How to Tell When School Starts in Louisiana
It’s a well known fact that Louisiana is not like other places. We’re a unique state with a unique culture, and we don’t care what anybody else thinks. We do what we want.
This independent sprit influences everything we do here in the Bayou State. From popularizing drive-thru daiquiris on every other street corner, to making any excuse for a party, no one tells us how to live our lives. We make our own rules.
School is no different. While certain back-to-school trends are universal, there are some things anyone living here will instantly recognize as uniquely Louisianan. Here are a few highlights.
First up, every weekday morning, you’ll start seeing hordes of small humans in khaki pants and solid color polo shirts shambling in the same direction with mindless purpose. DON’T PANIC. This is entirely normal, and not at all a sign that the zombie apocalypse is upon us. (Even though we call them Walkers.)
Louisiana schools love their uniforms, so that explains why everyone is basically dressed the same. As far as the shambling horde goes, that’s just how kids are in the morning. They know where their school is, they know they have to get there, but their brains are still asleep by the time they need to leave the house. They’re operating entirely on instinct at this point and aren’t really paying attention to anything going on around them, which is why we have School Zones.
My own kid started middle school today, but he's a car-rider rather than a walker. We live close enough to his school that he can't ride the bus, but far enough away that he can't really walk there, either. Which is something else you'll see a lot of in Louisiana when school starts: traffic jams in the drop-off line.
I was probably more nervous about navigating the labyrinth of horrors we call the drop-off line this morning than he was about his first day of junior high. After all, the independent spirit that motivates everyone in Louisiana also applies to how we drive. Because, as we've already noted, everyone makes their own rules.
Some parents will stay inside the designated lanes, while others will weave in and out like impatient snakes slinking their way to the front of the line. If your kid's school is on a busy street and all drop-off traffic should be turning right into the school, expect a long line of stubborn parents trying to turn left against the oncoming traffic of the line because they couldn't be bothered to follow the rules like everybody else.
Expect them to also honk at you when you don't let them in. With fury.
Another thing you'll notice is a run on Lunchables at every local grocery store, which is something that probably happens everywhere, but it’s a significant problem in Louisiana because, in a state known for our cuisine, our school lunches are still pretty terrible. And they’re just made worse by the fact that kids around here know what good food tastes like, so that glop of slop on their lunch tray is even more revolting to your average Louisiana kid than it would be to a kid growing up in, say, New York or wherever who doesn't know any better.
Enter Lunchables. They are a quick and easy way to make sure your kid eats something at lunchtime, but it’d be nice if we could get some Louisiana-specific combinations around here.
We’ve worked up a quick mock-up of what we’re pretty sure would quickly become Oscar Mayer’s bestselling pre-made lunch food product. Somebody get on that.
Of course, the surest sign of school starting back up in Louisiana is the arrival of ALL THE FUNDRAISERS. For whatever reason, our state and local officials don’t really think investing actual money in education is all that important, so most of our schools are usually flat broke, all the time.
The way they compensate for all the funding they don’t get is by fundraising early and fundraising often. Some schools even start before the first day of class, while other kids will almost certainly come home with some kind of money-making scheme within the first week or two.
Get used to buying a lot of coupon books that’ll pay for themselves but never do, or boxes upon boxes of chocolate bars that were probably manufactured for less than a nickel but will cost you ten bucks each. And don’t forget magazine subscriptions, which are somehow still a thing, for some reason. In fact, school fundraisers and the hard sell in the check-out lines of major retailers are probably the only reason magazines are still in business, when you stop to think about it.
The drive-thru daiquiri lines will get a lot longer, too. You’ll notice their business begin to increase sometime after school gets out each day, as teachers start swinging by on their way home. Don’t judge. If you had to manage a classroom full of children all day, you’d probably need a strawberry margarita when you got home, too.
When the weekend finally arrives after the first week of school, be prepared to stay far away from any stores that sell school supplies, because despite the fact that every parent already bought everything on the supply list the school sent out before the first day, each kid will come home with a new list of things that weren't on the first list because different teachers need different things and the school can't afford to pay for them.
You'll also want to stay away from every barber, beauty salon, and hair cutting establishment you see, because the lines will be long, the A/C will probably be broken, and tensions will be high. All the parents who thought they'd outsmart the rush the weekend before school started will be trying to get their kids' haircuts this weekend, only everyone will be exhausted from just trying to survive their first week back, and tempers can easily flare. Be careful out there.
All of this isn't even touching on what's going to happen when it rains - and it seems like it's always raining in Louisiana these days. For an idea of what that'll look like, imagine almost everything on this list, then multiply the frustration factor by about ten bazillion. However, just thinking about a rainy day drop-off line will probably crush your soul in irreparable ways, so try not to dwell on it too much.
Have a great year!
Oh, and about those Crawfish Boil Lunchables. Oscar Mayer got back with us.
HOLD ON TO THE DREAM, KIDS!