Slow down. Put down the iPhone. Stop for all reds and do not even THINK about making that illegal turn.I offer this advice because the local public schools are back in session tomorrow. That means that once again I will be serving as security detail for my two children as they walk the one mile to and from classes.
Moreover, be warned Ye Who Fail to Obey the Rules of the Road in School Zones, I will be armed.
That was not my original plan, but it became necessary two summers ago when the city decided it could no longer afford the $11 and change an hour it paid each of the crossing guards who manned the two intersections along the route to school.
I say "the city" because in two years I have been unable to determine exactly who pulled the plug on Fred and Ethel, the two friendly elderly guards who had patrolled our walkways and whose real names were not nearly as comical.
When I called the school system to protest, the person who answered the phone said I really needed to take this up with the Police Department.
The police told me I should bring the matter to the city Board of Representatives.
The reps sent me back to the schools.
They all lead me straight to the bottle.
Pepto, Jim Beam; rinse, repeat.
Cost-cutting aside, these officials did offer some logic (before passing the buck) as to why our route was now a local version of the unsecured Iraqi Red Zone:
- An off-duty police officer, paid by a private school along the way, usually manned one of the same intersections as the guards.
- The other intersection had a pedestrian crossing light that could, in theory, halt all traffic.
- School-zone speed limit signs with flashing lights and radar readings to get drivers to slow down had also just been installed.
- Finally, I was told, there just weren't enough schoolchildren who walked that route to merit the roughly $95 a day paid the two guards.
Here's how Tuesday will most likely play out in real life:
At least half of the electronic school-zone signs will be off or malfunctioning because they have rarely all worked properly since being installed. (I've seen older versions of the same signs functioning correctly in other parts of town. Did my hometown get a deal on upgrading to Vista when it should have stuck with XP?)
The police officer won't be there because the private school doesn't start classes for another week. (Ah, it's good to be a member of the leisure class.) Even so, he only works mornings, not the afternoon walk home.
And while the pedestrian crossing signal works just fine at the other intersection, chances are at least one southbound driver will fail to heed the "No Turn on Red" sign and make a hasty, blind turn into that crosswalk -- just like the woman in the SUV who was yakking on her cell phone did two years ago on that first walk I took to school with my kids.
She missed me by about 6 inches that day. But next time, I won't miss her.
This is because on these walks, I now bring our dog. Our dog, I should note, tends to unburden his intestines of the previous night's meal right before that intersection.
So, scofflaws, this year if I witness you failing to obey traffic regulations at Newfield Avenue and Newfield Drive, check your roof racks when you reach your destination. In a plastic bag, tied by a single granny knot, you will find a meaningful reminder of your ignorance.