My morning commute takes me to or near five schools, and I can’t help but observe the various forms in which crossing guards appear. And now so can you. Lucky!
The City K-8: Miss M’s school has two guards working the busy intersection during rush hour. I think of them as Good Cop and Crazy Cop. Crazy Cop is the first person we encounter in the mornings and I can hear her whistle thweeting from three blocks away, along with her distinctive Macy Gray voice. She chats up everyone at the corner, whether they understand her random observations or not. Her partner, Good Cop, is less social, but has a friendly, calm presence and always goes out of her way to help me and Mr. Baby across the street even when there aren’t any schoolkids going our way. These two must have one of the toughest guard gigs in the city, but they handle it smoothly, even when dealing with the idiots who try to dump their kids out of their minivans in the middle of Memphis morning traffic.
The City Junior High: I guess older kids don’t need as much direction, or this school just has the laziest crossing guard ever. She sits in her car until a sufficient number of kids has gathered, and then she sloooowly pulls her Stop sign out of the trunk and saunters into the intersection. Most of the kids are already across by the time she’s in place.
The City Parochial School: I very rarely see any children needing help to get through this fairly quiet corner, but when they do, they are greeted by Dorothy Dandridge in an orange vest. Maybe it’s the sun pouring directly into my eyes as I drive east, but there’s something strangely angelic about this guard. I never notice her entering the intersection until she’s in the middle of it. It’s like she floats.
The Suburban Boys School: The only male crossing guard I encounter is an energetic presence who actually deals more with vehicle traffic than pedestrians. His job seems mostly to be about making sure Escalades get in and out of the parking lot safely. To counter this anti-social assignment, perhaps, he smiles and waves and says good morning to drivers once he releases them from his forced stop.
The Suburban Elementary: This crossing guard is so listless and schlumpy and seemingly useless that it almost makes me want to hit her with my car just to see the expression – any expression – on her face. She never uses her whistle or gives cars any warning; she just ambles out into the street in a way that makes me think she could be leaving a trail of slime behind her, limply holds up her Stop sign for the shortest period possible, and then shuffles back to the sidewalk. There are no traffic lights in the area, so you’d think she’d put a little more effort into keeping speeding vehicles at bay, but I guess that would get in the way of her crippling apathy.