Dear Other Parents, Will You Sit With Me?
As I round the corner, I see bright red flashing lights coming from the music school. My first thought –for about a tenth of a second, but it’s such a commanding flicker– is that it’s an ambulance. Or a police car. Or worse yet, an ambulance and a police car.
But then the lights are green, then quickly purple and blue, and I realize that the kids are just messing around in band rehearsal. I relax my pace. Chill, woman. It’s a clear night and all is well in the world. For once, I have managed to make it early, a whopping seven minutes to spare. I walk by the big window that gives a full view into the rehearsal room and peek in ever so slightly until I spot him; I turn away quickly and duck onto a sidewalk bench, because few things are more embarrassing in tweendom than the mere presence of your mom in the vicinity.
Absentmindedly my hand dips into my tote bag searching for my phone, but I stop myself. Let’s just look at the clear night sky, shall we? Remember those days when you’d get somewhere early and you would just… wait? Look at the world around you, people watch, listen to the sounds of cars coming and going, eavesdrop on passing conversations, daydream and then carefully rearrange the daydream. Suck it, Zuckerberg, I think to myself, I still know how to wait like we all did in the 90s.
A smile warms my face as I settle on the bench, determined to simply wait. Just then, a very dad-looking dad goes through the same motions I had moments ago — quick furtive glance through the window, aspiring musician located, sharp turn away from the window. He starts towards the bench but swings back as soon as he spots me on one end, standing awkwardly between the window and the bench, weighing his options. I don’t bite, I want to say, and I laugh imagining how startled this checkered-shirt-wearing dad would be if I did. He walks past me, claims a standing post fifteen feet away, and proceeds to stare intently at his phone.
I start wondering if I actually may look menacing, dressed in all-black and it being dark out, but decide that Gap athleisure is most certainly not threatening, especially when you’re 5’ 2” and he’s 6’ tall.
Another dad strolls toward us, a Gen-X type straight out of a movie poster. He notices me on the bench before he even gets to the window and stops on his tracks a good thirty feet away. A couple of seconds later, a phone emerges from his back pocket.
The situation is wildly amusing to me. It’s a big bench — enough room for four or five people. We’re all going to be here for, let’s see, at least five more minutes. I go through mental calculations. What if I stand up and invite them both to take the bench, since they’re clearly so busy? What if I ask just one of them to sit with me and completely ignore the other? What if we weren’t afraid of strangers? What if we walked the walk we teach our kids and were nice and friendly to one another?
I look from one dad to the other, trying to catch their eye, but they’re willfully idling in their glowing bubbles.
I stand up.
Then sit back down.
I’m too old for this.
I glance at my phone. Four more minutes. I pull out a notebook, and start writing this story.