Envy. Jealousy. Self-righteousness. Narcissism. Self-doubt. Yeah, it was all there. In me. My mirror. Right there for me to have to observe.
But it had to be done. It's like a financial analyst making a disclaimer regarding what stocks s/he owns. And, yes, I own these stocks. I own a piece of what makes the human experience dark, and onerous.
What brings this up now? I've spent this school year helping out our sons' elementary school. At the school there is a Kindergarten Circle separate from the rest of the school, but what once was the front of the school, so the intuitive layout of where and how to drive and drop off your child at school is not there. The job of the traffic cop in the Kindergarten circle is to inform uninformed parents, and flagrant repeat violators that the Kindergarten circle is for dropping children off at Kindergarten only, and that all other traffic needs to drive around the next corner to the other side of the school.
There is a definite logic to the Kindergarten circle mess — particularly that 75% of the Kinders will blindly wander off into on-coming traffic — and that the circle easily clogs with cars making for a potentially dangerous, and easily frustrating situation. The job of the guy watching the traffic in the Kindergarten circle does quickly become thankless, and very frustrating.
Everyone becomes a flagrant violator. Everyone should know better. Everyone coming through the circle is just trying to get around the rules…looking for that short-cut — the short-cut that we all see is there, but that the "rules," however arbitrary they are, say not to do. And these are rules that I tell my children not to break, that to be a good citizen means to follow the rules, even when you see people breaking the rules, not being punished for breaking the rules, and ending up ahead of you in the metaphorical line we call life.
Life as the traffic cop in the Kindergarten Circle made me start struggling with my own sense of right and wrong, and my own sense of parenting basics.
One day as I was feeling particularly frustrated and emboldened a man in a pick-up truck with a cap over the bed came into the circle, stopped underneath the sign that read "Kindergarten Drop-off only," and let out his child, who was obviously not a Kindergartener. As he drove around the circle to leave I stepped in front of his truck and stopped him. He rolled down his window, and I told him that he had just let his daughter off underneath the sign. I pointed out the sign to him.
This man did not say a word. He just drove away. I yelled after him, "have a nice day!"
And with that I thought, "what a prick."
Well I saw a picture of the man a few weeks later. He was a bass player like me. OK, he was nothing like me. He's good. He's accomplished. He's played with people you've heard of. He's done something with his talents. And I started thinking about what must have been going through his mind as he drove away from me. I'm sure it fell under the category of "if you can't say something nice, don't say it at all."
After all, the next times I saw his car at school he was driving his daughter around to the other side of the school, or he was parked in the neighborhood and walking his daughter to the school. He was doing everything I would do. That morning I saw him maybe he was running late and didn't know that the circle was verboten for non-Kinders.
Maybe it had something to do with the signage: an 8 inch by 6 inch sign eight feet above the ground with two inch high letters. You have to really be looking for it to find the damned thing.
And there's the Kindergarten Circle traffic guy on his high horse. How could this guy have known that the drivers of the fifteen cars before him, when confronted about the circle being for Kinders only, responded with an "I know," followed by driving away without any remorse.
So what's the point?
That's a damned good question that applies to many aspects of this anecdote. After this event I policed the Kinder circle less and less, somewhat out of apathy, but also out of a frustration with the participants in the Circle. Those who replied with the "I know" were not going to stop driving through the Circle. I was not authorized to do anything more than be a messenger in these circumstances, and the frustration was not worth it.
How could I know when an otherwise rule-abiding person was just in a rush for very human reasons? How was I to determine what was right, what was wrong, and for what was worth bending the rules?
I saw that I was no longer qualified for the role of Kindergarten Circle traffic cop, as even I was now questioning what the point of the rules were.