Thursday, January 13, 2011

Huang Boys on a New Bus Route, One with a Runny Nose and One with a Fat Lip . . . There Must Be a Good Backstory Here

It was a perfect storm over my normally smooth commuting routine: still not feeling anywhere close to 100 percent, big snow the night before meant biking was out of the question, the sloshy conditions made walking slippery and buses run late, and, just to make things fun, Aaron's school was delayed two hours. What to do? Well, keep a running diary, of course: morning and evening.

8:05a - Should've been out the door ten minutes ago but I can never find everything that needs to go on myself and the kids in an efficient manner. You'd think someone as hyper-organized as I am would have a better system for storing hats, gloves, scarves, jackets, and boots, but instead you could peek into our foyer on any given morning and find random items strewn hither and thither with no rhyme or reason. I know, doesn't seem like me, does it?

8:10a - Public schools are closed due to the snow, but Jada's after-school program goes full-day when that happens, so drop-off is just a half-block further up the street. The teacher asks me if I remembered what she told me the night before, which was to bring a change of clothes so that Jada could play in the snow and still have something dry to wear for the rest of the day. I sheepishly look back at her and say I did remember her saying that but then failed to do anything about it once I got home. Disorganized and forgetful: boy, I'm having a helluva day so far.

8:15a - Aaron and I are off down the street to my office. I figure I'm going to have to put him on my shoulders at some point in the journey, but if I can just use the fun that is snow to coax a few blocks out of him, it'll save my legs. Sure enough, he loses himself in childlike mirth, puttering around the magical stuff, making little snowballs, and kicking up white powder.

8:20a - Well, that didn't last long. He now realizes his legs and hands are freezing - we simply don't have the right clothes for him for the snow - and so onto my shoulders he goes, less because he's tired and more because he's cold.

8:25a - Since it's his birthday, I decide to stop at Wawa and let him pick out any drink and any bakery item. He goes with a chocolate milk and a chocolate donut. The woman at the cashier nearly falls over, she can't stand how cute Aaron is. When I tell her it's his birthday, she asks me excitedly, "And what are you going to do for him on his special day?" I shoot back, "this!," pointing to the $1.15 milk and the $0.85 donut. She laughs at first but then realizes that maybe I'm not joking. Look, lady, I'm cheap, I'm tired, and I'm sick - just let me buy something small for the little guy right now, and I'll figure out how to win "dad of the year" some other day.

8:30a - I get Aaron settled into my office. DVD player's got Madagascar on, donut is out of the wrapper, straw is deployed in chocolate milk. Happy birthday boy quietness ensues. I am able to start picking away at my mountainous to-do list.


10:00a-10:40a - Getting Aaron to school and then myself back to the office takes significantly longer than usual, and not just because I'm without my bike. For one, Aaron lasts on his own two feet for half a block at a time, so it's slow going carrying him. For another, the terrain alternates between powdery (i.e. strenuous to walk through) and slick (i.e. strenuous to walk through). I am not looking forward to the evening version of this.


5:10p - I was really hoping to cut out early but I went backwards on the to-do list, so 5:10 is as good as it's going to get. I speed-walk my way to Aaron's school, mentally calculating how much wiggle time I'll have in order to get to Jada's school before the 6 o'clock witching hour (there may or may not be a grace period, and I sure as heck don't want to find out on a day like today), and realizing it's not much wiggle time.

5:25p - I take a couple of deep breaths as I head into Aaron's classroom and say to myself, "OK, we have to hurry, but we can't hurry Aaron, or else it'll backfire." Sure enough, as I arrive, Aaron ambles over to me with his puppy dog look. His teacher turns around, sees that it's me, gives me a concerned look, and then says, "Just a few minutes ago, Aaron was spinning around and around, and he lost control and bumped his lip pretty good." I get down to Aaron's level and he crashes like a heap into my arms, sobbing, his bottom lip bleeding and pulsating a little. Temporarily, all thoughts of time disappear, and I give him a good long hug to make sure he knows I got his back.

5:30p - OK, enough with the huggy huggy. It's time to get this show on the road. While trying not to rush him, I ever so gently urge Aaron to pick up the pace in terms of the hat, gloves, jacket, and scarf. All of this takes longer because he feels the need to keep a paper towel pressed up against his fat lip. Once we finally get all his stuff on, we actually have to wait, because an incident report has to get filled out, and the teacher who filled it out isn't back yet for me to sign it. Soon enough, she returns, I scrawl my John Hancock, I'm handed a plastic baggy with some ice, and we are on our way.

5:40p - At this rate, it's going to come down to how fast I can carry the little guy and how lucky we are with the timing on buses. Instead, we strike it rich in an unexpected way: a bus that passes right by Jada's school is stopped at an intersection just as we arrive. I have no idea what this bus' route or schedule is, but sure enough, when I flag the driver down and ask him if it's going where I think it's going, he answers in the affirmative. I'm not sure we were even at a stop when he opened the door, but when a crazy guy with a runny nose and a little boy on his shoulders darts into the middle of the street during rush hour the evening after a big snowstorm, I think the SEPTA manual says you're supposed to let them on just for mercy's sake.

5:55p - Now I know why I don't know this bus route . . . it winds everywhere. But it eventually gets us literally to the doorstep of Jada's school, and with less than five minutes to spare.

6:00p - I think I can finally breathe a sigh of relief, now that I have both kids and all of their belongings with me and we are only two blocks from home. But then Jada and then Aaron decide they need to go pee pee. We happen to be right outside a bathroom, so I tell them to disrobe all of their outer garments and pile them on the floor, where I will stand guard while they go. Aaron makes it all the way to the toilet but then wets himself. And I get scolded because it turns out the bathroom is for adults only. Ashamed and smelling of urine, the three of us trudge home in the driving snow, me carrying Aaron fireman-style, and Jada firing off questions rapid-fire, some of which make sense and most of which are complete non-sequiturs.
The two-block walk home is as disorienting as I am making it sound.

But we finally do get home. And, in the grand scheme of things, I suppose that making it safe home with your two precious children is reason enough to be grateful.
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