Tuesday, September 26, 2006
But what about Sunday night? What's my great excuse for that, for leaving you all for a third straight day with nothing but an elaborate "Jews are the problem" puppet show in my comments section for entertainment? (The kind of puppet show where lots of puppets seem to be talking, but there are really only one or two puppeteers doing all the work.) What could I possibly think would excuse THAT?
Yeah, that's right. I had to go to crossing-guard school.
Hey, seriously, despite what you might think, they managed to stretch out what should have been 15 minutes of hand-waving demonstrations into a full hour-and-a-half extravaganza, and that's 90 precious blogging minutes I'll never get back. So, barring some seriously interesting near-term developments in faster-than-light physics, I'll just have to reconcile myself to the loss and salvage what I can of the evening by sharing with you a few crossing-guard pointers I picked up tonight.
Hey, it's either that, or more puppet-show comment theatre. Your choice.
That's what I thought.
The main thing I learned about being a crossing-guard is that it is seriously dangerous, and the odds are quite good that I could be killed by a derelict driver or angry and impatient parent whose kid is going to be late unless I stop traffic NOW. Looking on the bright side, though, I learned that under such sad circumstances, I would in fact be fully insured, provided I was killed wearing the proper, police-issued vest.
At first I thought this simple fact of my likely demise might rescue me from a longer evening of instruction -- after all, if I'm just going to get run over, what more do I have to learn? But it turns out that there is only a CHANCE I'll get killed, and that if I approach the dangerous cars and pedestrians with the proper sense of paranoia coupled with a bit of false bravado, I might somehow make it. The trick, as I understand it, is getting the mix of paranoia and bravado just right. After watching maybe a half hour demonstration about eye contact, hand-waving, and dominance rituals, I can now say that a good-crossing guard (one who plans to survive) has to approach his or her cars and kids the same way a lion tamer would deal with four simultaneously advancing lions while armed with nothing but a large salami to scare them back into the corners of the cage. It can work, as long as we keep the salami moving. And if not, so they reminded us, at least we're insured.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. All of those specifics only came after a good half hour of filling out forms that, oddly enough, didn't even request next-of-kin.
However, they did want to know how many years in the classroom we eager new crossing-guards were bringing with us to our intersections. I couldn't quite figure out what this had to do with standing in front of cars and expecting them to stop because you are holding up your hand but I did my best to answer anyway. I briefly thought about writing down a really low number, hoping maybe to save my miserable hide by forcing them to reject me, but I couldn't be sure how low was low enough. So I wrote down the honest sum of my high school and college and grad school years, hoping here still might be enough other candidates with vastly superior years in the classroom to render my own human sacrifice unnecessary -- for instance, maybe some retired pre-school teachers were applying who could probably claim a good 50 or 60 years in the classroom. Alas, I was accepted anyway.
There were other useful questions, too, because apparently they only have one form for all of the various volunteer activities coordinated by the police unit, including those like border patrols and other armed assignments. So we crossing-guards had to indicate whether we had any problem with carrying a gun on duty -- of course we did, since after watching the drivers at our intersection over the years, we knew we'd need grenades instead. And of course they wanted to know if we were willing to use our private vehicles if necessary to fulfill our duty -- as crossing guards, we felt using our own cars while trying to shepherd kids safely across the street might send a bit of a mixed message, so we all said no.
Finally we got our forms filled out in duplicate -- well, actually I had to fill them out twice in singlicate because I hadn't quite realized how that prehistoric piece of black paper sandwiched between the two copies was supposed to work. But the forms were filled out, and then we got the thirty minute hand-waving demonstration I had expected, followed by a recitation of many of the 30 or so legal points written in fine print on the 8 sided card they gave us to keep folded up in our wallets for quick, emergency consultation should we find ourselves about to be run over by a speeding taxicab.
That final 30 minute recitation included a few more key points, namely, that we have all the authority of the police except we aren't allowed to use any force -- basically we have the ability to write down license plate numbers if we remember to bring little Snoopy notepads with us, which is a power the police normally reserve for themselves. Also, we heard more about the insurance -- apparently those vests really are that important. I'm also pretty sure -- although I must confess I believe a few of us were beginning to doze by this point -- that they reminded us that shooting people is a LAST RESORT. Maybe I missed something in the middle, but I think I got most of the point -- I know I, for one, won't shoot unless it's really a last resort, like if I forget my Snoopy notepad.
And that's about it, I think. Ninety minutes of survival tips. I hope I remembered enough of them, because my next morning on duty is this Friday, and I'm really hoping I'll still be around into next week to find out how the puppet show ends. But in case I don't make it, I just wanted to formally thank everyone who chipped in and spoke truth to puppets while I was away.
P.S.: If your children attend Uziel elementary school, and you can't keep them home sick on Fridays, don't worry. I'll stare down the cars, my hand raised fearlessly in the air to keep our kids safe (my own included). I'm insured.