Sometimes as I’m gathering my last few purchases from the frozen food aisle at the grocery store and heading toward the check-out lane, I’ll catch a glimpse of someone pushing their cart toward the same lane as me. Something overtakes me and I start pushing faster, trying my best to inch my way ahead of them. I have even been known to break into a brisk jog to beat someone to the check-out lane. Am I really in that big of a hurry to pay for my groceries? No, I’m that competitive.
The grocery store isn’t the only place that triggers my slightly unhealthy competitive streak; I also become a raging lunatic when it comes to the school pick-up line. It all started on my daughter’s first day of kindergarten; I left to pick her up about twenty minutes before school let out. I ended up being seventh in the pick-up line. Perspiration beaded up on my forehead as I stared at the six cars ahead of me. Six cars. Ahead of me. Unacceptable.
The next day I pulled into the pick-up lane at 2:55pm; my daughter’s school gets out at 3:55pm. There was one car in front of me. I’m improving. I called my husband to tell him I had made it to the second position. My husband does not support or even understand my mania.
“Exactly how crazy do you have to be to wait in line an hour before school gets out?” he asks me incredulously.
“Well, if it must be measured, I’d say I’m not nearly as crazy as the woman in front of me and only slightly crazier than the four ladies behind me,” I say even though I don’t like to quantify my crazy.
I vowed to get the pole position the next day. I decided that I may have to camp overnight; some may call that extreme, but if you want the number one spot, you have to make sacrifices. I called the principal to make sure that would be okay.
“M’am, you know it takes less than ten minutes for every child to be picked up; there’s really no need to get in line that early; and no, you may not bring your tent and start a campfire on school property,” she tells me with a exasperated tone.
Oh, to be a visionary in a visionless world. Now I know how Galileo felt.
My next plan of attack is to calculate exactly how early I can get into the pick-up line without causing the school to contact the authorities. Through much trial and error, I find that an hour and fifteen minutes is the magic number.
There’s a lot of down time when you get to the pick-up line over an hour early. I’d like to say I use that time to better myself through mediation and self-reflection but mostly my brain wraps itself around thoughts like when I drink tea there’s maybe four or five sips in the cup but when I spill my tea that same cup suddenly contains four gallons. Once I brought my checkbook with hopes of balancing it, but I ended up folding the last four checks I had into tiny sailor hats that I wore on my fingers to reenact my favorite scenes from “Moby Dick.”
One time I had a great idea: if these other women are here this early too, maybe we could all become friends (we certainly have crazy in common). I decided the best way to test the waters for possible friendships would be to blast Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and see who sings along (I can’t hear that song without singing at the top of my lungs so anyone who joins in with me must be my kind of people). I sang my heart out that day in the pick-up line, I mean I really did Elton proud. But no one else sang. Everyone just tried to not make eye contact with me as they locked their car doors.
I took no offense; it’s lonely in position number one in the school pick-up line, but there’s a price to be paid for greatness.