I’m thinking of opening up a hotdog stand in the parking lot during carpool pickup. This is not for the benefit of the students but, rather, for the parents. You see, I’m not quite sure when this happened, but as the year progressed, carpool became a contact sport, for which I have season tickets. Two or three times a week, depending on how lucky I am, I get to drive carpool. (Believe it or not, there’s no sarcasm intended in that statement.) During this time, my van essentially turns into an end zone. The ringing of the school bell, which signals the culmination of another wonderful day of learning, has now become synonymous with the quarterback’s cry of “hut” as he snaps the ball. As each “team” comes racing across the field, carpool drivers brace themselves. Luckily, most afternoons the classes are dismissed at different times. However, on that rare occasion when they are not, all of the boys are trying to score at the same time. What is the goal? It is a seat. Which seat? A front row seat. How important is this? Very.

In fact, it is impressive to see the enthusiasm and skill that is devoted to this pursuit. Some use an end-zone strategy and veer around to the left side of the car, while the others try to squeeze (all at once) over the parking-space yard line, through the right door and catapult themselves into a seat. As pandemonium ensues and backpacks sail through the air, elbows slice the air, and adherence to any and all social niceties is discarded. It is interesting to observe that in such a situation, size and strength are not necessarily a virtue. It is often the smaller and more agile player – er, child – who slips between the jumble of arms, legs, and torsos to land the seat – perching triumphantly there, as all the others crawl and climb over him before scrambling to the back (where there is apparently another “best” seat). Keep in mind, the ride home has yet to begin.

As the boys buckle up and situate their backpacks at their feet, additional requisite pushing and shoving ensues. It seems that the back seat, which comfortably accommodates three boys, becomes a world of its own. The first stage in this metamorphosis is when the three boys sitting in the back row interpret this as an opportunity to smash into each other every time the car turns a corner. It is not enough that they might naturally shift to the left or right. They feel the need to lean their entire weight against each other, thus eliciting cries and yelps of “pain” from the victim (who, by the way, will become the perpetrator at the next corner). No amount of scolding or attempts at controlling the situation from the carpool driver can deter these youngsters, for the simple reason that they are having a blast.

Another “new-fangled” activity for the way home involves punching each other in the arm every time a Volkswagen “bug” is sighted. The terminology and rules require the child who first lays eyes on the passing vehicle to yell, “punch-buggy.” He is then charged with the task of punching in the arm as many of his friends as he can reach. Strangely enough, although a child might sustain a contusion during the game, this doesn’t seem unreasonable to any of those playing, including the injured parties. Again, no amount of scolding has any effect whatsoever, because this is just the way that boys have fun. (Don’t even try to figure it out; just roll with the punches.)

As the ride comes to a close, great joy is taken when the boys have to step on (not over) each other in order to exit the vehicle. Backpacks are hurtled toward the child who is being delivered at his destination with the force and determination of a touchdown pass. At this point, any additional injuries or cries of pain are viewed as an added bonus. A word to the wise: Don’t bother with the scolding; they’re still having fun. 

When the harried driver – which, at one point in time, was me – finally arrives home, and the last boy leaps out of the car (hopefully, your own child) exclaiming, “I love when you drive carpool, Mom,” you feel (but don’t necessarily believe) that it’s all worth it. But it is worth it, and quite frankly, I think it’s time to make you into a believer. I am not only a great fan of driving carpool, but I have come to appreciate the world of boyhood. (I don’t understand it, but I do now appreciate it.)  In order to actualize my new-found appreciation, I enhanced the experience by bringing along my own hotdog and soda while I watch the game. I think it’s high time to bring some hotdogs for others and help spread the joy (and mustard), as we cheer on our children while they make great leaps and strides toward their goals. 




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