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Smell the Coffee: Time flies -- except in traffic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Enough with being able to download ring tones already. Can someone come up with an app that lets you download new horn sounds for your car?

I'm hoping for something that sounds threatening. Intimidating. I drive an older-model Jeep Liberty that, while it looks sort of tough, it sounds anything but. I've heard duck quacks that carry more authority.

The Jeep manufacturer must've made some hinky deal with a kazoo factory since my horn sounds like a carnival noisemaker, or maybe more like what you'd expect when a clown nose gets squeezed.

I want something menacing. More precisely, I want a sound capable of striking fear in the heart of a teen, one that frightens them into moving just a little bit faster. Especially when they're exiting a vehicle in front of the school in the morning.

The start of the new school year has me dealing once again with lulled teens. It astounds me how so many of them appear surprised when their car comes to a stop and it's time to exit the vehicle. Most tend to do this in slow motion, often having to pause to retrieve items from the back or trunk of the car, thus reducing the flow of traffic in the drop-off lane to a standstill.

One day last week I was passed by a snail.

Traffic was inching along so slowly that for a moment, I got confused and thought I was on I-64, but then I zoomed past a three-legged blind turtle with a cane and cement boots and realized that wouldn't have been possible on the Interstate. That turtle would've left me in the dust.

"Just look at it this way," my daughter said as I grumbled about how long the final 200 yards of the morning drive was taking. "School isn't just preparing us for the future. They're preparing us for our future commutes."

Before anyone starts racing to their keyboard to send a note about how this wouldn't happen if I put her on the school bus, my daughter attends out of district, so car transport is our only option. As it apparently must be with about 80 percent of her school.

I was fortunate to grow up on the same street as my school, so I didn't have to leave the house until a few minutes before the final bell. My daughter has never been so lucky. Other than her final year of grade school, she's had to deal with long bus rides or traffic.

And now she's started her junior year of high school. It seems impossible that she's so near the end of this part of her life, and of mine.

Back-to-school shopping was different this year. Bittersweet. Instead of my usually maniacal comparison shopping and complaining over prices, I couldn't stop from thinking, "Only one more year to do this."

As my daughter heaped more supplies into our shopping cart than she could possibly use, I fought back a different sort of tears than the ones that usually come when prying open my wallet.

Funny how that same sentiment works differently when applied to school traffic in the morning. When rather than tears, the thought of only one more year brings comfort instead.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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