The Sky Is Falling

It happened. I was worried that it would, knowing how I am. I started feeling twinges of it right from the beginning and I tried to fight it. I almost appreciated “the haters” because they made it okay for me to hate the job, they made it easy for me to be irritated and annoyed by the dangerous drivers nearly running me over- by the fact that NO ONE was listening to me ranting and raving about how dangerous the intersection is- by the freeeeezing (soon to be incredibly hot) rainy, snowy, windy, weather- by the broken sidewalks that I trip over- by the shitty hours and teeeeny tiny paycheck… I know a lot of people who live that way -always annoyed, looking for malice and personal insult whenever possible, always finding the worst because that’s exactly what they’re looking for. – But that’s not me.

It has been my contention all along that “I’m not a crossing guard” … I’m JUST a person who doesn’t want to see someone maimed or killed when it could have been easily avoided. I stand by that -I am NOT a “crossing guard”. I really don’t want to play in traffic in harsh weather – BUT – after that nice 11 day vacation I had, this morning, when I put on my 3 jackets and my fluorescent yellow safety sweatshirt (and today was rasta sock monkey hat day :D) I felt that little twinge of “I missed this” … NO!!?? What’s to miss?? Did you just read that WHOLE first paragraph? I remembered that the kids missed valentine’s day. I remembered that the play (Peter Pan) was coming up soon and how much practice the kids missed. I wondered if “the little burrito” would be back. I know some of the kids names but I call them my own – I have “the little burrito” because he’s always bundled up, I have “the doctor” because, well, he JUST looks like he’s gonna be a doctor when he grows up, I have “the joker” because he just looks like he’s always just about to tell a joke- … where was I?? Oh yeah… “the little burrito” he hasn’t been in for awhile, I worry. I hope he’s being driven and I just don’t see him. I’m sure he’s fine, or I would have heard something, small towns are good that way. Maybe he moved.

I like this job. Crap! I did not want that! I am NOT a crossing guard!!! I wondered if “Little Red” had a nice vacation, he said he did. Oh! Here comes “Little House” (they just remind me of the old show, I’m not sure why, but if Laura Ingalls has modern day, long lost relatives in New Paltz, these are them) – they bring their dog, I was glad to see them, I really was – weird right? that I would be happy to see people I don’t know and see through glass, for all of 28 seconds, if that. There were a bunch of kids and a LOT of families I was happy to see. I even see kids from when I was a lunch lady dropping off their younger brothers and sisters . I can’t believe how much they’ve grown up. Next year, some of these kids will be going to the high school, maybe they’ll drop off their younger siblings like some of the older high school kids do now. I’ve decided that I’m “in this” for the perks. I got some good samaritan coffee today. That’s my favorite flavor. I like people! Right on the surface and way deep down. I really think most people are good -yeah, it’s bitten me in the ass and I’ve been proven wrong but I learned a lesson from it and they’ve definitely been the few and far between– a miniscule minority in proportion to the amount of people I’ve met.

Sometimes I feel like Chicken Little “CLUCK! someone’s gonna get hurt! SQUAWK” to be met with “Oh, don’t be an alarmist, it’s not that bad.” … But it really is, cluck. When I think that the first published acknowledgement of the need for a crossing guard was in late 2010, I wonder if I’ll be crossing the grandchildren of kids who bought their lunch at my register. I think of the mothers who send their children out, knowing they taught them how to cross, safely and legally – only to think, it doesn’t matter if the child was doing the right thing, it will not protect him from a driver texting, or one who has the sun in his eyes, or one trying to beat the light, or one who thinks if he speeds up he’ll make it through before your kid gets to that side of the road, or one who just didn’t see the person in the crosswalk — or whatever the million reasons that “could be” and have been that pedestrians get hit, even when they’re doing the right thing.

Thank you for trusting me to get your kid across. I mean that. You see how hard it is to get through there and you are handing your child’s life over to me. I’m not being dramatic. I could start posting statistics, or local articles about pedestrians (middle school and college aged students) being struck within feet of our own middle school. I could, but we all have eyeballs. We’ve all witnessed something unsafe, we’ve all seen it completely congested. Just before the vacation I was visited by the New Paltz Transportation Implementation Committee. I feel hopeful that “someone” is finally listening. It’s not lost on me – that if I get what I truly want – for this to be the world’s safest middle school cross walk – that I will render my newly loved job obsolete.


What a week – Speeders Snow Stupidity and Perspective

Yesterday marked exactly 5 months since I started “my job” as Crossing Guard.  “My job” is in quotes because I AM NOT a “crossing guard”. I WAS a concerned  parent and citizen who couldn’t sit around anymore saying “SOMEONE HAS to do SOMETHING.”  I am someone, so I did something.  I’m not going to play dumb, I know exactly how I got roped into doing it.  In spite of what anyone says or thinks, I must once again reiterate that my ONLY concern was and IS, for the safety of small to midsize children.  Of course after standing out there for 2 hours a day, I realize a LOT of people cross right there on my little corner and it’s far more dangerous than I had originally thought.

Last week was THE absolute worst week I’ve had so far. In those 5 months I have had to call the police twice – both of those times were last week.  As sad as it sounds, “almost being hit” is now the norm for me.  On multiple, COUNTLESS occasions, people have driven directly into my 2×4 foot fluorescent orange flag, countless times they have completely ignored me and my flag and drove right around me, countless times people have slammed on their breaks leaving 3, 4, 5 foot patches of tire.  Now, right now, I KNOW your saying “Dam pedestrians, just walk out in front of you, don’t even look up from their phone.” … well first off, let me promise you, I’m not on my phone when I cross, and I’m certainly NOT “walking out in front of you.”  I try NEVER to stop vehicles headed to a green light, I try never to stop people who are VERY CLEARLY SPEEDING (because WHY would I walk out in front of that?!?!) When I see people NOT slowing down, I hold the pedestrians to the sidewalk and give the “SLOW DOWN” pat in the air with hands — at which point the driver remains completely oblivious to me, or better yet acknowledges me with obscene finger gestures or throw their hands up and give me the “ooops, my bad” look.

It’s no secret that non-parents use the middle school lot to avoid the intersection and beat the light.  Last week a person FLEW through the lot right in the middle of dismissal.  My first thought is always “maybe he got a call that he had a sick child and was scared or nervous about that” so I try to “cut some slack”  … once they’re in the lot, I don’t really look because, that’s behind me and not really relevant to me or my duties.  Because of the excessive speed at which this person entered the school, I definitely took notice, only to see him speed directly to Main Street exit, no kids in the car, none dropped off or picked up.  When I say FLEW, it was enough to kick up gravel and leave a dust trail.  So, I RAN, I hauled asssss in a way I did not think I was capable! to the other end of the lot screaming “SOMEONE GET HIS PLATE NUMBER!!!”  Fortunately, he got stuck behind another car so I had the opportunity to ask “what the hell is wrong with you?! DO YOU SEEE all these kids walking around? It’s the middle of dismissal!”  to which he replies “I know, sorry.”  Three or 4 parents saw this as well as several children. I did get a picture of his car and plate number and forwarded it to the police. I couldn’t help but to think, had he actually struck a child, teacher or parent, that picture of his plate and his apology would mean absolutely nothing.

Tuesday it snowed. Many parents thought they should have closed the school early but they didn’t.  Once the snow started it came fast and furious. There was probably a generous inch on the ground at 2:15 when I got to my post.  I could already tell, I was in for a very busy afternoon. The easiest way to describe the mayhem (and it was nothing short of anarchy let me tell you!!!)  There are 3 lanes on the main road that I have to watch – One headed south toward SUNY and 2 headed north toward Main Street. To my right, there is the 2 lane entrance/exit from the school lot. By 2:30 I had 2 full lanes of cars PARKED in the entrance to the school so no one could get in OR out.  This did not stop people from trying to get in and out. The short story- EVERY lane was blocked – the school lot, the 2 going north and the one going south, which then caused main street to come to a complete standstill in both directions.

I approached the man trying to turn into the school and asked him to go up and go into the far entrance – Nope, he won’t leave and he doesn’t have to listen to me, technically I have NO authority.  I know typing this (because I’m reading it) does not give the full impression of the chaos I was facing.  The traffic was so far backed up coming from the south that the busses hadn’t even reached the lot by dismissal time.  The one lane of traffic headed south turned into 3 lanes with people passing the driver attempting to make the left into the lot, passing him on the left AND on the right! The 2 lanes headed North, turned into one completely stopped lane (those trying to get into the school) and 2 more lanes of people going around them. Not to mention to plaza on the other side of the street which is now completely barricaded, with NO way to exit or enter from Manheim.

My now (normally) 3 lanes of traffic (and 2 to the lot) turned into 9 lanes of traffic!!! It’s a veryyyy smalllll (size wise) intersection – NINE LANES OF TRAFFIC!  At that point I did call the police to help alleviate it.  No fault to the police because I”m sure it was a very busy day for them as well, but by the time they got there, it was all but over. For the half hour I stood there in the middle of that, I got a LOT of sympathy from parents, many even got out and took pictures of the disorder and confusion. I could offer no more than a sympathetic nod of understanding.

What’s the point of my rambling whining? I guess there really isn’t one. There’s no one to “blame”.  The parents are mostly awesome.  They really are.  Not because they give me homemade breads and hot coffee,  not because they hand be bottles of wine and chocolates (and before someone calls the police chief, and I KNOW YOU WILLLLLL!, I did not drink it at work, nor would I, and I’m well over 21!) – but because “the regulars”  stagger in, they let oncoming cars in, they yield to non student pedestrians crossing in front of the school.  It’s a small town, we all know each other, or knows someone who knows someone – not everyone agrees or get along but we really do have a great community.  Every child I’ve crossed has been respectful and courteous to me.  They wait when I tell them even though traffic looks clear.  They’ve seen me almost get hit, I say “THIS is why I tell you to cross carefully, even when I’m not here.” They saw me chase the speeding driver through the lot and actually thanked me!  Kids are not good at expressing their appreciation so for them to mention it, I think they know I”m there for THEM and no one else.

I guess “the moral” of the story is…. I had one beyond horrific week out of 5 months, I give complete and utter thanks to the parents, and to the amazing children they are raising because if every week was like this, or I wasn’t getting any support from the people who matter, I would have walked away 4 months ago. What I do DOES matter – maybe not to commuters, maybe not to parents whose children take the bus, maybe not to people who are cursing me for making them late for their appointment and maybe not to people who think I”m standing there for anything other than pedestrian safety – but it matters to the kid I MAY have saved by stopping a speeding a driver through the parking lot, it matters to the parent who won’t be getting a call later saying “your small human was struck by a vehicle whose driver was trying to beat the light.” and it EVEN matters to the people who think it doesn’t — because what I”m doing is stopping you from having the guilt on your shoulders that you killed a kid because you didn’t want to wait, for whatever reason you think your law breaking was justified.