May 18, 2006

Out on Patrol

I live about half a block away from an elementary school, which generally doesn't bother me, beyond the fact that I'm super-legally bound to keep my sidewalk clear and safe at all times, lest one of the passing youths slip and crack their head open and their parents sue me for roughly eight bazillion dollars and 22 cents.

And, oh yeah, also? Because the city in which I live doesn't trust me to completely keep my sidewalk safe, the city takes it upon itself to check my sidewalks periodically to ensure there are no dangerous cracks, or that any of the sidewalk blocks may have risen too sharply. Heaven forbid that ever happens, or the city will come in—AGAIN—and knock out the offending blocks and re-pour them. And then a couple months later I'll get a bill in the mail from the city asking for eight bazillion dollars and 22 cents for sidewalk repairs.

Other than that, living so close to an elementary school doesn't bother me IN THE LEAST!

Stepping away from my grumpy landowner persona, I shift now to my youthful nostalgia persona, which four out of five friends and family members agree is my more endearing persona.

One novelty of living so close to an elementary school, at an intersection, is that each morning during the school year, my corner is dutifully guarded by school patrol guards. Decked out in their bright yellow torso garments and wielding their authoritative school patrol flags, these guardians of all things traffic ensure the crossing safety of their younger elementary school counterparts.

Watching these State Patrol officers of the future, I'm reminded that I, too, was once a member of the respected ranks of the Minnesota School Patrol. I once donned the tattered yellow torso garments and wielded the authoritative school patrol flag which, when no one was looking, also made a great bo staff for dueling other patrol members.

I also had the heady power of being able to report nefarious wrong-doers TO THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE. Yes sir, my powers ran deep. I could even report license plate numbers if a motorist deigned to ignore my authority and brazenly drove through an intersection when I so obviously stood there with my flag unfurled, requiring traffic stoppage. From my fifth grade point of view, I could do practically anything under the protective cloak of the Minnesota School Patrol.

Anything, that is, except adequately deal with kindergarten students.

On a rotating basis, each school patrol officer was required to ferry morning kindergarten students across a trifecta of intersections for the duration of one week. For one week, I excused myself from my late-morning class, clad myself in my school patrol wear, and walked down to the kindergarten room to meet my throng of young protectees.

And they were the most horrible group of subversive little beasts ever to walk the halls of my elementary school. Keeping order amongst these miniature devils was a task so Herculean, Hercules himself would have opted out. I only had to walk the kids a distance of about four town blocks, but it may as well have been 125 miles. Every rock, every feather, every insignificant distraction of any kind, was an excuse for those kids to go toddling off to investigate. It was like trying to corral an ant colony.

And the never-ending litany of questions!

"How old are you?" "Why are you wearing that?" "Why can't I eat this dandelion?" "Why do dandelions taste so bad?" "Why is this doctor pumping my stomach?"

The most irritating of the lot was a boy named Kevin. Kevin wore circular little glasses and he had an almost monotone kind of voice that I secretly believed he practiced just to make it that much more annoying. Kevin's tactic was to engage me in conversation while the other children branched out to pursue their own areas of interest, whether it was a dead bird, a car's side mirror, or, in a couple cases, taking a bathroom break beneath a pine tree.

By the middle of my assigned week, I was at my wits end. If I let things proceed as they were going, I strongly believed one of the kids would get hurt, because I was pretty close as it was to whacking them collectively over their heads with my flag. In desperation, I turned to bribery.

As I picked the kids up from their classroom, I got them all together and explained that, if they were good for the rest of the week, I'd give them each some candy. It was, of course, a mistake to be so vague, because I was immediately bombarded with questions as to what kind of candy they could expect in return for good behavior.

The general consensus was that it wouldn't be worth being good for something as miniscule as a Tootsie Roll. The candy had to be something of some heft. Eventually, everyone agreed on Jolly Rancher sticks. It was going to cost me about 10 cents a stick, which was going to run me over a dollar overall, but it genuinely seemed worth it.

Of course, being "good" was a generally loose term. I had hoped it would mean strict obedience and complete silence, but I basically had to settle for a slightly diminished level of chaos.

Come that Friday, as I handed out their Jolly Rancher rewards at the end of our final journey together, Kevin informed me that I had been the best patrol guy they ever had.

As I walked back to the school that fine sunny day, I pondered the events of that week and assessed my situation. Sure, I was out $1.20, but I hadn't physically assaulted any kindergarten students, either.

It seemed like a decent trade-off, overall.

Posted by Ryan at May 18, 2006 11:33 AM | TrackBack

A few years ago, the cable company ran a new coax run from the local trunk to my house. They ran the line but didn't bury it. I was told that a special 'line burial' crew would be out in a week or so to bury the line.

A few weeks passed ... and the line was still sitting on top of the grass.

I called the cable company and asked when they would be out to bury the line. I was informed that my house was on the list, and it would be taken care of when they got to it.

That was kind of annoying ... so I explained to the cable rep that my house is on a corner lot ... and A LOT of kids cut through our back yard on their way to school ... and if one of those kids happend to trip on the cable and break their skulls ... there was NO WAY it was going to be my fault.

Two days later, the cable was nicely buried under the lawn.

Posted by: david at May 18, 2006 11:54 AM

Okay, the thing that's creeping me out a little here is that A) believe it or not, I too was a fifth grade crossing guard and B) our experiences on that job were nearly identical.

What are the odds?

Posted by: Joshua at May 19, 2006 01:55 AM

Joshua, I would never have guessed that you were a crossing guard. I just pegged you and your dad as too nomadic or something, what with you attending roughly every school one the West coast and everything.

But, yeah, given our wildly different backgrounds, I find our similarities surprising, if not creepy at times.

Posted by: Ryan at May 19, 2006 07:41 AM

Not sure why my last comment didn't register as #3, by they way.

Posted by: Ryan at May 19, 2006 08:26 AM

Huh. Well, nevermind then.

Posted by: Ryan at May 19, 2006 08:27 AM

Holy shit, what if the two of you are actually the same person with MPD?
You've never met each other.
You read alot of the same blogs.
You never agree on anything, well, hardly ever.
I'm totally creeped out.
I'd bet one of you guys suspected yourself of being Plain Layne. She was your third personality that you are now blaming on Odin Soli who is actually your fourth personality.

Posted by: Donna at May 19, 2006 09:04 AM

"...and that's the story of why they invented decafinated coffee."

Posted by: Joshua at May 19, 2006 09:58 AM
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