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Column: Carpools have gone the way of the dodo
by Thornton Kennedy
Northside Neighbor Columnist
February 28, 2013 11:48 AM | 2089 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
Our mother Mary’s wood-paneled Oldsmobile station wagon had the steering capabilities of a boat, the acceleration of a turtle and could comfortably seat everyone we knew.

Once a week, we drove it all over Buckhead to pick up who knows who to take them to school. To this day, I have people I don’t know from Adam say they used to carpool with us. Every year there were new faces mixed in the old. To the best of my knowledge, they weren’t family friends.

It was almost as if my mother picked up the phone directory and called every number until she had enough people so she only had to drive once a week. I was reminded of this on a recent weekday afternoon and left me wondering how we got away from it.

It started with a simple request from my wife Lori to pick the children up from school. The distance between my office and The Lovett School, where our son Thornton is in the fifth grade, is 5 miles. There are also 5 miles between Lovett and The Schenck School, where our daughter Virginia is in the third grade, and it is the same distance from Schenck to our home.

I pulled up to Lovett with plenty of time to spare, or so I thought. Fifteen minutes prior to school letting out, there were two lines of cars from the lower school to Paces Ferry Road. I am not a good judge of distance or ratios, but suffice it to say there were a lot idling cars. Despite my best efforts, I didn’t get the fifth-grader until it was time to pick up his sister, who gets out 15 minutes after he does.

By the time we got to Schenck, Virginia was in the admissions office. Carpool well over, she sat on a bench, her chin resting on her arm gazing out the window.

I get the feeling carpools are the exception rather than rule. Even though the cars have gotten bigger, so much bigger than even that behemoth of a station wagon that fit seven comfortably, we are carrying less and less little human beings.

I don’t know when this happened or why but it is absurd. I have asked — no, begged Lori to get the children in a carpool, if for no other reason than the mental exhaustion of having to spend an hour in a car every afternoon running all over Egypt.

That is how long it took me to grab both children and get home that afternoon. Let me repeat that. Twenty miles, two schools, two kids, an hour, and I am certain there are families who would scoff at that as a light afternoon. Nobody has time for that, especially when so many of our children attend the same schools.

We may not know one another, we may not have gone to college together, but I trust others to get the children to school and back again. Bringing the carpool back is one solution. School buses are another.

We could all make a sacrifice for a few less cars on the road and a little less aggravation.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and can be reached at

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