If Gershwin were a Midwestern commuter, he might have written: “Summertime, when the traffic is easy.”
That’s because, at any given point during June, July, and August, a good chunk of the population is on vacation. That means, in turn, a reduced number of cars crowding onto highways and byways at the peak hours. The result, typically, is a smooth and pleasant ride to work.
When school starts up again, though, everything changes — which is why it’s not only schoolchildren who dread the words “back to school.” Vacations are over. School buses and school speed zones are blinking their yellow lights. Everyone is back in town and — what’s worse — everyone is leaving for work at about the same time, after they’ve dropped their kid off at school or the bus stop. People who might have been leaving for work at 8 in July are now on the road at 7.
It’s like the Super Bowl, where everybody is watching the same TV channel and uses the bathroom at the same time, placing huge burdens on municipal sewer systems at the same moment in time. Roads that formerly ran free and easy are now clogged and filled to rank overflowing with traffic, and it stinks.
It’s why September driving is usually the worst and most congested of the year. This week, it was suddenly September traffic in Columbus.
Today is the first day of school at the Columbus Academy, where Kish works. This morning some kindergartners will go off to school for the first time ever, as their Moms and Dads watch with quivering emotion. Kids in other grades will head back to familiar buildings to see their classmates again, after a long summer.
Some of my childhood friends dreaded going back to school. I felt differently. I liked school. As the summer wore on into late August, and the gravity of the calendar tilted inexorably toward the resumption of school, I looked forward to that first day. I wanted to see my “school friends” again, and was eager to meet my teacher and get back into the rhythm of classes and learning about interesting new things.
I liked the process of getting ready for school, too. You might get a new pair of shoes, and a “school outfit” or two. But what I really liked was getting the school supplies — things like a new, unmarked binder that closed with a sharp snap, plastic wrapped packets of 500 pages of fresh, crisp, white lined paper, new pencils to sharpen to a fine point, a bouncy pink rubber eraser, a new lunchbox featuring your favorite TV show, and a ruler. What can I say? I was a nerd.
I remember getting things organized the night before so everything would be in place the next morning, and by bed time I usually was so excited I had trouble sleeping. When the next morning finally came, I was ready!