Lessons in Carpooling: No Egg Salad and No Suggestive Music
There are many awkward situations one will face throughout the emotionally unstable, pimple-laden journey that is growing up. One of those situations is most likely carpooling. It is a forced togetherness based solely upon proximity and convenience, nothing more. In my case, I was stuck riding to school with various families throughout elementary school, none of whom were friends or even kids in my grade. But most of the time, the awkwardness didn't even come from the lack of commonality I shared with the other kids riding with me. It came from their parents.
One of the reasons my husband and I bought our minivan earlier this year, despite having only two children, was so we could carpool. Now I find myself in the front seat, in the distinct position to create the climate of an uncomfortable mobile holding cell for our riding guests. For the sake of my children, that is the last thing I want to do. Thankfully, my own carpool history has provided me with a pretty detailed blueprint of things to avoid while driving around other people's children:
1. Egg salad is not allowed in the car. Now, I love a good egg salad sandwich. But it is the kind of aromatic food that belongs in large areas where air is free to move about... not in small, confined spaces. The little sister of one of the kids we carpooled with was ALWAYS sitting in the front middle seat of their station wagon, eating a giant bowl of egg salad for breakfast... right in direct line of the vents... which would blow the slightly sulfurous scent straight to the backseat. Eggcellent.
2. Never, ever, ever try to be funny ...because you will fail. One of the dads who used to occasionally pick us up would always greet us with the wrong salutation for whatever time of day it was. As we would get into the car in the morning, he would shout out, "GOOD EVENING!" We never laughed. However, having a bad sense of humor was better than the alternative: that we were being driven to school by someone who was clinically insane.
3. There is no good way to handle the radio situation. I dreaded riding with the mom who only listened to talk radio. A ten minute ride sure seems like an eternity when riding in a car where no one is talking to each other and the background noise is the voices of two women with slight Minnesotan accents discussing the current trends in knitting. But trying to be cool by letting the kids listen to a Top 40 station isn't exactly better. First of all, acting like you're "down" with the songs is just weird to kids. And if a song with any suggestive lyrics comes on, well, it's like someone just dumped a whole bucket of awkward on the entire car. Even oldies or soft rock stations aren't necessarily immune from these humiliating moments. I distinctly remember the Hall and Oates song "Rich Girl" coming on in Egg Salad Girl's car and feeling like I had done something wrong when I realized that one of the lines says, "It's a bitch, girl." I kept waiting for the mom to turn the station, but she didn't. She let us continue to listen to that profanity-ridden song. And being a very non-rebellious kid, I was feeling all kinds of weird about it.