Friday, May 11, 2012

Nicest Kid in Carpool

For the past year or so, in fall and spring, I have been running baseball carpool. I pick-up GoofBoy, CarpoolBuddy, and another kid, and sometimes whichever other kids beyond that need a lift. Pickup is 330 and practice is at 530, somewhere inconvenient. So I get a quality two hours with a pack of boys in which I have to make sure they do their homework, eat something, and get into their baseball uniforms. Then I get to hang around practice for two hours. Thankfully, unlike the other dads, I don’t help in practice. My mere presence on the field makes all athletic teams demonstrably worse. Naturally I get bored during all of this and to keep myself amused I tell various lies to the boys. Since GoofBoy and CarpoolBuddy already know my shtick, I focus my abuse on the new kid. This does not work out well, since he is the nicest kid in the world. When I yell at him in mock exasperation for annoying the other boys, or putting his pants on backwards, or for biting CarpoolBuddy (because as a Canadian maple syrup runs in his veins) he just smiles good-naturedly. In fact he has effectively neutralized my campaign of abuse through sheer kindness. The other day yet another boy joined us for carpool. As they climbed in the car I began drill sergeant style yelling at the nice kid, “C’mon! In your seat! A lemur could figure out that seat-belt faster.” The nice kid smiled and explained to the newcomer, “You have to understand. Everything that goes wrong in carpool is my fault.” In carpool I put on Latino stations. If I put on the news, they complain and if I put on music the boys sing along – badly. The other boys complain about the Spanish music. But the nice kid gets into it, begging me to turn it up, dancing in his seat, and laughing with me at the commercials and news reports – which sound like tons of fun. One traffic report sounded like it was urging people to drive to the traffic jams and turn their radios up loud. (This confusion between traffic jams and parades would explain a great deal about the history of Latin America.) Finally, I asked him, “What is something that would really make you mad?” His soft, kind eyes blazed with fire for an instant, “If the Capitals lost in the play-offs. Don’t do anything to make them lose!” “Kid, while all the other dads are wearing suits and going to offices, I’m in sweats driving you to practice. What makes you think I have the power to affect anything?” Then I realized, it was all just a ploy to make me feel important. Nice kid, but now I’m really suspicious.

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