While there many things teachers and parents might disagree upon, one thing that unites everybody is the business of negligent parking – some of it wilfully so – on the school run. There’s no doubt it drives both parties to utter distraction, and while the majority of parents maintain an admirable community-orientated approach to the whole business, there are a number of those who don’t. Let’s have a look at a few of them, shall we?
Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away, there used to be a children’s game called ‘British Bulldog’. The game was simple in that it consisted of an individual child – in the guise of the ‘Bulldog’ – attempting to block their classmates as they rushed towards him or her, in an attempt to get past. This was way before the’ health and safety’ people – the spoilsports – stepped in and decided that children actively hurling each other into the concrete was a bad idea; and also before there arose an increasing unease in relation to the right-wing connotation inherent in the game’s name.
One can only assume that the thrill of the game has been internalised within the car-driving Bulldog (not the right-wing bit necessarily) insofar as their school-dropping modus involves a variant on the same theme, by stopping in the middle of the road at the busiest point in relation to the school gates: thus ensuring that nobody else can get past.
And let’s face it, if you going to play the Bulldog, what you’re going to need is a dirty great 4×4 or one of those huge American truck-style monstrosities that evokes images of predatory banjo-playing hillbillies, just to make absolutely sure that the possibility of anything edging its way around is rendered completely and utterly negligible.
Of course, the Bulldog makes the occasional allusion to the environmentally unfriendly nature of their choice of transport, but they’re fooling nobody: ‘We realise it’s a bit of a beast but what else can you do when you’ve got four children so close in age’. Dunno, maybe make a few concessions towards contraception, as you’re casually hurling your various undergarments around the bedroom, after a night on the Shiraz. Might be a good place to start?
Taking time to walk around their ugly motorised people-carrying contraption, dispatching each child individually, the bulldog makes a suitable gesture of acknowledgment to the car heading up the significant queue behind them. Make no mistake, it’s not really a gesture of acknowledgment, it’s status-confirmation. They’re letting you know who is boss, and it sure as heck ain’t you babe.
Even on those very rare occasions when the Bulldog does park in a designated spot, it’s pretty much a given that they will do so in such a way as to compromise the number of cars originally intended to fill the space. It is after all, expected of them.
Half close your eyes, imagine a large motor vehicle straddling two supermarket places, and a lonely abandoned trolley soon to be occupying the third. Yup, that’s them as well.
While not as inclined to block the traffic in the same way as the Bulldog, the Trainer will nevertheless park immediately outside of the school, on the yellow zig-zag lines, and preferably at the most hazardous point on the entire road.
For theirs is a different agenda. Whether or not academia constitutes any sort of a priority, when it comes to the Trainer’s children is an unknown quantity; it’s pretty much a given that athletics most certainly does; the sprint, in particular.
You see those doors on the Trainer’s car? At the precise point when the Trainer stops, they aren’t doors anymore. To the Trainer, they are traps. Traps waiting to be sprung, and the best time to spring them is just at the point when the risk of another car hitting one or other of their children is at its highest.
I don’t know if you’ve had the unfortunate experience of having to hit the brakes to avoid hitting the Trainer’s kids, but a funny little game of chicken it isn’t? It’s stressful and it’s potentially bad for your own laundry situation.
Nonetheless, satisfied that their kids – having narrowly avoided the carnage once more – have reached the other side of the road, and presumably improved upon their time, the Trainer takes off at great speed intent on subjecting other parents’ children to the same rigorous methods in relation to their own individual ability to cross the road rapidly; noting a comparable level of underachievement, as they go.
Whatever the individual merits of the Trainer’s method, it’s worth bearing in mind that no post Gold Medal win interview ever contained the sentence, ‘I owe an awful lot to my parents who encouraged me to put my life on the line everyday on the school run’.
While it is conceivable that the Sloth could easily qualify as a Bulldog or a Trainer, the main attribute that they bring to the proceedings is that they live less than five minutes’ walk from the school; and yet somehow, they persist in driving the kids to the school every day.
The Sloth lives but a stone’s throw away. In this instance, were the term ‘a stone’s throw’ to be taken literally insofar as if one was to throw stones from the Sloth’s house in the direction of the school, it would more than likely take out half of the windows in the foundation area. How close does the Sloth live to the school? So close that that the vast majority of other parents – on any given day – are parked further away from the school than the Sloth’s actual house. That’s how close.
And this is taking into account the fairly accepted norm that kids are best served by regular exercise; even as little as five minute walk to the school, one would imagine? But no, the Sloth’s dog commands a greater level of priority in the exercise stakes; although the logic suggests that if it were possible, the dog would be taught to drive, and have done with the business of walking as well.
So, not only is the Sloth going to drive the kids to school, they’re also going to clutter up the parking arrangements for everybody else, in the process: because the Sloth comes armed with the perfect excuse, and that is ‘I have to drive to work immediately after I have dropped them off’.
So urgent is the need to get to work that the Sloth can often be seen outside the school gates with a number of other parents catching up on a spurious piece of gossip or three, fifteen minutes after the kids have all gone in; the urgent dictates of capitalism grinding to a halt in the process.
And anyway, what sort of job other than – quite possibly – the emergency services is so important that there isn’t room for a little five minute manoeuvre here and there? You can always petition the boss in relation to the possibility of sticking an extra bit on at lunchtime, can’t you?
But there’s no discussion as far as the Sloth is concerned. And even if there was, do you really want to share the same oxygen with someone who in answer to the question ‘Why not let the boss know you’re walking the kids to school, and you’ll make up the time elsewhere’ comes back with ‘I haven’t got a boss, I’m self-employed’.
On any other day, the Player might easily qualify as a model citizen. But in this instance, the Player is a model citizen who just before reaching a Michael Douglas-style ‘Falling Down’ point, has pulled themselves back from the brink and decided that the only to deal with the horrendous nature of the parking situation is via the means of stealth, and cleverly outwit all of the other players on the block. To that end, they turn up between thirty to forty minutes before there is any need to take the kids into the school i.e. very early indeed. But to be fair, their parking is impeccable.
Of course, we’ve all seen (and pitied) their like before: sleeping outside department stores on Christmas Eve in anticipation of the Boxing Day; or similarly in relation to the Black Friday sales. You may scoff but bear in mind, the Player thinks they are being clever. And we wouldn’t want to burst their bubble would we?
To the credit of the Player, their children are much less likely to dash recklessly across the road, like those of the Trainer. The flipside however, is that they may well be more prone to Stockholm Syndrome in later life, in the event of a kidnap: given the amount of time they spend in the car with their original captor.
More conspicuous in the afternoon, having initially thought the Player might be some sort of sleuth on a stakeout, some of the local residents have taken to informing the school that there’s a suspicious individual hanging around outside the school on a regular basis. A waste of time for all concerned when you consider that a member of the admin staff is now duty bound to come and check that that the aforementioned ‘suspicious individual’ is indeed the tediously predictable Player.
So how – you might ask – does the Player fill the time? It would be nice to think that they’re studying the classics or revising for a degree wouldn’t it? But the truth is they’re reading ‘Take a Break’ magazine, and creating facebook posts which overuse the word ‘literally’ (literally) and feature pictures of their own beautiful steering wheel: ‘Literally outside the school again. Can’t get any closer to the gates. Literally’.
With all of that time on their hands, you’d think the Player would volunteer to do some work in the school? Say helping the kids with their literacy, numeracy or some such. The chances are it comes with a free parking space within the school grounds after all.
Then again, maybe not. I mean what who wants to have to listen to their own kid coming home and telling them how great it is that one of their mate’s parents is clueing them in on the best way to get to the front of the dinner queue. Literally.
Around the same that the nation’s children were merrily engaging in the ‘British Bulldog’ game, there lived an old and very divisive lady who, for many, was the last great individual to embody that same ‘Bulldog’ spirit (in the right wing sense) associated with the name of the game.
Whether or not the old and very divisive lady played the ‘Bulldog’ game as a child is not known, but those that disliked her said that, as she was fond of selling people shares in things they already owned, they could easily imagine her stealing other children’s sweets, as a kid, and selling them back to them at a higher price (or selling them to her friends in the Tuck Shop at a knock-down rate). They said their argument was backed by her behaviour in later years when she gleefully stole the milk off the little children as well.
But those that loved her, loved her even more for this, and they fawned excessively. In return, and as a means of acknowledging the ceaseless fawning they heaped upon her, she would dispense nuggets of political wisdom, most of which they lapped up like dogs. There were some nuggets however such as ‘there is no such thing as society’, that even some of her biggest adherents struggled with.
And even though the old but divisive lady is no longer with us, for some people, these words still have the power of a great spell. The idea that ‘there is no such thing as society’ is alive and well, and being promulgated by those who would put a bag on the seat next to them on a train, or drop litter, or let their dogs defecate everywhere without picking it up. Or most significantly, park on the double yellow lines outside of the school with qualities of vigorous impunity they feel the old but divisive lady would no doubt admire; assuming they realise the origin of her ‘no such thing as society’ mantra. Her detractors say such individuals are her true legacy. They are the Sociopath.
Every single day the entire community has to put up with the Sociopath and their inclination towards doing as they damn well please, despite the constant diplomatic pleading of the school, via the updates they send in the form of a weekly newsletter. But to no avail.
Some have tried confronting the Sociopath but it only seems to fortify their sense of entitlement further. And as for leaving passive-aggressive post-it notes on the Sociopath’s windshield… forget it, it only provides them with increased opportunities to discard litter.
Even the occasional appearance of a traffic officer – admittedly a delightful event to witness from the perspective of a bystander – only allays the problem for the duration of their stay. The minute the traffic officer disappears, same old, same old.
For good measure, the Sociopath sometimes brings along an accomplice, and one or other will remain in the car while their partner-in-crime goes about the business of collecting the child or children. The Sociopath and the accomplice are easy to tell apart. The Sociopath remaining in the car, looks for ‘all the world’ like they couldn’t give a flying one, while the accomplice has the anguished appearance of someone wishing a third party would bestow an invisibility cloak upon them. But that’s what you get if you play gimp to the Sociopath, and their hand-me-down ‘no such thing as society’ outlook.
You see, when you think about it in any depth there is such a thing as society. There is such a thing when it comes to the business of engaging with others, when all of our paths cross and we are obliged to pay deference to ‘the other’, when we agree that certain fundamentals make for an easier and more peaceful time for all concerned. When we interact.
But let’s just say, there isn’t such a thing as society, and we are all free individual economic agents, with nothing to bind us together – as well as free to park where we like – as the Sociopath no doubt believes. Well, equally doubtless, there are those amongst the Sociopath number who own businesses in the locale. It’s simple. Don’t endorse them. Then we’ll see whether there’s such thing as society or not. We’ll see how far a lack of custom equates with a lack of society.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this post, and you would like to discuss them further, please feel free to comment below.