The Zone of Parental Illiteracy

My kids’ school is about five miles from our home. Walking is not really an option, especially if you don’t want to listen to kids whining about how tired they are after walking about 2.4 seconds. So, twice a day, I brave the mini-van jungle surrounding school at the beginning and end of the day. You’ve never seen ‘mad’ until you’ve seen the reaction of a mom who’s been cut in line by another mom. It’s not pretty. All I have to say is ‘Thank God for the Police’.

I’ve discovered something odd, however. Surrounding this wonderful institution of learning (the teachers and staff rock!) is this invisible zone that somehow zaps parents’ ability to read street signs. I call it the Zone of Parental Illiteracy. It’s particularly strong in the morning, and its strength is directly proportional to the number of minutes late the parent is when dropping off his or her child. Otherwise brilliant parents somehow have their brains sucked out of their heads when they arrive at the school at 7:41 am. The fact that we’re frequently several minutes late ourselves means I see this peculiar condition pretty much every day.

Now, Geeks tend to Follow the Rules rather closely. That’s because if we fail to follow rules when coding HTML or installing a DVD drive, Bad Things Happen. This is usually followed shortly thereafter by the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. The BSOD is the computer’s way of giving us ‘the bird’. We Geeks are a little sensitive about that kind of thing, so we try to prevent it as much as possible by following rules and instructions carefully.

It also drives us nuts when others do not follow the rules, especially in a school zone. I mean, we’re supposed to be examples on rule-keeping for the kids, not rule-breaking, unless you’re going for the goal of having your child live in prison from age 18 to whenever the warden’s tired of seeing his face. It’s bad enough that kids test our brake-stomping reflex by running across the street from between parked SUVs that block any view of tell-tale kid movement. It’s a zillion times worse when a parent does the same thing, because you expect parents to behave like, well, adults.

We were running a little late this morning, and apparently the planets were all aligned in some kind of weird conjunction. This, of course, made the Zone of Parental Illiteracy particularly strong. I had to drive around a car parked without its owner in the zone marked “No Parking: Pick up and Drop Off Only.” The owner could have parked just 50 feet back instead of taking up one of the spots closest to the school. I’ll be generous and think that maybe this parent had to drop off two dozen brownies and had a sprained ankle that forced her to park there rather than an illiterate brain. It worked out all right anyway, because I ended up in the very front drop-off spot, which all mini-van moms know is The Prime Spot. As I pulled out of the Prime Spot, another mom passed me. She, apparently under the influence of a particularly strong dose of the Parental Illiteracy Zone, abruptly stopped in the “No Stopping” Zone. I’m not entirely sure what part of “No Stopping” is unclear, but it was. Anyway, she screeched to a halt and threw open her doors so quickly that I had to swerve to avoid making her a permanent addition to the front of my van. I’ve got lots of bugs decorating the front grille. I don’t need people parts cluttering it up. Fortunately, I was able to avoid her and the oncoming van that had the foresight to anticipate my swerve by swerving out of my way. It was rather coordinated-looking, actually. If minivans could do the Macarena, that’s probably what it would have looked like.

Maybe we need talking signs for the Parental Illiteracy Zones. It could say something like “Hey, you!! Yes, you, stopping in the ‘No Stopping’ zone. What, can’t you read? If they wanted to make you the exception, they would have put your name on the damn sign!! Now get your minivan out of there before I call the cops!” That certainly would get a parent’s attention.

The worst thing is that if this mom had waited like .3 seconds, she could have had the Prime Spot. Not only is this spot closest to the school, it also is a zillion times safer because the kids then don’t have to run between parked cars and across a driveway busy with school buses. Apparently the Zone of Parental Illiteracy shared space with the Zone of Parental Stupidity today.

What I find curious is that the Zone of Parental Illiteracy appears to evaporate when a police officer drives around the school. Suddenly, everyone knows how to read. No one double parks, and no one parks in the ‘No Parking’ sections. The ‘No Stopping’ zones are blissfully free of stopped cars. Maybe the cops could just leave a squad car or two parked around the school block to keep the Zone of Parental Illiteracy at bay. That is, as long as they don’t park in the Prime Spot.

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