Clarissa Johal: The Carpool Club

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Carpool Club

Some of you may know what I'm referring to when I say carpool.  You may roll your eyes and sigh because you know how horrible it is to sit for an hour (or more) in carpool waiting to pick up your little darlings from school.  Once retrieved, your little darlings usually greet you by grumping about the evil substitute teacher or the fact that little Jimmy threw up in the garbage and had to go home early, or....well, you get my drift.  It's one of the thankless parts of parenting.  Unfortunately, I have not only one carpool to sit through, but two; one for Elementary and one for Middle School.
So, what do parents DO in carpool?  Well, we read, we listen to music, we talk on the phone, we work, we stare off into space.  Some of us even fall asleep and wake themselves with their own snoring.  Not that I would know of course, but um...hypothetically.
So, the other day I was sitting in carpool, staring off into space, when I found myself pondering on the other parents sitting in carpool.  There was one on her cellphone who was twiddling her blonde ponytail and chewing gum, another on his laptop looking flustered and talking to himself, a guy in Adidas shorts and tank top who had left his car to go for a walk around the football field, and yet another broody-looking guy who was smoking.  It was like being in school all over again. The Breakfast Club, but older and set in their ways.
And we weren't in detention, but stuck in carpool purgatory trying to entertain ourselves.
The chick on the phone?  Cheerleader, definitely.  Sporting a tightly combed, blonde highlighted ponytail, pink lipstick and layers of mascara, she had yet to stop to take a breath from her cellphone chatter.  Oh yes, cheerleader for sure.  The university alumni sticker and "My Daughter is a Superstar at...!" on the back of her minivan was a dead giveaway.  Laptop guy?  Computer nerd.  Dressed in a nice suit and striped tie, he seemed to have all the the latest gadgets in tow. I figured out he wasn't talking to himself, but into his Bluetooth headset. Big relief there, there's nothing worse than a crazy parent talking to themselves.  Uh-huh.  I surreptitiously watched as he juggled his laptop and Starbucks while loosening his tie.  Impressive.  My gaze wandered over to the guy in Adidas shorts power walking around the football field.  He was doing some athletic stretches and looking quite sporty.  Good exercise, but oh my gosh, it was hot and humid.  Not my choice to go for a stroll in the sun, I thought to myself, but you go, Sporty Dude.  Which leads me to the Smoking Man.  Windows rolled up, unshaven and wearing dark sunglasses and a James Dean t-shirt, he was already on his second cigarette.  Bad boy.  I fleetingly wondered if he'd roll down the window and let his car air out before he picked up his kid.  Probably not.
I sat back and adjusted my own sunglasses.  Well, there you have it, I told myself, the cast of Breakfast Club. Thirty years later and sitting in carpool.  Interesting.  I fleetingly wondered where I fit into the group.  I tried to remember all the characters and the only one I didn't see was the weird girl played by Ally Sheedy.  I crossed my arms. Well, I'm not a kleptomaniac.  And I certainly didn't have the "problems" she had in the movie. But I was the shy kid dressed in black, I mused. I've changed, of course, I don't wear black (much). I can even carry on a conversation without feeling like I want to run and hide under a rock.  Shyness is a tough one to beat.  I sighed.  My car does have polka-dots all over it, though.  And here I was sitting in carpool making up stories about the other parents in carpool.  But it's what writers do, I rationalize.  Okay yes, I'm the Weird Girl.  I'll own that one.
Ten minutes tick by and the announcements from the school begin, they sound right before class is dismissed. Sporty Dude comes jogging back from his walk, sweaty but high on endorphins, Laptop Guy snaps his computer shut and manages to catch his tie in it, Smoking Man stubs his cigarette out on the side of his car and tosses it onto the ground.  I give him a dirty look for that and he grins all Jack Nicholson at me.  Jerk.  Cheerleader breaks the tension by loudly saying her good-byes into her cellphone and promising to meet for coffee later (kiss kiss!). We all start moving forward to pick up our darlings, another school day over for them.
And another day in the Carpool Club for us.

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