Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Room for improvement

I admit it: the bus arrived at our stop yesterday morning before we did.

This is absolutely antithetical to how the first day of school is supposed to go, according to my personal code of conduct. I’m appalled that Holly and I were late to the bus on the first day of school. The third grader next door was already boarding as I drove up, and Holly was not ready to hop spryly out of the car and run to the steps of the bus. She was still trying to get her little hands around the three bags of school supplies she needed to bring in for the first day of school.

Speaking of school supplies, let me just state that there is not a single white two-pocket folder with three prongs for sale in any office supply store in Massachusetts. In fact, there appears to not be a single white folder of any number of pockets and prongs for sale in Massachusetts. I know this because I’ve checked them all; it was the only item on Holly’s list of back-to-school requirements that I couldn’t find. I found the black two-pocket three-prong folder, the green one, the orange one, the red one, the purple one, and the jewel-toned paisley one. Okay, I’m making that last item up, but it would not surprise me one bit if that description were to appear on next year’s school supplies list. I’m absolutely fine with the number of binders, reams of paper, boxes of Kleenex and size of ruler on the list, but is it really necessary to have six different colors of folders specified? Wouldn’t it be sufficient to just by six folders?

But all of that happened over the weekend. Yesterday morning, up to about 8:10, I thought we were in fine shape. Tim ate a hearty breakfast and left for the middle school bus on time. Holly ate a smaller breakfast, took a long shower, carefully dressed herself in the outfit she’d selected the night before, combed her hair, brushed her teeth….and then somehow the minutes started to elude us. She felt the need to re-do her pigtails. I wanted to take a photo, and Holly wouldn’t stop making hand gestures that I didn’t want in the picture. (Nothing obscene, just annoying hip-hop gestures that have no place in a first-day-of-school scrapbook.) She had all her school supplies together but had left her summer journal on the kitchen table. The sandals she’d planned to wear wouldn’t do in the unanticipated rain.

All of this cost us only about five minutes, but those five minutes were the difference between waiting for the bus and having the bus wait for us.

This was particularly frustrating since just yesterday, I challenged myself anew to make punctuality a priority in the nascent school year. It’s not that I make this resolution over and over again with futility; every year I improve a little. But over the weekend, two consecutive events caused me to want to redouble my efforts.

On Saturday, I drove up to our friends’ beach house at 1:24, after I told them we’d be there between 1 and 1:30. And on Monday, I sauntered through the door of another friend’s house at exactly 10:00 in the morning, having agreed to meet her for a walk at ten. These are both events I would more typically arrive to a little bit late, but the sense of vindication my timeliness gave me was intoxicating, and I resolved to make this my year of punctuality. (Again.)

If I can maintain a daily running streak successfully for over four years now, I thought to myself, maybe I can do a punctuality streak as well. This weekend makes it two for two; maybe I should see how long I can go without arriving anywhere late.

My neighbor, Carol, who had clearly arrived with her grade-schooler at our bus stop well before the bus was so much as a glimmer on the horizon, could see how embarrassed I was yesterday morning. “Don’t feel bad!” she reassured me. “It’s only the first day of school!”

Yes, I thought to myself, but the first day is the day you should do everything right. The first day is supposed to be the flawless one.

Well, I replied to myself, now you know which area to target for improvement. Carol’s attitude is right: Not “It’s the first day of school!” but “It’s only the first day of school!” You have 179 more just like it to get to the bus on time.
Here’s hoping for a 179-day streak, starting tomorrow.

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