Today's Episode: Grasping and Losing My Dream of Being a School Crossing Guard
The morning it happened
I remember the moment like a volcano erupting. I was shaken, dazed, and yet so excited for a second-grader. It was raining a lazy drizzle as our morning recess was slipping away and I was reluctantly making my way back toward the school entrance that led back to Mrs. Lochridge, (God rest her soul), my second grade teacher's room.
I had made three steps into the asphalt service road that ran parallel to our school and I met him, Billy Dwayne Howell, the crossing guard. Now mind you, Billy was not then, or now, a flashy guy. He was, in a good way, completely-obscure and opaque to those around him. He must have been happy being like this for as long as I knew him, he never made an effort to change.
I saw my job fading away
But in the ten or so seconds of my life at that point, I knew then and there, when I stepped into adulthood, I wanted to be a school crossing guard. Such is the thoughts of a second-grader, but then I was dead-serious.
Billy took his work seriously keeping the children safe from parents' cars and school busses that sometimes are going a bit too fast. But Billy's tactfulness was mixed with his perpetual smile that was somewhat of a beacon slicing through the morning confusion and giving hope to each child their parent let out under Billy's eagle eyes. And the kids exiting the long line of school busses had nothing to fear either for Billy's eyes never lost sight of them for a moment.
The uniform sealed the deal.
The main thing that lured my thinking into being a school crossing guard was the colorful get-up Billy wore. He was issued (by the school) a yellow rain slicker and a white vinyl sash crossing his chest and hooking to his opposite side. It's funny now in retrospect that the school funds were probably getting low and they couldn't afford an official red and white octangular stop sign. But Billy never complained. He just smiled and took care of the kids and spoke only a few words to me before I left to get back to Mrs. Lochridge's second grade room.
I know now from digging deeper into the career of a school crossing guard that some schools like mine could not afford a true professional crossing guard who was paid for his 20-hour work weeks, but used nice students like Billy to fit the purpose. Wise economics I'd say, but if I had known then, what I know now, I would have been much more relaxed with a "pro" on the job. No offense to Billy.
You need to watch this video. It is very moving.
Other reasons that easily-convinced me to seek the job of a crossing guard were . . .
- Respect -- Billy had the respect of the students, teachers, parents who drove their kids to school and the school bus drivers as well. We second graders did not attract that much respect from the faculty or anyone else. Doing a needful job and not begging for respect. That was right up my alley.
- Ease of Schedule -- Two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. 20 hours a week total. And two weeks off at Christmas and three days off at Thanksgiving. Not bad. Just show-up clean and presentable wearing the best smile that I could make and I was set.
- Pay for work -- was not the issue with me. I still lived with my parents, so I didn't have any bills or monthly payments to make, so I could put every penny of my crossing guard check straight into the bank. All but a buck or two for a Baby Ruth or two for a reward for me doing such a smooth job.
- One problem existed -- with my dream of being a crossing guard. Getting to work was no trouble. I rode a school bus that got to school earlier than most, so I could bail from the bus, get into my yellow slicker with white vinyl sash and get to the center of the service road and start taking care of the students. And after school was out at 3 p.m., I would just slip back into my crossing guard garb and knock-out the two last hours of my shift, but getting home was a problem for the bus I rode was now clean out of sight. Oh well, walking three or more miles home from school would give me some stories to tell my grandkids.
- The Best Part -- of my crossing guard job would be that I would not have to wear a firearm. I am glad because when you see a second grader wearing a handgun, he or she looks pathetic and comical, so I never had to worry about being questioned about shots being fired around so and so hour and some alleged person sneaking around the school building looking for trouble or God knows what. That was not a worry.
Time went slowly when I was in the second grade. Actually all grades when I was in school. The weeks couldn't take the wings of a magnificent Pegasus like they do now as I am much older. They just crawled like elderly turtles hoping to get to the watering hole before dark. I said that to say this. Billy was sketchy i his coming's and going's after that. When I wanted to discuss securing a crossing guard job, he and his smile would kick into high-gear and talk about other things besides crossing guard jobs. That might have been Billy's only character flaw.
Then in a few years, Billy had left for some place out of Alabama and I had moved up the grade levels in decent fashion, but when Billy left, so did my dream of being a crossing guard job.
Shucks. I never looked good in yellow anyway.