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Reblogged:Back of the Line Wins

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To accommodate typical work schedules, many elementary schools provide on-site after-school child care. We used the one at ours last year, but are picking the kids up at dismissal this year.
Image by note thanun, via Unsplash, license.
I normally pick the kids up, so naturally, I wondered what time I should show up that would minimize the amount of time the kids and I would have to wait.

At first, I didn't realize I already had crucial data and assumed I might try various increments of time ahead of dismissal: Through experimentation, I would find some sweet spot whereby I'd be reasonably close to the head of the line, and so neither waste my own time waiting for school to let out nor stick the kids with a ridiculous wait every day.

On Day 1, I tried showing up 15 minutes early and was stunned to see myself quite far back in line. It was about 10 minutes after dismissal before I picked up the kids.

30 minutes ahead was similar: I wasn't that close to the head of the line and pick-up followed about 10 minutes after school was out.

I wondered: What are those people ahead of me doing? Getting here an hour early?

That jogged a couple of memories from last year, when we were using the after-school care option.

The first memory was from a time I had to pick my son up early for a trip to the dentist, about an hour ahead of regular dismissal. I recall seeing a couple of cars already in the pick-up line and thinking that was nuts.

So... Yes, indeed: At least some of them were showing up an hour early!

The second memory told me that was, in fact, nuts. Last year, although I had the option of using the after school time, I'd normally pick the kids up early on Thursdays, and the earliest I could do so, for logistics reasons, was half an hour after dismissal: I realized that I never saw cars in the pick-up line then.

Clearly, although the line took time to get moving, it took less than half an hour to clear, and that meant to me that I could probably just show up at dismissal time, with everyone -- the kids and me -- waiting less than half an hour.

It has rained every day since I realized I should try this, meaning that the rain and all the extra kids (who would otherwise walk, bike, or ride in golf carts, but are now being driven in cars) are making the line longer, but I am confident that I have my answer, and will sail through efficiently on the next sunny day.

Only on rainy days do the people showing up more than half an hour early stand a chance of coming out ahead with the way this line is set up. The rest of the time, they're just wasting gas and time.

Sometimes it pays more to be just on time, rather than early.

-- CAV

P.S. On further thought, I realize that anyone who has to chauffeur a kid around to an activity scheduled too soon after school is pretty much stuck having to show up an hour early, so it is useful to know how far in advance one would need to show up to be able to do something like that.

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