On the Beach

Friday, 24 February 2012

Mine's better than yours

In Cape Town, I live opposite the playing fields of the most prestigious prep schools in the country. Or at least that's what the marketing tells me. It's also what some of the parents think, judging by some of the attitude.

The road I live on is a narrow little road and I must concede that having the playing fields opposite is nice, they're well maintained and give a sense of space outside my house, plus the buildings are beautiful. It does have a reputation for academic and sporting excellence

Cape Town is, very often, a place of extremes and the school is definitely one of them. The "elite" most certainly send their boys there- the place is dripping with money and, as a friend said, oddly everyone there looks the same- they look great, don't get me wrong- but they look the same. Something in the water? Admission criteria? Free plastic surgery with every admission? Who knows. But it's odd.

Oh, and the other thing that seems to be requirement for admission is a skeletal, blond mother with a golf-ball size engagement ring, driving something that must be equal in size AT LEAST to a Hummer. It's like some kind of Gulliver's travels all mixed up- tiny people putting tiny children into giant cars. I am certain even the drivers need booster seats.

Now I have no problem with their uniformity, their giant cars or their choice of school. But I do have a problem with their attitude which seems to be : "mine is better and more important than yours". By mine- you filthy-minded readers- I mean of course children.

3 times this week, I have returned to find a car of monstrous proportions on my driveway blocking my way in or out. Twice the Stepford Wife has driven off with a wave of a perfectly manicured hand from on high in her skyscraper mobile. But this is only after psychotic hooting and gesticulating on my part from my car. The sight of my gate opening and my furious face, cavernous opening and shutting mouth was enough to drive them away.

But once, someone just parked in my driveway and left their car their for 10 minutes. No amount of hooting or shouting was gonna move that car. So I sat there on the bonnet of my car, stewing, brewing, simmering and by the time the owner of the car arrived I was Vesuvius waiting to explode. It was a teenage sister, who saw me, panicked and said: "I'm so sorry ma'am, I'm not an inconsiderate person". Which was kind of weird because it was like she was "Say the Opposite of What You Are Land". Maybe she'd fallen off the top of the Faraway Tree that morning. Anyway, suffice to say I don't think she'll be doing that again in a hurry.

Last year, a woman parked on my driveway, left her engine running. As my gate opened, the light from her giant diamond blinded me and she said, laughing: "What are the odds of you coming out?!'. Well, given that this is not an abandoned house, pretty high actually! I could list many more run-ins, but I'll just make myself angry.

I'm now on first name terms with the Receptionist at the school who probably doesn't give a hoot, but makes out she does. I'm 3 blocked driveways away from being a crazy vigilante, waving traffic cones in my road in a high visibility vest, screaming about tow trucks and no one needs that.

The point of all of this, is that the people who do block driveways assume that their children are more important than mine. Or me. They assume it's OK to block my exit because it's more important for their child to be picked up than mine. Mine can sit weeping at school wondering where her mummy is as long as Hummer lady can pick up little Hans and have a chat with a fellow skeleton. It's not just a CT thing, it's a phenomenon all over which seems to be worse with private schools. I saw it when I lived near a private girls school in London. Maybe it's because private school parents have more cars.

I suppose that it is nature: we protect and nurture our own children and, in order for our gene pool to survive, we must do the best for our own, think they are the best and the most important, to the exclusion of  others- who cares if I inconvenience them?

Just like the Hummer Skeleton, I want to be there on time to pick up my babies, but I won't block someone's driveway to do it. I'll park down the road and walk. Or I'll call the school and tell them I'm running late.  And maybe that way, I will raise a child who knows she is important but understands there are others in the world- and not a Hans Hummer Driveway-Blocker.

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