Sometimes life is more like a car accident than a well-planned story. You have to scrabble for themes and meaning as you undo your seatbelt to get out of the burning car before it explodes. It was like that last night in the high school parking lot.
You see, the Princess had a U.I.L. academic competition last night. In Texas we compete in nerd olympics so we can pretend that our kids actually learn things in school. The Princess was a part of the science team, taking a test in competition with the nerds from the other district middle schools. Well, she lost. Personally, team-wise, and school-wise, the Long Middle School Falcons were shut out of the top three places. Yes, that sucks, but she did get to compete, an honor already. As much as this society pooh-poohs participation ribbons and feeling good about less-than-winning, sometimes they do represent real effort and real value. It is the kind of gut-twist you put up with every year, with every competition. Not everybody can win, and non-winners don’t deserve punishment.
But the excitement last night was not about that. What was it about? I don’t still completely know.
I went at 9:00 p.m. to pick her up from the Newman Smith High School competition site after her team was thoroughly beaten. I hate high school parking lots. You have to put up with other parents and their Texas driving skills. We call it “driving friendly” in Texas. It means pushing to the front of the line, cutting people off, bluffing your way through with the threat of violent collision. In truth, if most of those parents in the parking lot had to take the driving test today, they not only wouldn’t have a license, they would be in jail to prevent vehicular manslaughter. So, when I saw the multiple police cars at the high school, I merely assumed that some of the parents of UIL contestants had been “driving friendly” a little too hard.
Well, I pulled up behind the buses and got an ominous text.
“We are in lock-down. Something happened. Are you in the parking lot?”
“My teacher says to stay in your car and keep the doors locked. Wait until I tell you that we have been cleared. The police are here.”
Well, that was tense. Twenty minutes of sitting in the car not knowing what was going on… not knowing how to find out. Finally I get another text.
“You have to pick me up back at Long. They are taking us out to the bus at the back of the school.”
So, I drove the ten blocks to Long Middle School and waited in the parking lot there. Far fewer parents in cars to run into, so it had its plusses.
Finally the bus arrived. My daughter had to sign the teacher’s roll call of students before she would be released for me to take her home. It was already 10:30.
“We’re sorry for this,” one of the teachers told me.
“The principal will probably call you tomorrow and explain what happened,” said another teacher. Personally, I didn’t really care what happened. She was safe, and that was what mattered.
“I don’t know what happened, Dad,” the Princess said, “but the police were looking for a man with an AK47. At least, I think that’s what they told me.”
Ah, Texas. The right to bear arms truly makes us rest at ease. Except, I do not want to have the arms of a bear.