I bolted towards dad as soon as I saw his car in the parents’ parking line at Muthaiga Primary School. There weren’t any cars left. I hopped in beside him and settled into the edge of the seat with my massive orange rucksack still on my back. My feet barely touched the floor and my fingers braced my little body from slamming into the dashboard.
I was full of information and it was a while before I noticed he wasn’t talking much as he wound around the scenic road on the way home. “What’s this for?” I asked, making conversation, pointing to a straight green twig sitting on the dash.
It all started innocently enough. School got out at 3.15 pm and the huge mass of kids spilled out of classrooms. Those that were being picked up from school gathered behind the yellow line several meters from the main gate. Beyond that, parents were to park and walk through the gate to pick up their students. It was a great time to catch up with friends and always a little sad to watch them leave one by one. It was always best to be picked up somewhere in the middle. That way you had time to play but weren’t last to be picked up. The line monitor was a strict teacher with a huge belly. His belt seemed to hang on to the straining hem of his shirt for dear life. He marched back and forth along the yellow line, looking for errant feet to whack back with his yard stick.
This Friday afternoon, a spectacle unfolded. A bright shiny red sports car sped past the parents’ line, revved its engine and squealed past the gate. Its driver impressively spun a tight U-turn in the compact space, kicking up rocks and dust before coming to a screeching halt. The line monitor had to duck for his life but he composed himself and walked up to the car, obviously to tell the driver this was not the place to wait for kids. I watched with bated breath, expecting him to whack the fancy car with his yard stick. I noticed him talking to the driver who stepped out holding a rag and began to proudly buff the car. Pretty soon they were chatting it up and a small crowd gathered around the beauty to admire it, all thoughts of rules and yellow lines now out the window.
I swallowed hard and my eyes threatened to pop when I caught sight of the driver and realized it was my uncle Steve. This was terrible. He was beaming and showing off his new 1973 GTV. I wanted to die and must have shrunk to half my size with embarrassment. My heart was pounding in my ears and I feared I would faint. I swallowed hard and ducked behind a small group of taller kids when I saw him panning the crowd. I knew he was looking for me.
I was transfixed, cemented to the ground, the pounding in my ears getting louder and louder. This was the worst day of my life. What a terrible thing to do to a ten year old. What was I going to do? One thing was for sure, I couldn’t walk out there and very well get into that car. I tried, I stared at my dirty shoes, that just this morning I’d polished till they shone. I willed my tiny two-ton feet to move, but they were cemented to the ground. I looked bashfully around me and noticed with horror that, with time, the crowd was getting smaller and smaller as kids were picked up. I studied and memorized every crevice in every nail on my trembling fingers.
After what felt like an eternity, I jerked my head up in surprise as I heard the infamous engine roar to life. I mechanically tilted my head 2 degrees to the right and about screamed for joy as he peeled out, leaving his admirers in a cloud of dust. I breathed a full breath and my feet came to life, breaking into a happy dance. ‘Thank you Jesus!’ I muttered, ever so grateful, oblivious to a small gang of boys beside me driving their imaginary sports cars, screeching as they shifted their gears.
After another eternity, just a handful of kids stood behind the line. No cars lined the parent parking line. I’d never been there that late. This couldn’t be good. I was hungry and very tired. ‘I hope I don’t have to sleep here,’ I thought to myself, looking around for where I might nest if I needed to. All of a sudden, my heart leaped when I saw dad pulling up. I’d never been happier. I grabbed my dusty cardigan off the ground and flew past the yellow line before he could get out of the car.
I hopped in beside him and settled into the edge of the seat with my massive orange rucksack still on my back. My feet barely touched the floor and my fingers braced my little body from slamming into the dashboard.
I was full of information and it was a while before I noticed he wasn’t talking much as he maneuvered the scenic road on the way home. “What’s this for?” I asked, making conversation, pointing to a straight green stick sitting on the dash.
“Did you see your uncle Steve at the school?” He asked quietly.
“Ya.” I answered quickly.
“Did you know he was there to pick you up?” He persisted.
“Ya,” I said less quickly.
“How long was he there?”
“A long time.” I murmered, going back to studying my nails.
“Why did you not go to him?” He was getting quieter and slower in his speech.
This was not going to be good. Needless to say, the stick was a switch, fresh-picked just for me. I jumped and screamed to the rhythm of a sound whipping, punctuated by, “This,” Whap! “Will,” Whap! “Teach you to hide,” Whap! “When-I-send-someone-to-get-you,” Whap! “And-waste-my-time” Whap! “Having-to-stop-what-I’m-doing-so-I-can-come-get-you-myself.” Whap, whap, whap!”