It’s fitting that the onset of hurricane season coincides with the frantic start of the school year.
As with any named storm, the thoughts inside my head have been similarly swirling at top sustained speeds of 130 mph for days. Unsurprisingly, we New Canaan parents are well known for taking school and sports preparation very seriously, and those who get in our path have been urged to seek shelter.
As expected, fall athletics jumped the gun mid-August and have set a frenetic pace for everything else. Just days before mini-camps and preseason had officially begun, athletes left a wake of destruction, as local stores’ shelves were cleared of shin guards, cleats, sneakers, mouth guards and water bottles. Because I love the thrill of a retail frenzy, and my son’s growth hormones are in overdrive, I waited until the last moment to nail down footwear.
We tried our luck at the Athletic Shoe Factory in town—figuring that if we timed our arrival during the eye of the retail storm, crowds would be avoided. The only hiccup was having to convince my flip-flop clad son to go shopping against his will. But with the promise of a Press Burger, we set out with mismatched socks to get the job done.
At ASF, we were greeted by a high school student (and part-time employee) who was eager to assist. I am sure this teen had been through the ringer that week with hoards of gnarly feet, a few ‘toe-my-god’ situations, and some unnerving customers. However, she was upbeat, knowledgeable and quick to pull options for us. It was a remarkably painless experience—I can even overlook the hit to my wallet when my son outgrows the cleats by mid-season.
The next wave of the storm was tackling the dreaded school supply list. For Saxe Middle School students, teacher assignments are only made available via an online porthell, I mean, portal. Like clockwork each fall, the site inevitably crashes. Every parent, guardian, child and housepet attempts to log on simultaneously, as if teacher assignments are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.
Of course when I tried to log in, my username and password refused to autofill correctly and I was rudely locked out. Meanwhile, my kids were foaming at the mouth, leering over my shoulder and muttering about my tech-impairment issues. After finally gaining access, I felt the same rush that a hacker must get when bypassing the Pentagon’s firewall. But that feeling subsided once I realized that in order to procure the necessary supplies, I must take my kids to the inner circle of hell – the Staples office supply store.
Like all good storm prep, an expedition to Staples in late August takes strategic planning and a cool head—both of which I desperately lack. I am surprised New Canaan parents haven’t developed spaghetti models showing car flow and foot traffic surges from New Canaan to the nearest Staples locations. I bravely hit up the supply store with a game plan, snack rations in my purse, and some misplaced optimism. It couldn’t be as insane as last year, I thought. Wrong, just as bad. Think crack-of-dawn Black Friday sales and the mayhem that ensues. School supply shopping is THAT bad, except the stores aren’t giving away TVs and the doorbuster sale items are pretty lame. A two-pack of pencils for five bucks doesn’t really do it for me.
We did our shopping the day before school started (because I have no sense of urgency apparently) and it was evident from the debris that the Norwalk Staples had taken a prolonged and direct hit. A massive surge of students from all the neighboring towns must have made landfall at the same exact time. Luckily, the looting phase had not commenced and we made it out unscathed…with those extra pencils, darn it.
Currently, most New Canaan students and athletes are busy doing their thing—well equipped and supply-laden. Soon they will hit their stride and there will finally be a sense of calm. I rode out this back-to-school whirlwind without any real fallout, but you can never be too prepared—even for your own irrational, self-inflicted storms.