There are horror stories about parents in cities like New York and San Francisco who perform ridiculous stunts to get their children into the “right” preschool. Why do they do this? Well, we all know that where a child begins their eduction is critical. Ukrainian immersion programs DO make a huge difference in cerebral cortex development for two-year-olds. Basic science.
I never figured that I would be one of those parents. Shit, I live in Texas. We’re here because we don’t do that here. Until we do. Until our last child through the vaunted preschool system is fighting for the final spot in the coming school year’s five day rotation. With a potential change coming in my wife Krista’s employment status, the options were few. That’s how I ended up sleeping on the preschool doorstep.
THE PLAN UNFOLDS
The original plan was to show up a few hours before the 7 a.m. registration began. We validated our approach with one of the teachers, who told us midnight would be a better choice. Ouch. Krista announced that she would sleep there, that given the requirements of my job she could absorb a lost night better than I. Made sense to me. Until I considered the fact that my wife might very well be spending the night alone in front of our preschool. We live in a safe neighborhood, but what kind of self respecting husband would let that happen? Ultimately, we decided that I would take the first shift, in the darkest hours, and she would show up early (like 3 a.m. early) to bring it home.
This particular Monday night was spent recording the Dads on Doody podcast, which got me home around 10:30 p.m. I stopped home briefly to brush my teeth and fill up on coffee, then headed over to the preschool. Due to unseasonably cold temperatures, I put on a jacket and a ski hat. Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I flinched. I looked like a burglar. Do people even use that word anymore?
OH WHAT A NIGHT
Upon arrival, I was relieved to see another soul. Eddie beat me to the punch by 30 minutes, but luckily was posting up for a different spot. Like most of us in Austin, Eddie is a transplant (from New York City via Oregon). A fencing and wrestling shoe salesman (can’t make that up), he was incredibly friendly, offering me snacks and drinks. Eddie had even set up two reclining chairs in front of the school. Upon his urging, I situated in one of them. Eddie retired to his truck. He was either setting me up to be murdered, or he had a hunch that I might murder him. Given that I heard his car doors lock the second he went inside, I felt comforted knowing that he assumed ME the psychopath. Must have been my Subaru hat.
Given that I heard his car doors lock the second he went inside, I felt comforted knowing that he assumed ME the psychopath.
About 10 minutes after I started to doze off, another soul (Rob) joined us. If Eddie planned to murder me, our new companion Rob probably foiled his plans. I guess I’ll never know. Rob lined up behind me, Eddie went back to his car. He again locked the doors. Clearly, Eddie was not taking chances with me or Rob.
At this point, I realized that the recliner was actually not comfortable at all. My neck and shoulders felt like someone had jammed a thousand needles into them (Eddie?), and my ankles were cold, a different kind of “cankles” I suppose. Whatever the case, I decided it was time to roll out the sleeping bag and crash on the sidewalk. If you didn’t know, Texas is the Jurassic Park for insects. The nocturnal centipede-type insects crawling in and out of the pavers a mere inch from my greasy face were disconcerting, reminding me of the opening scene The Wrath of Kahn. I pulled my hat over my ears.
THE MORNING AFTER
I woke up at 2:45 a.m., flat on my stomach with an intense need to urinate. I looked around and was surprised to see that several other friends had joined us. I mumbled something incoherent to them and laughed. They looked up for a moment, said nothing, and then went right back to their phones. I have no idea what I said, but am sure it was at least worth a chuckle.
I previously failed to mention that I did urinate “around” the school before going to “bed”, but due to the lack of familiarity with my new company (Eddie and I had some vigorous dialog a few hours back on where to pee), I had to hold it. Besides, Krista would be here any moment.
I got out of the sleeping bag and stood up. A few minutes later, Krista arrived. She told me later that I was an incredibly awkward site, glassy eyed and scarecrow-like. Tagging me out like the professional wrestling team that we are, I went home and crashed for a few hours. Krista was back by 7:00 a.m., and announced that we were first in our age slot to submit. I didn’t know whether to feel like a champion or part of the problem.
Was is worth it? I’ll never forget the night I slept at my daughter’s preschool. It’s etched into my mind…and neck…and shoulder…and hip. Concrete is hard. Would I do it again? If we actually get the spot, sure. If we don’t? Yeah, it’s a good story.