The time of 2:50 in the afternoon would seem perfectly benign to most people. It yields no pleasing idiosyncrasy such as 11:11 or ominous message of lost sleep such as 12:00 a.m.; however, to the students of the Wilton school district, it has meant nothing short of absolute liberation since the sixth grade.
This glorious time of day used to be followed by us students, orderly shuffling ourselves onto buses, whose arrival was proclaimed with poignant reverberations throughout the halls of Middlebrook School.
This level of organization was taken down a peg, but not utterly annihilated, in our freshman and sophomore years of high school.
When junior year finally came, so did the rite of passage every teenager yearns for: the driver’s license. Feeling ever so cool with our provisional licenses, state-enforced curfew and third-generation automobiles, we proved that we really didn’t know much about parking in the then-dreamt-of junior lot.
We blared our horns, as if their existence was a new invention, and revved our engines in neutral to show our distaste for the five extra minutes it took to get out from the cramped parking space we’d jammed our mother’s Suburban into that morning. Little did we know that this trivial impatience was about to be dwarfed by a proverbial giant, the senior parking lot.
When the clock strikes 2:50 and the nasal-sounding bell of the high school emits its last sonorous wail through the cement and brick walls, a stampede of sorts is about to begin. The participants of this mad dash are not athletes hurtling towards the locker rooms, or timid freshmen clutching their incredibly cool rolling backpacks to their sides as they attempt to be the first outside to catch their one-way ticket home.
No, the members of this flight are the seniors, myself included. The most seasoned members of the high school, feigning their determination with steadfast speed walking, take every precaution to not break out into a full sprint so as to beat their competitors to the parking lot.
Upon breaking free from the high school, we seniors are met with one of two possible images. One, to the untrained eye, would seem perfectly mundane. This panoramic vista would offer the scene of neat rows of sleeping cars, reflecting the mid-afternoon sunlight in the barren lot, beckoning their drivers onwards to a graceful maneuver in reverse and then a clean escape out onto the welcoming lanes of Route 7.
The other portrait we have become accustomed to is much the opposite of this tranquil scene. What usually greets our weary work-worn eyes is the sight of total gridlock and chaos. Cars lined up in a pattern that only merits the clichéd term of bumper-to-bumper crowd the narrow pathways of the lot. Students sneak into their automobiles and instantaneously roll down the windows blasting pop, country, rock and electronic music that all mingle in the air to create a thick fog of white noise.
As we finally manage to break through the barriers of the cars lined up using pleading smiles to the drivers behind us, we then sit in the purgatory of the senior lot for minutes on end. We watch as buses enter, and as parents pull away with children propped up comfortably in their back seats. We agonize, staring as the necessary collection of two hall monitors and our school principal attempt to wield the powers of traffic patrollers.
Our groans continue as we finally meet a red light on Route 7, a nasty premonition that this will all continue tomorrow at 2:50.
Maddie Hoffman is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.