It’s a weird time to have children. I don’t have kids myself but occasionally reflect on the sorts of things I would worry about if I did. Thoughts like, will they spontaneously combust at some point because of climate change? Or, what private Christian academy will I send them do when Republicans are done destroying public education?

I have a healthy imagination and pessimistic nature but not once have I wondered, can my children survive the rise of pickleball?

But it’s 2024 and the world continues to surprise us in a bizarre and terrifying ways.

On Tuesday, someone at Ephesus Elementary School accidentally pulled a fire alarm. The students were evacuated and the fire department showed. According to an email the principal sent to parents soon after, “students did a great job during the building evacuation and followed all directions by adults. Please praise them for this and reiterate there was no real emergency, thankfully.” Hooray for safety!

Then, the email took a dark and unexpected turn.

A real email from a real school principal was sent to real parents to warn them of the apparently real danger posed by people hell bent on getting to the pickleball courts behind the school:

“I am writing to ask your help with communication to the wider Ephesus community, in particular the folks who use the pickleball courts. Every drill we have (which are monthly), as well as today during a unplanned emergency evacuation, drivers are attempting to get to the pickleball lot during the evacuation and often ignore directives from our staff . They have been rude and have even attempted to drive around into the lot where our kids are standing. Today, one car tried to bypass the stopped traffic and ended up blocking the fire truck as emergency personnel tried to get to the cafeteria. While we are thankful today was just an [accident], we always plan as if it is not and need the public park community to understand that this is a shared space.”

Whitney Houston told us that children are the future and we should teach them well and let them lead the way. I’m not sure I fully agree with that, but can acknowledge that it makes for a catchier lyric than I believe the children are the future, teach them well but keep them indoors during fire drills so as to not impede maniacal drivers speeding to play a goofy game called pickleball.

We’ll keep an eye on this important story. In the meantime, we made this kid-friendly guide to staying safe. Please share widely.

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Stephen Whitlow lives in Chapel Hill. Trained as an urban planner at DCRP, he works for a research, evaluation, and technical assistance firm and focuses on the areas of housing affordability, fair housing,...