to idle or not to idle, that is the question

With T-man’s auspicious start in middle school I have once again rejoined the team of parents, grandparents, and assorted designated drivers creeping up the driveway to pick up their students each afternoon.  It was that or let him ride the bus with the high school students; this seemed like the lesser of two evils.

After seven days of reclaiming my car rider line tiara, I have a few observations about this particular process of transportation.


I’m not personally a fan of the pull through the line at the last minute mentality.  It stresses T-man to be one of the last kids picked up, and I get a little spazzy about that whole “your kid must be picked up by 3:45pm” deadline.  What can I say, I’ve got a thing about deadlines.  And not missing them.  And not getting yelled at by the school for missing them.

This means I usually show up about 15 to 20 minutes before the dismissal bell (because I’m also not personally a fan of the show up over an hour early so I’ll be at the front of the line mentality).  The first decision I’m confronted with is simple: do I turn off the car.  The environmentalist in me says, “Moron!  Of course you turn off the car!  You can’t just idle here.”  So I turn off the car.  But we live in North Carolina which has for several years now maintained hideously hot temperatures outside of summer, sometimes even well into October.  Which means I typically last eight minutes before becoming concerned about being too lightheaded to drive safely, so I crank the engine and air conditioning again.  I like to think it’s for the safety of the children.


There was a very abrupt transition from the overabundance of instruction in all things elementary school to the throw parents into the deep end without any guidance whatsoever, sink or swim approach of middle school.  I literally drove into the pickup line on the first day with absolutely no idea what I should do.  Like a lemming, I followed the cars snaking toward the school, pulling over on the shoulder when I couldn’t get any closer.  A guy in an orange vest frantically blowing a whistle helped me get started in the traffic pattern, but things quickly broke down as I approached the drop off/pick up area.  I’m not asking for hand holding here, but a quick e-mail about the car rider line basics?  Sounds pretty valuable to me.


I know people like to be efficient with their time.  Either that or our brains are so fried that we’re incapable of sitting in a line for 25 minutes without distraction.  To be fair, I bring my own.  Sometimes it’s catching up on e-mail, sometimes it’s my blogging notebook.  Today I got drawn into a great book, but it’s always stuff I put down once things get under way.  I found it extremely disturbing to see a woman playing on her phone while her car was moving.  Poor car rider line etiquette, madam.

The deal is once the line starts going, you stop all extraneous activities and pay attention.  The people behind you are counting on everyone keeping things moving so we can all get our kids and get on our way, something that would be severely hindered by a fender bender in the school’s driveway.  So for the love of Pete, people…Candy Crush to your heart’s delight, but put that thing away once the ride’s in motion.


There’s a strange dichotomy to the car rider line.  Everything about this process is slooowww…an inch at a time, one car at a time.  Until I’m leaving the school lot, that is.  Then that guy in the orange vest is waving me out like Mario Andretti, blowing his whistle repeatedly and frantically gesturing for us to GO! GO! GO!  It kind of freaked me out for the first few days but I’m learning to ignore it.


I now wear my car rider line tiara with pride.  I’m not claiming to be an expert at this stuff, but by December?  Look out, eighth grade moms.  I’m gunning for driver of the year, baby.

2 thoughts on “to idle or not to idle, that is the question

  1. We also combine middle school students on the bus with the high school, grades 7-12. The middle school is WAY off my path to work, so I swallowed hard and reassured myself that all was okay because I also rode a bus with the same grade span. Now, my last two are in high school, and my junior will be driving herself and her brother to school soon. As for the traffic pattern, check T-man’s backpack for possible paper directions. Or maybe it’s in the back of the school handbook. Schools tend to lag in the paperless department. Good luck! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s probably part of it — I never overlapped that many grades on a bus. I stay at home, too, so I just have to work this into my afternoon schedule. I did eventually find the traffic info in the school handbook after school on day 2…it’s just that having it beforehand would have made that first day a whole lot less stressful. 🙂


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