It’s the end of the day: sports practices are over, bags are all packed up, and the Collegiate janitorial staff has just begun their nightly clean up. You are one of the last high schoolers to trickle out of the Seal Athletic Center, sluggishly making their way to their cars in the nearby parking lot. Shifting the shoulder straps of your too-heavy backpack, you push open the last door that stands between the construction-smelling inside of Seal and the semi-fresh air of the Collegiate Upper School east parking lot. You have less than 50 feet to walk until you can get to your beloved car. With just a few short minutes until you’re off of the Collegiate campus, you decide to push away the stressful thoughts about your take-home French quiz, AP math pledge set, and English paper all due tomorrow. This is your moment to clear your mind. But all of a sudden, you can’t. Why? Because you have seen what all driving high schoolers fear, maybe even detest. Sitting in the closest handicapped spot is a big, black SUV, marked with our beloved Cougar Paw stickers and proudly showing off stick-figure bumper sticker depictions of each family member. The engine still purring, like a large panther waiting to pounce. This is the true source of angst for student drivers: not the work load or any social situation, but a middle school mother in the carpool line.
Collegiate has had more than its fair share of parking lot issues. Most of them concern whether or not there should be a senior lot. As expected, almost all of the current seniors are in favor of an exclusive lot. “Every time I have to park in the [old] junior lot a part of my soul dies” Sarah Whitaker (’16) explains. She’s not the only one who feels this strongly about the SCA’s recent decision to abolish the senior lot and make the entire high school parking lot available to all upperclassmen. In fact, some juniors are opposed it solely due to the fact that the seniors are so against it. Madison Stewart (’16) believes that “there’s still a senior lot.” A few seniors and juniors do not have an opinion about where they park. “As long as I can find a spot I don’t care” says Latané Rowland (’16); however, most students remain passionate about getting a good spot before school. Teachers have also gotten involved. Mr. Wedge’s AP Microeconomics class is currently doing a project on how to maximize parking spots with the space that we have. Jackson Berling’s (’16) suggestion was to “build a parking deck.” In recent years, the war between junior/senior parking spaces has been the primary problem; juniors would call out seniors for parking in the junior lot, and vice versa. Juniors would call out other juniors for not parking at the church lot during their designated month, and it was hard to find a friendly face behind Seal and the science buildings after 8:20 am. This year, however, a new issue has arisen. Sawyer Gaffney (’16) expressed it rather hyperbolically, yet fittingly, when he said “middle school moms will be the death of me.”
When it comes to the carpool line, all is fair in drop off and pick up. I have seen parents park in handicapped spots, without a pass, be approached by either the Henrico police or the Collegiate security squad car, apologize profusely for parking somewhere they shouldn’t have, pull out, drive around the carpool loop once, and then come back and park in the exact same handicapped spot. They deliberately go out of their way to go against not only Collegiate rules, but laws. “A lot of mothers use the junior/senior lots as a second carpool area,” explains Jordan Marcus (’17). She and Sawyer aren’t the only ones to complain about the presence of middle school parents in the east lot. Mothers and fathers have been known to block the flow of traffic, cruise through stop signs, and cut off other cars.
This madness does not only take place after school; driving to school in the mornings is just as bad. There is not a more stressful situation than finding yourself stuck between two gas-guzzling SUVs at 8:30 am. The only thing coming close to that anxiety is the dread of the look Julie Miller will give you when you sheepishly sign in “Late Unexcused.” However, it can not be said that all high school drivers are completely innocent. I, in fact, had my only car accident in the east lot. Many high schoolers have tapped other cars with their own, forgotten to stop at stop signs, and have cruised a little too fast into the parking lot in the mornings. While some of these driving issues may stem off of lack of experience, a few high schoolers are, to some degree, reckless drivers. That issue alone should be enough to make middle school parents want to drop their children off in the designated drop off line. Their child’s safety is impaired when dropped off in the middle of a parking lot full of moving cars.
Middle school parents deciding to make their own personal carpool line in the east lot is an overall inconvenience to everybody and a safety hazard. Little things build up like cracks on the side of a bathtub, until finally there are so many that the side bursts open and the whole bathroom floor is soaked in water. By increasing the amount of pedestrians and cars in the parking lot, the chances of an accident are increased. With students and parents disregarding stop signs and speed limits, someone, regardless of their age, is bound to get hurt. To prevent the bath tub from bursting, parents need to begin to use the drop off lane and students need to adhere to all driving laws, even ones that will make you late for class. If both parties can do this, then maybe we can create a safer and more productive driving environment.
All photos taken by Marge Davenport.