The View From My Post
I know this post is kinda late, school being out and all. But I haven’t talked much about my school patrolling duties. I was actually planning on posting a series called “The View from my Post.” But it didn’t happen. I have been very busy this past school year not only with the kids’ activities but also with work. I have been doing a lot of overtime. And of course, this patrol duty also took up some of my time.
When I signed up for this volunteer work in September (okay, I didn’t really sign any papers), I thought 15 minutes twice a day, two times a week was not that much. But I soon realized that it took away some blogging time in the morning and what should have been a couple of hours’ overtime work per week. And then winter came. It took longer to get ready to go outside, what with the layers of clothing that I had to put on and then undressing again afterwards.
The first time I donned my bright orange vest, Ryland, my third-grader and Ryan, my seventh-grader laughed at me. I don’t know if they thought I looked funny, or maybe they were just not used to seeing an adult patrolling.
For it was the first time the school has placed adult patrols in our neighbourhood. And I realized why they did the minute I stepped out of the curb and extended my arm facing the traffic. That corner where I was assigned was a very busy one and on-coming traffic could be very intimidating. Drivers are supposed to do a full stop at a crosswalk where there are children waiting to cross. But there are some who would not stop. Sometimes they would just slow down and I’d doubt if they’d stop, so I would hesitate to raise my flag.
I wasn’t there to stop traffic but to help the students cross the street safely. So I would make sure that the vehicles have stopped before I let the students cross, but as there were impatient drivers, there were also impatient students, especially the older ones (not from our school) who couldn’t wait to be crossed. And it also didn’t help when there were adult pedestrians who ignored the patrols and didn’t wait to be crossed.
Once, there was this kid on his bike who gave me this weird look when I asked him, “Can you please get off your bike,” because the older kid just crossed while still on his bike before I even waved my flag.
Not only were there impatient drivers who would honk when there was a line up of cars turning at different directions at that intersection, but there were also quite a few “busy” drivers. I’m talking about drivers who were talking on their cell phones while driving. And there was one who was holding a plate of her breakfast while driving. Eating while driving. Que horror!
And there was this teacher who honked, waved and smiled at me while turning that corner. I know she was just being friendly, but please mind your driving especially while turning that corner where children are crossing.
People had been really friendly throughout the year, some saying “Thank you” almost every time. And of course, I also never failed to say, “You’re welcome,” back.
And this just shows you how friendly Manitobans are. There was this one chilly winter day (temperature in the minus 30s C) when this elderly guy stopped and chatted with me while I cross the children. He said he used to work as a caretaker at that apartment building across from where we were standing. They had to do a plumbing job or was it fixing a heater? I can’t remember now. Anyway, I couldn’t concentrate on what he was relating to me, not only because I was also minding the children, but because I couldn’t help staring at the snot-like frost that has formed in his huge nostrils. Yes, it was that cold, yet he stopped to chat with me. A very friendly guy.
And there was this one icy morning I couldn’t forget. I thought I’d patrol from the other side of the street where most of the students were coming from. But I didn’t realize at first that that was the side were cars where parked and so I had a blind spot. I just finished crossing a bunch of children when this little girl, about seven or eight, who must have been left behind came running after them after I have put down my flag. There she was running a few feet from my right as I watched this car coming also from my right, the driver trying to put on the brakes, but was unable to because of the slippery road. I watched in suspense to see if the car would stop in time before it hit the girl. I couldn’t do anything. I wanted to shout after the girl to come back but no words came out. And in hindsight, it would have been more dangerous if she ran back because the driver couldn’t control the car and it might have hit her head on. She successfully reached the other side, the car missing her by only a few feet, and the only thing that stopped the car was hitting the curb. The girl happily joined her group, unaware of all of these. While I and the other drivers who were there watched that scene in horror. I was relieved in the end, but I couldn’t help wondering what if she got struck. I would have felt guilty and responsible because I was the one on duty and I was supposed to help the students cross safely. But then again, looking back, my flag was down when she crossed the street. And when I told my sister (who also patrols) about it, she said it must be the same girl who was once reading her book while crossing the street. But that’s how I regard this duty, even if it was just volunteer work. I felt responsible for these children.
As I sit down here in front of the computer, it seems that the year just flew by. But the time didn’t seem to go that fast as I stood there at my post, especially last winter when it seemed like forever for my son and his cousins to reach my post because they would be goofing around and playing in the snow as they walked home from school.
I’ve watched the seasons change around me as I stood at my post.
I stood there under the sun. I even wore my sunglasses once for fear that I might add up lines on my forehead when I squint at the glare of the sun.
I shivered at my post even with several layers of clothing when we had a couple of cold spells in the winter, with temperatures dipping down to the minus 40s.
I stood there under a heavy downpour and felt the big raindrops against my yellow raincoat.
As I stood there, I watched a big mosquito land on my arm and I slapped it right there squishing it and fresh blood squirting from the tiny sucker. I worried that I was giving the wrong signals to the drivers and students as I waved my flag trying to shoo away the mosquitoes.
I watched this little boy, around nine to ten years old, grow taller and become more independent. At the start of the school year up and until a few months ago, either his brother or dad would walk him to and from school. I noticed that during the last couple of months before school ended, he was allowed to cross the street by himself. I felt so proud of him like I was his mother.
I know, I just cross these children before and after school but I felt a sort of connection with them. Like when I am running late in the morning, I’d tell myself, “My children are waiting for me.” Yeah, as if they would stand there at the curb and wait until I get there to cross them.
My sister and I were talking just a few days before the last day of school, asking each other if we’d like to do this again next year. Sure, she’s a stay-at-home mom, to seven children, but she also has other stuff to attend to and it also took up her time, more for her because she did it for three days.
As for me, I had to give up some blogging time and overtime hours, and it just made my day crazier when I had appointments and children’s activities to squeeze into, but I really enjoyed doing it, seeing all these happy children and meeting some people too. So don’t be surprised if you see me back again at my post next school year.