(Spoiler Alert: it’s me)
Anyone—parent, guardian or otherwise—who has experienced the rite of passage known as school “Car Line,” understands full well the challenges that can arise.
It’s basically parental purgatory—a holding tank that traps you and about a hundred other parents for an eternal hour before the students are released and you’re finally set free to reclaim what remains of your day. I’m one of the lucky ones, however, because of the shopping center that sits directly across the street from my child’s school—giving me the freedom to shop, grab a latte or use the restroom while I wait.
Except on this day. This was the day I got called a bully.
In order to enter the car line, you have to drive around the back of the school that runs alongside several open fields and a playground. A few hundred students were having a field day, and so in an effort to keep the students safe, teachers had set up a blockade of chairs right in the middle of the drive to keep cars from passing through. I was the first in line and stopped my car about 20 yards out from where the teachers were sitting.
The problem, however, was that I had parked my car right as the road starts to curve, so any cars that immediately came up behind me could not fully see or understand why I had stopped and that there were teachers blocking the way.
“What are they doing?” I muttered out loud as the first car passed me. Sure enough, as soon as they passed and realized they could go no further, they quickly pulled back over and parked a few yards in front of me.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I grumbled as the second car passed me, repeating the same mistake as the first.
By the third car, I actually turned to face the driver as she passed me by, silently mouthing the words, “Where are you going?” and throwing my hands up in the air in total exasperation.
That was it. There was no more room in front of me.
And then she came. A large, expensive-looking SUV moved out of line and started to creep up beside me.
I had reached my tipping point. I quickly opened my car door and turned to face her with my hands extended out, yelling, “STOP!” In my mind, I was channeling a safety patrol or traffic cop. In reality, I probably looked like a deranged lady with wild hair who needed to be escorted back to the psych ward.
She threw her hands up and stopped.
I got back in my car and we all waited awkwardly for another ten minutes until the teachers and students finally went back inside and we were free to move forward to the official starting point of the car line.
I started chuckling as we began moving because no one behind me was letting the SUV lady back into the line. It was almost like we were standing together in solidarity against the line skipper wannabes. The rule breakers. The impatient ones. I was feeling proud of myself. Dare I say, even a bit self-righteous.
And that’s when she walked up to me as I sat in my car.
“I just want you to know that I didn’t really appreciate how I was treated. I would never hurt anyone or any children.” She continued, “My child goes here. I would never run anyone over. I just had surgery today and had an emergency. But no one was letting me through.”
I sat there stunned…and now mortified.
Words started to roll out of my mouth in my defense. “I put my hands out to stop you because the road was blocked and they weren’t letting anyone through.”
And then she dropped a bomb.
“Frankly, the way I was being treated…I felt bullied.”
“I’m so sorry,” I replied back. “I’m so, so sorry.” I was choking on my words and my eyes started welling up with tears.
“Thank you,” she said and walked away.
I didn’t have time to fully process or explain to her what I was feeling in that moment, but the last thing I would want anyone to feel as a result of my actions is bullied. I know what that feels like. And it’s awful.
I can’t tell you fully why I decided to jump out of my car and signal her to stop. It could have been fueled by rogue hormones and adrenaline flooding through my middle-aged body. It could have been my pride and not wanting yet another car to bypass me. It could have been simply to communicate the reality that there was a blockade and to quote Monty Python… “None shall pass.”
But what it should have been was this: I should have sought to understand and not make assumptions. I should have sought to show kindness first, not judgment. I should have stopped to first ask questions instead of jumping to conclusions.
Kindness should always be the first order of business. But when it isn’t, and we make mistakes, an apology can go a long way. I wish I could have talked to her more…because whatever version she saw of me that day is not a full representation of who I am day to day. But I am grateful that I was able to apologize. Because that is the truth of who I am. I’m a reconciler who genuinely cares for others.
We are humans and we will err. But we can also make things right…and hopefully move forward…in a car line or whatever line you may find yourself in.
My advice? Keep the peace, keep being kind, and please…keep your hands, arms and feet inside your vehicle at all times. It’s just safer for everyone.
A one-time car line bully now reformed