As I waited for my daughter’s middle-school bell to ring, I sat listening somewhat attentively to my fifth conference call of the day. I suddenly realized I was on line, and on the line all at the same time. I chuckled to myself.
Looking at the other suburban moms and dads in this daily processional, I wondered how many orthodontist and doctor appointments, piano and swimming lessons and everything in between created this ritualistic array of SUVs, mini-vans and station wagons. Different day, same long line.
Just as the bell rang, causing the car ignitions to start simultaneously, one rogue parent, possibly in a Rogue, veered around the other parents, creating a second lane right at the front door. Parents shook their heads in dismay and disbelief. This parent was not only rude, he was thumbing his surgically enhanced nose at all of us.
As my daughter got into the front seat, I began my walk of shame… to shame that parent for crossing the line. My daughter grabbed my arm before I could hit the pavement.
“Don’t what? He cut the line and I need to tell him to get back in line.”
“Dad, you’ll embarrass me. I know his daughter. Don’t even think about it!”
“You’re kidding, right? He’s rude and obnoxious. He can’t do whatever he wants.”
“Dad, he did it two days ago. Mom yelled at him and then gave him the finger. I think he already knows what we think.”
My wife had yelled at this man and given him the bird? My ardor for my wife rose with every not-so-pleasant word I imagined her slinging at this guy. The fiery nature that attracted me years ago was still there. No white-picket fence could corral my wife.
As I drove off muttering and cursing to myself, I wondered. Why do some people feel propriety and protocol are for others, and not for themselves? Because I see it everyday from bathroom stalls to gas stations. And especially in parking lots where no one has the agility or inkling to park within the lines.
Why do we expect our kids to toe the line and draw within the lines when we, ourselves, find ways to blur lines for our own advantage? Is this suburban survival of the fittest – the more you inch forward, the more dominant you are? I ponder this line of reasoning.
It usually starts when our kids are small at some Sesame Street Live concert or local fair. As our child squirms, wriggles and gyrates, we give pleading eyes to the people waiting in front of us for the one open stall. We work the sympathy until someone lets us go barreling off ahead of the crowd. Children and women first (and sometimes dads too)!
But heaven forbid someone does that to you. When my elder daughter was six, my wife met her best friend of 30+ years at The Lion King. Cracks had already fissured their friendship so every meeting was a critical attempt to solidify and repair it. As they waited to use the bathroom during intermission, an elderly woman kindly told my wife to let my daughter go first. As my wife took my daughter’s hand, her childhood friend walked ahead of her, straight into the stall. That lifelong relationship was over by the curtain call.
Queuing up offers us clues and cues about the people we share a zip code with. Find a dad amusing in the gym but if he cuts people off at a party drop-off, there’s nothing funny about him. Go to sign up for school snack and find one mom’s name written on almost every line, and the lines of communication have ended. If they can’t abide by what’s right, how can you reside right by them?
The speed bumps that define the streets and avenues of our lives are not meant to be taken at breakneck speed. When flu season hits, take your lumps by not trying to circumvent the long line at CVS. If I hear one more parent moan and groan when buying school supplies at Staples during the first week of school, I may plan to crack a ruler over their knuckles. How can you expect your child to have patience if you exhibit none?
So I will continue to wait my turn when picking up my daughter at school. I will watch my P’s and Q’s and follow the rules. Because you can’t put your integrity on the line just to be first.