Something was very different on my drive to my daughter’s elementary school on October 6. People were walking. Kids, parents, dogs all using their lower limbs to propel themselves in a forward motion to the school. Oops, my bad. I had forgotten that it was International Walk to School Day. Well, not really forgotten, more like conveniently misplaced the information in my brain. For me to walk my daughter to school I would have to do such a major shuffling of my schedule that it would be easier to just clone myself. I’m all for cloning as long as my copy cat’s genetic DNA gets improved to guarantee a thinner and cankle free life form. It’s was bad enough my children had to be harvested from my less than spectacular gene pool so, I for sure would want the ME version 2.0 to be a whole lot better or else it would just be waste of a whole lot of fancy science.
The major hurdle in walking to school is the time and footwear factor. It would be about a 35 minute walk and then I have to turn around and walk home, that’s another 35 minutes and change outfits because there’s no way I could make that journey in my work clothes. Let’s just say my high heels even if there are from Discount Shoe Warehouse aren’t made for sidewalk schlepping. Also, after walking for over an hour I’d have to do the shower thing again. Like I said, no way was there enough time for a walk to school, a walk home from school and a re-groom. Sorry Mother Earth.
So, what could I do as I drove my daughter to school and suffered the glares of holier than thou walkers, but roll down my window and wave vigorously. At every stop sign some mother would call out, “Did you forget about Walk to School Day?” or the more piously annoying, “You couldn’t give your carbon footprint a rest for one morning?” Yes, yes, I’m horrible. I’m driving and it’s not a Prius or any kind of hybrid. About that. I would love to drive an environmentally awesome vehicle. But, in my world once a car is paid for you drive it literally into the ground. Really, my husband and I drive our cars for so long that when it comes time, say, at the very least, a decade later, to buy a new car, our vehicles have next to no trade in value. When I finally traded in my mini van we almost had to pay the dealership to take if off our hands. That said, I don’t drive a gas guzzling Hummer or monster truck. I drive an average car and I maintain my tire pressure to assure better gas mileage so “give a hoot don’t pollute” moms shouting epithets at me at Walk to School Day - chill out.
Unfortunately, there was no chilling out to be had. The mother version of heckling - momeckling gets worse the closer I get to school. As I pull up to the drop off zone a flock of mothers ascend on my car for more admonishment. “Why did I drive?,” “Don’t I care about the environment?” What about our children’s future?” “You need to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.” Ugh. That solution bon mot was from a mom who drives an enormous Yukon Denali XL. Here’s a shout out Mrs. Yukon XL for leaving that big boy in the garage for one morning a year and then getting on your high horse - solar powered - I’m sure, to give me crap. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Two minutes later as I’m high fiving myself because I finally escaped the school I look in the back-seat and see that my daughter has left her lunch bag in the car. Damn. I was going to have to go back. I turn onto a side street so I can loop back to the school when I saw something that left me momentarily aghast and then made bounce up and down in my seat so enthusiastically I experienced extreme seat belt chaffing. Parents were cheating! Cheating at walking during International Walk to School Day! Oh, the yummy irony of it all. The side street, not more than an eighth of a mile from the school, (Seriously I could pick up a rock and hit school property with a good cross breeze.) was full of parked cars with parents trying to discreetly exit the side street and shepherd their kids onto the main road for a faux walk to school. I decided to investigate further and drove to some other nearby side streets and volia - more parked cars with parents hurriedly chaperoning kids to the main road. A couple of parents were even taking bikes, scooters and dogs out of the back of their cars. Now, I don’t have a problem with parents doing this. It’s none of my business and they’re technically walking so no big deal - right? Oh, if only I were that gracious and kind.
In my quest for truth and fairness in all aspects of life (just kidding there) what I really mean is in my quest to be nosey and a great big pot stirrer I decide to park my car and suffer my new shoes pinching my pinkie toes to see just how all this counterfeit walking is going to play out. Armed with my daughter’s lunch bag I begin the 250 yard “hike” to school and buddy up with parents perpetrating the walking con. Oh they’re good all right. Each group of parents surreptitiously peers out into the main thoroughfare to school, gauging if anyone is looking and then they make their break for it. Their goal, hitting the street that leads to the school sidewalks without being seen coming from a street they don’t live in the general vicinity of. One mom, as we were walking, drilled her children repeatedly to not tell anyone they parked and walked. “Remember,” she said, “If anyone asks we walked a-l-l the way to school.” Why, I thought to myself is walking to school such a big deal that parents will resort to this kind of subterfuge? As far as I knew it wasn’t going on any kind of permanent record that was being sent directly to the Ivy League through a serious of underground nuclear powered pneumatic tubes. As soon as we reached the entrance to the school all was revealed. The P.T.O. was handing out stickers that said, you guessed it, “I walked to school today.” Every mom had her hand out to affix the sticker to their kid’s shirt. The bonus was that every child with a sticker got to have their name read aloud during morning announcements and prizes would be given to the kids that walked or biked the farthest to school. I stood there in stunned fascination as parent after parent fibbed about how far their kid walked to school. The 1/8 of a mile we all sauntered became 2, 3 or even 4 miles in one case!
Well, I can’t be an eyewitnesses to that kind of flagrant lying and not do something. If I said nothing it would be a sin of omission. I’d be an accessory to the crime. Being a law-abiding city, with the exception of my car registration being 2 months overdue, I had to follow the course of justice. I took my daughters lunch to the office and then meandered over to the sticker table now “hosted” by Ms. Yukon XL and her posse of “I care about the environment until the school bell rings and I can go home and get in my 3 miles to the gallon big rig and have it idle in the Starbucks drive thru line for 10 minutes while I wait for my Venti non fat, hold the sugar, no cream, Cinnamon Dolce Latte.” I complimented the moms for their sacrifice to nature and their gift to the future of mankind in general and then asked a question.
“Does it count as walking to school if you parked on the school adjacent side streets over there?” Mrs. Yukon XL sneered back a very discourteous, “Of course not!” “Oh,” I replied, “I just asked because there’s a whole bunch of cars parked on those side streets with parents walking their kids to school. I just thought maybe the P.T.O. had organized an alternate drop off zone for the morning. You know with it being Walk to School day and all. Geez, I bet all those parents who parked there and have been getting stickers for their kids didn’t know that. What a shame. Oh, I know what you could do! A couple of you could go over to the side streets and take pictures of the cars with your cell phones. It’s not like every one at school doesn’t know what everybody else drives. That would help you figure out who was confused and got stickers without knowing they that didn’t earn one. You could then at the very least call them or e-mail. They probably would appreciate the heads up. I know I would.”
The environmental posse was pissed. Mrs. Yukon XL left one mom at the sticker table and the rest took off to investigate the case of the International Walk to School Day Fraud. I followed them, after all my car was parked over there, and watched as the Juicy Couture hot pink track suit ensemble team tracked down clues. Encyclopedia Brown would have been impressed by their attention to detail. Smart phones in hand they photographed the crime scene, jotted down license plates and bitched up a storm. It was so much fun watching them I almost hated to leave and go to work. That afternoon as I’m checking my e-mail I see one from the P.T.O. with the subject line: Walk to School Day Rules. I giggle as I open it. Yep, the P.T.O. “due to the unforeseen complications and confusion of what Walk to School Day means” has rescheduled another Walk to School Day for next month where parents will have to “verify the mileage walked.”
No word yet on how exactly the P.T.O. plans to do that. Security teams, traffic cams, and calibrated pedometers have all been mentioned. I’m sure the school’s dedicated group of parent volunteers will think of something. They have to. For the love of mother nature forget about our carbon footprint there’s something more important going on - the veracity of our Walk to School stickers are at stake!
*Thanks for reading Snarky in the Suburbs! If you're on Facebook you can stay up-to-date on new posts by typing in Snarky In the Suburbs and clicking on like or you can go to twitter @snarkynsuburbs. Next week I unveil my plan to save Halloween. The Harvest Festival and anti candy freaks are trying to usurp it. I can't let that happen on my watch.