The triplets start preschool in the fall, and my wife, Lovie, has decided to send them to one that’s associated with a nearby church. It has an excellent reputation, but it’s also notoriously difficult to get into.
“So how’s this gonna go down again?” I asked Lovie.
“I’ll get there Monday morning and—”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “I thought registration was Tuesday morning.”
“It is. But to make sure they get in, we need to be first in line. To do that, I have to get there on Monday.”
“So you’re gonna spend the night?” I asked in disbelief.
“No, honey. Don’t be silly.”
“Oh, good, ’cause I was gonna say—”
“You’re gonna spend the night.”
Lovie would establish our place in line, then I would relieve her after work. Which meant that I would spend a cold February night camping out in a church parking lot (alongside several other overzealous suckers) in hopes of getting Monster, Biggs, and Peanut into a highly coveted preschool.
Honestly? I’d rather mud wrestle with Adam Lambert. Or watch a slow-motion replay of the bronze metal Olympic curling match. With Rosie O’Donnell. In Afghanistan. Or maybe even pull a one-hour stint as Roseanne Barr’s thong.
All that said, I had heard several wonderful things about the program—enough to convince me that it really was a great choice for our trio. Plus, I’m a team player. So I was willing to take part in the silly charade—but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t bitch about it. Lovie provided me with my first opportunity when she called me around noon on Monday.
“Some lady told me that I needed three chairs—one for each child, and I only brought one.”
“Chairs? What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Chairs. To mark our spot in line.”
“I thought there was a sign-up sheet that marked our spot.”
“There is,” confirmed Lovie. “And since I got here first, Monster, Biggs, and Peanut are at the top of the list. But you’re supposed to put up chairs to confirm your spot on the sign-up sheet.”
“Are you supposed to rub your tummy and pat your head, too? Or sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ in F-minor? Honestly, honey, this is so stupid. Who is this lady, anyway? Another parent?”
“No. She works for a doctor who’s got a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. He sent her over here to wait on their behalf, and she was told she needed two chairs.”
I wondered if the woman was questioning our legitimacy because she feared that the triplets would make it impossible for her boss’s 2-year-old to get in.
“Did you tell her about the ‘Blood Only’ rule, which states that only blood-related relatives can wait in line?”
“Is that a real rule?” asked Lovie.
“Every bit as real as the bullshit ‘Chair Clause’ that Ms. Nosey Nurse threw at you.”
By the time I arrived at the church, Lovie had gotten to the bottom of the chair debacle. Nurse Betty was wrong. One chair was all we needed. Relieved, I collapsed the back seat of my Chevy Tahoe and prepared my makeshift bed—a camping cushion, my sleeping bag, and two pillows from home.
I spent the next couple hours surfing the internet on my phone, wondering if one could actually perish from boredom. Until, that is, I noticed a man walking up to the sign-up sheet on the door. He looked put out. Moments later, a woman approached him. The two engaged in a brief conversation before the man abruptly walked away. Soon, several other folks were all huddled together, prompting me to see what was going on.
“What’s up, y’all?” I asked as I approached the group.
“That guy just left,” answered the woman who had been speaking to him.
“I don’t know. He said he was thinking about leaving, and I told him that if he did, his name would get crossed out. He said he’d like to see someone try it. Then he drove off.”
The process of elimination told us the man in question was number nine. Everyone agreed that he should be marked out, and just like that, number nine was no longer. Though the right decision was made, the preceding debate on whether or not it was fair for a grown man to temporarily vacate his spot in a 24-hour line left me wondering who, exactly, the preschoolers really were in this scenario.
An hour and a half later, number nine came back—only by then, he had earned a new name. Number twelve. When he learned of his numeric demotion, he was none too happy. Thirty minutes later, he got out of his vehicle and marched briskly toward the door, marked his name off the list (yet again), and grabbed his chair. Within seconds, he had pulled out of the parking lot, never to return. Part of me was sad for him. Another part of me was proud of him for taking a stand. I drifted off to sleep, ultimately uncertain as to how I felt about the entire ordeal.
Until I woke up. For that morning, I saw things from a different perspective. I had endured an unpleasant night (with the help of a bourbon drink, courtesy of number eleven), and was suddenly mere minutes away from our ultimate goal—procuring three spots at a fantastic preschool for Monster, Biggs, and Peanut. The other parents and I engaged in jovial conversations as we waited for those final minutes to pass—conversations which were accentuated by energetic tones that belied the dark circles under our eyes.
The unpleasant night was over, and it had suddenly transcended into a badge of honor—one that my love for the triplets had compelled me to earn—one which I wore proudly for the rest of the day. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll never be good with that process. I feel strongly that it needs to be changed. At best, it’s childish. At worst, it has the potential to turn ugly. But if enduring such a process benefits my children—I’ll do it a hundred nights in a row.
That still doesn’t mean I won’t bitch about it, though.