March 26, 2004

Out On Patrol

There is an unwritten rule in small town rural elementary school systems that says this: if a student lives in town, within easy walking distance from the school, there is an 80 percent chance that student will be asked to serve on the school patrol.

I fit all the school patrol criteria perfectly.

I honestly don't even remember being asked to serve on school patrol. I think I just got out of school one day and suddenly found myself standing at a busy intersection with a big STOP flag in my hand and a tattered yellow vest tied to my torso. It had all the earmarks of an alien abduction, now that I really think about it, except without any apparent anal probing. . . at least none that I recall.

If you're not at all familiar with the concept of school patrol, I think it can basically be summed up as early indoctrination into the world of law enforcement authority, except we weren't allowed to wear guns or arrest people. Basically, as a school patrol elite stormtrooper, my role was to escort children across the street by unfurling my intimidating STOP flag. For an elementary school student who routinely got beat up during noon hour recess, being on student patrol was an incredibly empowering experience.

Although we weren't allowed to wear guns or beat fellow students with nightsticks or anything like that, we did have the ability to report people. The "report" option was the most powerful weapon at our disposal. If you were a rambunctious youth who decided to test the mettle of the school patrol ranks, the most damning indictment you could hear coming from a patrol student was "I'm going to report you!"

Reporting a fellow student proceeded thusly: you'd dutifully take a mental note of the offending student and their perceived transgression and then, at the end of your shift, you'd go to the principal's office and make a detailed report to the secretary on duty, who would write everything down. The next morning, over the public address system, they'd read off names of students who had to report to the principal's office, and you could have heard a pin drop as they read off the names. It was as if they were naming the next batch to be sent to the gas chamber. Of course, come noon hour recess, the student you had the audacity to report would wrangle up a posse of his friends to beat you up, and the cycle would begin all over again.

The most super-biggest rush you could experience as a patrol officer was reporting a HIGH SCHOOL student. High school students who had their driver's license were, and probably still are, the biggest menace to elementary school patrol, because they thought it was funny to roar past just as we were about to escort some students across the street. When that happened, we would take down their plate number. I vividly recall taking down a plate number once, and then, a few days later, a high school senior came into my fifth grade class and apologized to me in front of the entire class. He was obviously not too happy about having to be there.

I, on the other hand, could just as well have been a god to my fellow classmates.

Posted by Ryan at March 26, 2004 09:58 AM
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