I don't know what heaven is like, but I think I know something about hell. It's a car pool.
It's a car pool with four kids, lots of traffic, a signal light stuck on red, a garbage truck stopped in the middle of the street, a lady in front of you who thinks 15 mph is the speed limit, kids who are evenly divided between those who think being late is wonderful and those who think it is the worst thing in the world, seething parents back home who do not want their kids to be late and some idiot on the radio who thinks that if you call rain "shower activity" it is not wet. A bird should precipitate on his head.
O, foul mood that I am in! O, shortness of breath and rage at the world! O, to drive a tank just one day so I could ram the cars ahead of me and broadside those who run red lights! How I would like to have the car I once saw in a Batman comic book with a machine gun mounted under the headlights. Ratatatat. Take that, garbage truck. Ratatatat. Sayonara, creeping lady in the VW Rabbit.
This, it seems, is my 55th year driving my son to school in the mornings. I started with play groups and then nursery school and then pre-school and then kindergarten. I logged 225,000 miles before he was even in the first grade, and some mornings when the traffic is really bad and I am stuck waiting for a light, I imagine myself driving him to graduate school--me an old man, he big and tall, sitting in the back with a girlfriend, puffing a big cigar.
The other morning the two of us sat on the front porch waiting for the car pool to arrive. It was way late and so I went back into the house to check the schedule. I was going to call the guilty parent (a redundancy?) and really let him or her have it. I looked at the schedule. I was the guilty parent! In a flash, we were in the car, my son whooping "Way to go, Dad!" while I composed excuses in my head.
The truth is that this car pool is better than most. The kids are wonderful (meaning they are quiet) and they seem to be in awe of an adult who spends most of the trip yelling back at the radio. In fact, it does not compare at all to one years back where the kids fought all the way to school and one of them regaled us all with tales of how her father had beat up her mother. Car pools, not war, are the death of innocence.
Car pools are my private explanations for many of the ills of the world. Everytime I read a story about some guy who bursts into his office and machine-guns his colleagues, I figure he had to drive the car pool that morning. Jack the Ripper probably had a car pool (wagon pool?) and there is no doubt in my mind that John Hinckley did what he did, not for the love of Jodie Foster, but because he knew what faced him in the future--a car pool. I would like to see my "car pool defense" used in court some day. It is much more compelling than "innocent by reason of insanity." Either that, or it is the same thing.
I am sure, now that I am at it, that there is a car pool somewhere in Menachem Begin's past, and I think if someone bothered to check they would see that Alexander Haig threatened to resign on the days he had car pool. I tremble at the thought that the guys who have their finger on the buttons at the Pentagon are in a car pool.
I think, too, that the reason Ronald Reagan is such an affable guy is that he never had to drive in a car pool. No one who has ever had the car pool experience could possibly believe in less government interference. I think Albert Schweitzer moved to the African jungles to escape car pools and even Phil Donahue would lose his equanimity if he had to drive a car pool on the same morning he had to face someone who slept with kangaroos. People don't climb mountains because they're there, but because there are no car pools there.
So do not talk to me about forced busing and I do not want to hear about acid rain. (Yellow precip? A band of acid activity?) Tell me instead why only two cars can move on a light, why garbage men think they own the streets, why construction workers think the erection of a building is more important than the education of kids, why no one stops for red lights anymore and how Sigmund Freud could possibly think that sex is the root of most mental illness.
Oh Sigmund, just drive with me one morning.