Let me be clear. I do not plan to murder anyone. But if I did the crime would almost certainly take place in the parking lot of my son’s middle school.
Winter parking in Northern Minnesota is hard enough. Ice and snow cover the yellow lines. Every slight maneuver involves spinning tires and the risk that your modern plastic automobile will shatter to pieces in a fender-bender.
Add hurried parents, blindly bounding children and a parking lot designed with the clarity of a marsupial’s reproductive system. Now we sow the seeds of blood riot.
Parents love their children. That’s nice. They think their children are special. That’s baloney. Your kid is picking his nose right now, same as mine. You think because your kid is carrying a cello that he doesn’t pee all over the bathroom and pour milk like a tweaker? I know better.
Because parents love their children and also think they’re special, they are willing to perform dark deeds in the parking lot. Unspeakable aggressions transpire, each with one hand on the wheel and the other on a cell phone.
We live in the country, so normally the kids ride the bus. That’s why I’m not in prison right now. But sometimes when someone has an after-school activity I have to go in to navigate the morass. Many times my task is literally to bring a BOW AND ARROWS to my son. It’s a good thing my son is the archer and not me, or else there’d be a lot of Monster Energy drink jackets with arrow holes at the Goodwill next year.
I’m normally a very calm person. Well, at least I don’t think about murder most of the time. But something happens in these parking lots. Each person, fixated on their ONE TASK, starts to believe that the rules will bend for them alone. Bad behavior is reinforced and replicated. One parent double parks, so a dozen more join in.
The other week every parking spot was taken and a double parked parents filled every row, leaving only a one-way through-fare for cars to look for an opening. Suddenly, the parent leading the prosecution simply stops. Right there. Just puts it in park. Now everyone behind her is stuck, too. No one going in or out. No one able to park down the street or fill other spots that were opening as people left. Everybody was just stuck in a massive, idling snarl.
Staring angrily doesn’t work very well in the winter. The windshields are all frosty. For the first time in my Minnesota life I (sigh) honked in anger. Not the friendly beep-beep, but the HAAAANK-HAAAAANK. The truck man in front of me shrugged, but my beef wasn’t with him. The lady up front didn’t move. Finally truck man precariously piloted his way around her. I did the same, prepared to offer up the real dagger eyes.
The dagger eyes produced an unsatisfying result, though. What I saw was neither a defiant mom-zilla, nor a confused grandma frightened by her surroundings. It was a mom, staring straight ahead. She had a blank expression, like a sleep-walker or killer robot. She had simply shut down, fled to another subconscious plane to escape the reality of the middle school parking lot. I did not hate her. I wanted to go where she was.
I parked, running inside with an unwieldy archery case against the flow of 500 kids stampeding out the doors. As I handed it over to a very concerned boy five minutes before practice, my job was complete. I was free! But I managed to get a spot, so you’d better believe I didn’t go anywhere.
And while my kids go to school in Grand Rapids, the same stories happen here in Hibbing or Chisholm. Wherever masses of children pour into the streets so, too, will vehicles piloted by yoga pants-wearing or camouflage-festooned parents trained how to drive by Hitler in the Sudetenland.
Remember, change starts with y … OH COME ON, LADY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!
Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.