I'm A Patient Person — But The School Car Line Turns Me Into A Rage Monster

by Elaine Roth
Originally Published: 
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Chances are, whether you’ve known me for thirty years or three months in real life (as in, outside of essays and social media), you’ve never seen me angry. You’ve probably seen me cry—because, well, the whole young widow thing—but you probably have never seen me rage. Most people haven’t.

My anger is generally something I experience internally, rather than show outwardly. I’m soft-spoken and calm. I’m fairly good at taking things in stride. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve lost my cool in public in the last decade. There was one time around 3 a.m. in the emergency room, when I yelled at a young doctor for something that wasn’t his fault. (I feel bad about that one, but in my defense, I’d just learned my husband’s brain cancer had spread into his cerebral spinal fluid and my young son had called in tears asking if I’d be home for his birthday.) Another time, when a contractor double charged me shortly after my husband’s funeral. (I don’t feel bad about that one, but again, in my defense, there was a lot of grief involved and I barely remember the shrieking words I shouted.)

But morning car line…morning elementary school car line…

I don’t know what happens to me. I become a rage monster. Think ranting and raving. Think throwing up my hands and rolling my eyes. Think narrating every snail-like move with an impatient snark.

(I’m not proud of myself and thank goodness I have the good sense to keep my windows closed.)

I have no defense for my actions. No excuse. I am just viciously, furiously, viscerally angry at the parents who ignore the rules about staying in your car.

Because honestly, the rules are simple, clearly stated and oft repeated. Drive up to the curb. Stay in your car. Allow your child to exit. For the youngest children, teachers and assistants are available to open doors and help heave heavy backpacks onto little shoulders. The rules state, explicitly, that parents should not get out of the car. That parents should teach their children how to exit the vehicle without help. That parents with young children or children who need extra help getting out of the car should park in the lot and walk their children to the door.


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Car line is supposed to have a flow. A drop and go flow. Parents who mess up that flow—welcome to my rage.

Here’s the thing—my mornings are scheduled down to the minute. Drop off my elementary schooler, drop off my middle schooler, head to work. Every minute you take beyond the allotted thirty seconds that it should take to drop off your child, is a minute that I desperately need.

It’s true that I could leave a few minutes earlier and buy myself some time. I’ve tried that. Somehow those car line rule breakers are there—whether I’m one of the first at drop off or not. But also, leaving a few minutes earlier means waking up my budding tween boy and middle school girl. Anyone who fights that fight every morning knows their body clocks do not get them out of bed and out the door until their body clocks are ready. And why should they miss out on a few minutes extra sleep just so other parents can ignore the no-exceptions-made car line rules?

Okay, I need to take a breath because I feel that rage monster rearing its ugly head. The truth is that I don’t want to start my mornings so angry. While my kids think it’s hysterical to see their normally zen mom go absolute rage monster on a slow-moving kindergarten mom who’s chatting up the assistant that’s supposed to keep car line flowing, I don’t want any of us to start our day with that kind of energy. I want to teach them grace and patience in these situations, not whatever it is I’m teaching them, which I suspect is the opposite of grace and patience. But, no one’s perfect, and maybe there’s a teaching moment there, too.

You know—like a “follow the rules or people who don’t usually get angry will cut you down with a hard glare” lesson. I’m kidding. Kind of.

Look, I absolutely understand that some kids need extra help getting out of the car, and that some parents whose kids need the extra help also schedule their mornings to within a minute and they need the extra seconds that skipping car line rules provides. Their schedules are as important as mine. And I feel for kindergarten parents who are sending their kids to school for the first time while a pandemic rages on. The rational part of me knows we’re all doing our best. But I can’t help feeling what I feel, or rolling my eyes and grumbling loudly about it.

Which all goes to say: fine, I’ll give you your time, but then let me have my rage.

I promise I won’t let it get past car line.

But for real—let’s keep it moving.

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