided it was time to go to Plan B. We began parking a street over from the school, next to homes with big lawn signs that read “NO PARKING AT ANY TIME.” I rationalized that since lots of other parents were doing it, we could too, as long as my kids hurried before we got caught. Unfortunately, my older son took my instructions to please hurry as an excuse to take off running, leaving his little brother to freak out alone on the sidewalk because he was walking alone.

Time for Plan C: parking at the neighborhood playground. Yes, it is a long walk. No, I did not enjoy it.

After exploring every other option available to me, I finally acquiesced. I learned that if I planned properly, we could enter the line at just the right time and get through it pretty quickly … except that I got yelled at by the crossing guard for accidentally pulling up into the crosswalk at the stop sign not just once, but multiple times. “I’m sorry!” I yelled at that crossing guard, before I turned the wrong way at the next intersection and was forced to yell an apology to yet another crossing guard.

They know me now. Let’s just leave it at that.

Visions of running over small children negatively impacted my driving skills, and turns out that I am actually a terrible, anxiety-ridden driver in the car line. When it’s finally our turn, no one can ever seem to pull our van door open because I drive a piece of sh*t without automatic doors and garbage always falls out and my first grader always gets tangled up in his brother’s seatbelt and then I have to yell “IT’S NOT AUTOMATIC!” to remind the person working the car line to shut my van door because it will not shut itself.

Then I slink off in our hulking gray vehicle, swearing that I’ll do better tomorrow. I mean, How hard can it actually be?!

Very, apparently.

Photo: Getty