The Death of Courtesy
I wake up each day to a beautiful quiet, morning with the joy of a new beginning. I prepare for work and to take my son to school, meditating on God and quickly scanning my memory for the tasks of the day. My son and I make our way downstairs where we gather lunch and a quick snack. I start the coffee and share a short conversation with my husband while he roughhouses our son. Once the coffee is brewed and I grab my travel mug, my son and I are off to school and work.
Depending on the time of year, we clear the foggy windows, covered by the dew, turn on the music, or not, and settle in for the 45 minutes to and hour commute. Sometimes we converse about the day ahead. In typical “Mom” fashion, I share encouraging words with my son or, from time to time, we recap the events from the previous day. During this early morning commute we encounter all types of people, vehicles, behaviors and events: a disabled vehicle, a police bust, impatient and distracted drivers and the, slow-moving, “I’m still not awake,”drivers. Needless to say, even at the start of a new day, courtesy is not at the top of everyone’s daily to-be list.
All seems to be smooth sailing until we approach my son’s school. A magnet high school of almost 2,000 students in an urban community. The school with the highest enrollment in the city becomes a parking lot of sorts just before dawn. We come to a halt as hundreds of cars and a few buses line up to make their way to the front of the school to drop off students. I check the clock on my dashboard. Please Mr. Policeman. Please be on post to direct all of this traffic.
Patience and courtesy are key during this daily exercise. But each day brings a different set of events. School administrators established drop off protocols at the beginning of the school year to address the notorious traffic congestion of the past years. School staff guided us through the school parking lot and waved us along, urging students to get out of the cars to keep the flow of traffic going. After the first two weeks, as parents were just settling into the new pattern, the teachers and staff disappeared. We were left to keep the pattern going with a little assistance at one end of the street from Mr. Policeman.
Each morning I follow the leading of the officer and make my way to the second school entrance for drop off. At this entrance, other students and families are entering from the opposite direction and are at the mercy of the drivers on my side of the road. It is the duty of those on my side of the road to alternate the cars entering the parking lot so that everything moves seamlessly. Unfortunately, that is not what happens. Inevitability traffic is gridlocked; at least for 5 to 10 minutes.
I watch as car after car turns into the second parking lot, the one way into the school lot at this time of day, leaving cars in the opposite direction helpless and backed up to a main highway. A car, three cars ahead of me, pauses to let someone from the other side turn in. “Yes” I cheer in my mind. The car itself proceeds into the lot and the next two cars on my side of the road turn in too. It’s my turn. It would be easy to just turn the corner to keep my side going, but instead, I too pause to let someone else turn in. I smile and look behind to see if others will get it. Nope. Four more cars quickly turn into the parking lot. Finally, I see another pause and turn from the other side.
As we approach the front of the school, my son and I say our goodbyes and well wishes for the day. I notice a few cars deviate from the pattern to cut through traffic only to get stuck by the line of cars pulling up to the drop off points. I observe and move on, letting others drop off their children and wondering to myself, what goes on in people’s minds. I get it, everyone is headed to another destination. However, it’s the start of a new day, another opportunity to shine your light, make a difference, be kind, respectful and responsible. I wonder, as Mr. Policeman waves his fluorescent wand for me to go on my way, what happened to common courtesy?