Bright and early each morning during the school year I bring my three grandchildren along with other neighborhood kids down to the bus stop at the beginning of our street. It’s not that far but parents today are afraid of stalkers who might attempt to engage their young children if and when they are left unattended. I am the designated driver and “stalker deterrent” for our street. Those kids will always be safe when they are in my presence…I pity the fool who thinks otherwise.
No… I don’t walk them there. I take my car because I don’t believe in exercise. It wastes too much of my idle time. My role is just the driver of the vehicle and the purveyor of chewing gum that I keep well stocked in my glove compartment. Don’t fret… it’s sugarless gum. My presence, aside from driving the car, is almost nonexistent. I will eventually lose my role as designated driver when Apple finally puts out its self driving vehicle.
My granddaughter Mariella is the oldest and sits in the front seat nearest the glove compartment on the passenger’s side. Once the car is at “kid capacity (5),” she “takes orders” as to who wants what flavor of gum and then distributes them to each gum deprived kid. Not surprisingly, I have to remind Mariella to include me. I actually enjoy a fresh stick of sugar free “Ice” gum in the morning. It’s not the same as the Bazooka Joe Double Bubble Gum I chewed as a kid which had more flavor and lasted a lot longer. With Bazooka Joe I could actually blow a bubble that looked like a bubble…sometimes even a double bubble!
Back then, if I saved enough Bazooka Joe gum wrappers I could mail them back to the gum manufacturer and get a free prize! That gum company was way ahead of its time when it came to recycling its wrappers!
I no longer have to inform “my young passengers” about the proper disposal of their gum wrappers in my car because Mariella solved that problem by first removing the gum from the wrappers and then disposing the wrappers in a small trash bag I keep in my car. It shows some sense of logic and organization. For that I am proud of her.
Once we arrive at the bus stop (it takes less than a minute), the idle chatter begins. I have nothing to contribute so I just look forward with a blank stare hoping that the big yellow bus is nearby and will stop sooner rather than later. The first activity at the bus stop is for the kids to check their cell phones for Instagrams and Snapchats. I hear a lot of giggling and assume that they are able to share them with one another. There rarely is a coherent discussion about anything concerning school or of relative importance except for random names, words and grunts bantered about. It must be some new type of code language being taught at middle school. I for one do not understand it.
When the school bus finally arrives, they exit my car like clowns exiting a Volkswagen Beetle at a Barnum & Bailey Circus. “Have a good day Kids!” is my daily mantra. Once in awhile someone will look back and acknowledge my comment with a stare and a discreet wink of the eye. It’s OK. It’s all good!
I think back on my days of going to school. It was called Grammar School and Junior High School… not Elementary School and Middle School. We walked to school every day regardless of the weather or because of some strange person who lurked in the neighborhood. It was impossible to get a ride to school. We had only one car that my Dad used to go to work. It wouldn’t have mattered because my mother did not have a driver’s license back then. We walked to school for the morning session, we walked back home for lunch, we walked back to school after lunch for the afternoon session and then walked back home at the end of the school day. No car… no school bus… no sympathy… just foot power.
As we walked toward school other friends would join in our trek along the way. It was perfectly coordinated without prior instructions. We talked about baseball and the World Series. We were all Yankee fans. Boys entered school through the Boy’s Entrance and Girls entered school through the Girl’s Entrance. It was so less complicated being a kid back then. Our children and grandchildren live in the fast lane today and they will never know the joys of living in that slow lane that I traveled as a kid. (9/15/2017)