It’s 7:20am when I awaken to my boyfriend’s alarm.
I swear as I whip off the covers.
My cat rolls to her back and gives me a stretch, inviting cuddles, but I’m about 30 minutes behind already – that’s what I get for turning on only 5 instead of all 10 of my morning alarms. And staying up until past midnight. But don’t tell my students; I’m trying to stop them from this kind of behavior all the time.
As I rush out the door, I look at the clock.
School starts at 7:50, but students begin infiltrating the halls at 7:40, and I have a minimum 17 minute commute even when traffic is on my side and I hit the lights just right.
Usually this would induce DEFCON 1 levels of panic, but I’m lucky: I’d already packed my bag and left out an outfit the night before, and don’t need to pack a lunch.
I jump the wimpy chain link gate in front of my car, slide into the driver’s side, take a deep breath, check and double check my blind spots, then pull out of my parking spot.
I really want to hear my tires screech, but… no dice.
I take the neighborhood roads at a brisk 30mph instead of the usual under-25: There are such narrow roads in old cities, I find my stomach clenching whenever I meet another driver heading the opposite direction. My biggest fear is losing a game of car chicken, and having to explain it to my insurance agency.
The definition of madness is allowing street parking on both sides of a narrow Bellefonte Avenue.
I used to be a careful driver, I reflect as I accelerate to 35 on the main drag. If there are any cops reading this, please know that I don’t usually take speed bumps at their full 25 mph either, but today was just that kind of day.
I keep checking the digital clock in my car. It’s green numbers shine a robotic 7:31. Panic seizes my gut. I’m usually walking into school by now.
Paranoid, I cross-check my watch for accuracy: even the picture of my cat on my Apple Watch doesn’t bring me comfort as I read, with horror, 7:31.
I turn onto Glebe, and a car with Maryland plates pulls out in front of me.
And to add insult to injury, instead of the predictable lightning speed of a Maryland driver, this guy’s doing about 15! I need to be keeping up my 30 to make it to school by the 7:50 start time, so I swerve into the second lane. With a deft jerk of the wheel, I narrowly avoid a crater of a pothole, one of many that have popped up during our crazy rain-freeze-thaw-repeat spring.
I pass Mr. Maryland, and make the light near Barrett Elementary. He’s stuck as it turns to yellow.
I get a red at the next intersection.
I force myself to breathe.
I turn on the radio; anything to distract me from this ticking clock, the 7:39 staring me in the sleep-lined face.
I tap my fingers on the wheel. I change the channel. Bobby Bones is discussing the college application scandal that broke Tuesday, and that distracts me enough to stop my tapping.
The light turns green.
At my slightly accelerated speed, I make it to Second Street by 7:43. Eyeing an open parking spot right in front of the school (our building is closed for construction, so this was a small miracle), I pull a u-turn. Sure, the Director of Counseling Services and Assistant Principals on bus duty might see my antics, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay today.
I’ve got 4 minutes until class officially starts.
The parallel parking gods smile down on me as I slip into the spot. I throw the car in park as I grab my backpack, and run, literally run, to the front door.
And hey, there are two more teachers walking in with me, so casually you’d think we had all the time in the world. Their ease starts to rub off on me as we greet each other good morning… until reality comes crashing down on me. I pick up the pace, knowing that my 14 TA students will be outside my door getting restless for their usual spots in our classroom.
As I near the pod where my team’s classrooms reside, an agitated co-worker tells me, “Oh, I told your kids to come watch announcements out here. I didn’t know if you were coming.”
I try to hide my eye roll and practice deep breathing as I remind myself: It could be worse. At least you didn’t text and drive.
And at least she didn’t call the office on you like last time when you were only making copies, the devil on my shoulder sneers.
I roll up to my classroom door and am greeted by about ten bright faces camped out there.
“Sorry to keep you guys waiting!” I say, unlocking the door.
They cheer, “We knew you’d be here!”
“I’m sorry,” I say again. “But I come bearing Ghost Boys!” I hold up my copy of a book club novel I just can’t keep stocked in my classroom. “Let me get the announcements up and running.”
As I plug in my computer and get our usual routines going, I can’t help but think: 30 minutes ago I was sleeping. I feel like I’ve already lived a day’s worth of emotions.
Bring on the early release day.