Aaron Turpen: Musings On School Zones and Cheyenne’s Illiterate Drivers

Automotive columnist Aaron Turpen writes: "What I notice in school zones is both frightening and amusing at the same time. In the same way that watching videos on Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots is."

Aaron Turpen

October 05, 20225 min read

Turpen parking lot 10 5 22
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

By Aaron Turpen, columnnist

I spend a lot of time at school. Or at least, in school zones. I have three kids and that means two different school drop offs in the morning and three different pickups in the afternoons. I always arrive early for both. Because I’ve learned, after three kids through elementary, that’s a lot easier than trying to skin-of-your-teeth the timing.

While sitting in those school zones, I often listen to the radio and observe the other parents. People watching is a favorite pastime and I indulge as often as possible. What I notice in school zones is both frightening and amusing at the same time. In the same way that watching videos on Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots is. You know bad things might happen, but you’re unable to stop them and can only take solace in the dark humor that they present.

The general menagerie is always the same. There’s the Speedster flying through the school zone or parking lot like they’re late for their own wedding and the new parents-in-law are definitely shotgun wielders. Then there’s the Lost and the Clueless, searching for parking in all the wrong spaces. And then there’s the Space-Claimers who create their own traffic rules and parking spaces, right-of-way and public street thoroughfares be damned.


The Speedsters are the least humorous and most baffling. They NASCAR their way through the parking lot, pickup zone, and even sometimes the bus loading zone with little apparent remorse.

Amazingly, though, they’re often doing this either well before the bell is going to ring–when they’ve still got a good 10 minutes to spare.

Or they’re doing it right after the bell has rung and kids are already pouring out of the school’s doors with that joyful exuberance and carefree attitude that adults only get to feel when they quit their jobs.

In the latter case, one can only have the phone at the ready, 911 pre-dialed, and await the inevitable. In the former, though, we can just look at them puzzlingly and turn to the parent in the parking space next to us, point, and shrug.

That mutual “Get a load of that moron” moment is a pretty fulfilling connection.

Lost And Clueless

The Lost and the Clueless are always amusing. They generally tool through the area trying to make up their mind about what the best parking position might be, where it might be located, and how easy it will be to access once found.

These are the people who spend hours going through the clothing racks at Dillards only to walk away with one pair of clearance rack underwear and a few choice comments about how disappointing everything is.

Their final choice in parking space is often only vaguely identifiable as a possible place for a car to be. Usually it has stripes on it. But those are probably just markers so the Lost and Clueless driver can identify it again later.

At which point, that Lost and Clueless driver may (if they recall that spot again) become part of the Space-Claimers group.


The Space-Claimers are those who creatively interpret what a parking space is and then engineer that creativity into some kind of self-absorbed bubble of righteousness.

They park in school roundabouts, in bus lanes, in fire lanes, in the stripey spaces between handicapped zones.. Generally anywhere that is convenient to only them and either hazardous or extremely inconvenient for the rest of us.

Then, when given dirty looks or a talking to by the person they’re most inconveniencing, their name magically changes to Karen.

They often have a pointed, and sometimes lengthy, story to tell about why they’re parked where they are and how they’re entitled to do that.

Threats to involve Cheyenne PD will often ensue from one party or the other. I’ve personally received dirty looks and snide comments for laughing out loud at these quasi-explanations when walking by.

So if you’re a parent who routinely or even just occasionally must pick up your children from one of Cheyenne’s schools, show up early. The show is always worth the extra time spent in the parking lot. If you see me, park nearby so we can share knowing looks and point-and-smirk commentary.

Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

Share this article



Aaron Turpen