Column

Penkava: Chauffeuring a kid in the Land of Mollycoddle

Michael Penkava
Michael Penkava

In my day. When I was a kid. In the good ole days. Whenever I start using phrases like that, I am talking like an old fuddy-duddy ... a crabby antediluvian stuck-in-the-mud old-fashioned stuffed shirt.

It’s like when I would be talking to my grandfather about something really cool, like my new 10-speed bicycle.

He’d listen and then cackle, “Why, when we were kids, our bikes only had one speed. We called it, ‘Pedal Your Butt Off.’ ”

I’d sigh and decide not to tell him about my new pair of gym shoes for fear I’d get the “We wore our shoes until they literally fell off our feet” speech.

But now the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak.

Now I’m the old fogy grandfather who thinks the youth of today are real softies. I call them “The Marshmallow Generation” ... they are quite mushy and often hard to swallow.

Take, for example, riding the bus to school. Back in the day, the school bus ride to and from school was often the best part of the day. All you had to do was sit. You could daydream, talk without raising your hand, make new friends and sing “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.”

Parents liked us riding the bus because, A) We learned how to be on time and, B) If we didn’t, we got a lot of exercise when we missed the bus.

We learned the hard but necessary lesson of not depending on our parents to be our safety net to compensate for the slothfulness of our morning routines. One long walk to school was usually the permanent cure for early morning lethargy.

What is interesting today is that quite a percentage of high school students who qualify to ride the Blue Bird Express don’t take advantage of this adventure.

Which raises the question: Why don’t high schoolers ride their assigned buses?

For one reason, they may have their own car. Well, good for them. If I had a car when I was in high school, it would be groovy and I’d drive, too.

But what about those who don’t have a car and can take the bus? And what about the walkers who live too close to school to ride the bus?

Answer: Parent chauffeurs.

Evidently, riding a bus or walking to school are not feasible options for some of today’s youth. Maybe buses are not cool, or walking is too hard.

Thus, we see the long lines of the parental chauffeurs in the streets and parking lanes before and after school. They burn gas, illegally park, block driveways and do whatever it takes to rescue their children from the dreaded yellow kid shipper or the savage fresh air.

Maybe I’m just jealous of the uberesque scholar commuters. Maybe I’m disappointed in the overly indulgent parent chauffeurs.

But, then again, I thought about kids who had jobs after school and needed rides. Or perhaps there is a real anxiety about riding on a bus. It could be that a long bus ride cuts in on study time or there are appointments to be kept or off-campus activities.

Or probably it’s just that I am just becoming a crotchety, cynical, churlish old geezer who treasures the past more than he trusts the present.

Never mind.

• Michael Penkava taught a bunch of kids and wrote a bunch of stuff. He salutes the bus drivers, the true unsung heroes of the transportation equation. He can be reached at mikepenkava@comcast.net.

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