Normally, I have a problem with chronic lateness. I never leave quite enough time to get where I’m going; I’m never quite done preparing dinner before the dinner guests arrive; I even get to bed later than I intend to every night. Running a few minutes behind schedule seems to be part of my DNA.
But there’s one significant exception: I’m never late to meet the school bus in the afternoon. In part, this is because parents learn quickly that to miss the bus drop-off is to submit oneself to a big bureaucratic hassle involving a call from the school office and a hurried trip up to school, where the parent has to enter the inner sanctum of the main office to reclaim the seemingly abandoned child, while the office administrators throw accusing glances at the arriving parent, making it clear that they’d be on their way home by now if it wasn’t for your custodial negligence.
I’ve only made that mistake once or twice, though, and that was in my kids’ earliest years of school. Now I actually look forward to waiting at the bus stop. Truth be told, I sometimes leave a little earlier than I need to for the privilege, and for me to leave to go anywhere before I need to is a rare event.
Except to the bus stop, because somehow it’s just such a tranquil interlude in my day. Especially this winter. Our driveway is nearly a half-mile long; in temperate weather I insist on walking to and from the bus stop, for the kids’ sake and also my own, but this winter has been cold and icy enough that I’ve caved on my fresh-air-and-exercise priorities and driven out every day since the first snowfall.
And then once I’m there, I experience a disproportionate sense of serenity. It feels like one of the few times of day when nothing is expected of me. I can’t do housework; I can’t write; and I can’t get on line, since I’m still not a Smartphone user and my computer is conveniently back at the house. I read the paper, savoring each section as the midafternoon traffic passes by.
Occasionally someone honks and waves; sometimes neighbors with tougher constitutions than mine even pass by on a walk. Meanwhile I sit inside my little automotive island, just relishing the silence and the vague sense of self-righteousness. I’m ahead of schedule, I’m right where I’m supposed to be and I have no other obligations until the flash of yellow school bus appears around the bend to the east. In that setting, as in almost no other, I’m early – and enjoying every second of it.