Change of Plans

We’ve just dropped the Wife off at her appointment. It is 11:30. We need to pick her up and then get the girls to Granma Cake’s house (not 10 minutes away) at 1:00.

There’s a park with a really good playground 20 minutes away (well, 21 minutes according to my phone’s map, but we’ll round down). Play there for 15 minutes, then 20 minutes to come back. Add in 5 minutes to hit a drive thru so we can have lunch on the way there or back.

So:

20 minutes to the park
15 minutes to play
5 minutes to get food
+20 minutes to get back
________________________
60 minutes total (or one hour)

That puts us returning at 12:30, giving us plenty of leeway. Perfect!

I don’t know precisely how long it took to arrive at the park, but we didn’t have any problems, so let’s say it took exactly 21 minutes as advertised. Then it takes at least 5 minutes to get from the car to the playground. So what we’re really looking at is more like this:

21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
15 minutes to play
5 minutes to get back to the van
5 minutes to get food
+21 minutes to get back
________________________
72 minutes total (arriving back at 12:42)

At the park, which has a huge open field next to the enclosed playground, someone had dumped all the high school students in the county. I have no clue what they were doing there, but there they were. Having nothing to do (because they’re teenagers), some of them had followed a vestigial childhood instinct and wandered into the playground until they filled all the available space. Try to imagine a cross between an obstacle course and a crowded elevator.

Enough of the kids were sufficiently aware of the world outside themselves that the two preschoolers and their baby-wearing dad were able to push towards the interior of the playground. Even so, the place was choked with juveniles. They stood gabbing at the top of the slides, lounged across the top of the monkey bars, squeezed into swings, hung on the bridge like magpies on a line, huddled cliquishly in the playhouses, and — occasionally — rocketed past on hormone-fueled legs.

It was not a place where my kids could be, let alone play. But what the heck could I do with them? They didn’t need to be shoved back into the van and driven around. They needed to run and swing and play, at least for a quarter of an hour.

The Brownian motion of the high schoolers eventually moved us to where I could spy the toddler area, which, miraculously, was underpopulated. Having found a place where the girls could actually do something, I decided to give them until 12:15 to play. That meant we’d spend more total time there than I had first planned, but it still put us back where we needed to be by about 12:45.

At 12:12, someone blew a whistle in the distance and the teens began to shuffle to the single exit like a horde of zombies moving towards the sound of gunfire. We were stuck until the herd of them sifted its way out of the playground, and even then we’d need to wait to disperse back out and move on to wherever it was they were signaled to go.

“Five more minutes, girls.”

“I’m hot and my feet are sweaty. I just wanna sit down.”

Oh, crap, is teenageness contagious?

If we manage to stick precisely to that five-minute deadline (I calculated to myself), we would leave at 12:17. Five minutes back to the car, twenty to get back… Yeah, 12:47 is okay.

“Let’s head out, girls. Back to the van.”

“Daddy, I have to go potty.”

Starting time: 11:30
21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
21 minutes total at the playground
5 minutes going potty
5 minutes to get back to the van
5 minutes to get food
+21 minutes to get back
________________________
83 minutes total (arriving back at 12:53)

“Daddy, slow down, I’m tired.”

21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
21 minutes total at the playground
5 minutes going potty
5 8 minutes to get back to the van
5 minutes to get food
+21 minutes to get back
________________________
86 minutes total (arriving back at 12:56)

“Welcome to Dairy Queen, can I take your order?”

“Ah… Hang on, I’m trying to see where your kids’ menu is listed here. Do you have milk?”

21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
21 minutes total at the playground
5 minutes going potty
8 minutes to get back to the van
5 7 minutes to get food
+21 minutes to get back
________________________
88 minutes total (arriving back at 12:58)

“Arrrrrghhh!”

“Why did you make that noise, Daddy?”

“One of the cars in front of us didn’t go when it should have and so we’ve missed the turn arrow and have to wait for it to be green again.”

21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
21 minutes total at the playground
5 minutes going potty
8 minutes to get back to the van
7 minutes to get food
+21 24 minutes to get back
________________________
91 minutes total (arriving back at 1:01)

“Razin’ frazin’ dang-blasted…!”

21 minutes to the park
5 minutes to walk to the playground
21 minutes total at the playground
5 minutes going potty
8 minutes to get back to the van
7 minutes to get food
+24 26 minutes to get back
________________________
93 minutes total (arriving back at 1:03)

Just a few minutes after the girls were supposed to be at Granma Cake’s house, I pulled in to pick up the Wife. She hurried right out.

“Hey, did you already drop the kids off with my mom?”

“No, they’re, ah, still in the back. Getting you was on the way. Hop on in. We’ll drop ‘em off and go do our thing.”

“Well, there’s been a change in plans…”