4.25.2011

Don’t Mess With the Safety Patrol

When I was in the fifth grade, I had my sights set on an elite, mysterious organization made up exclusively of sixth-graders, the most senior students in our elementary school. Their orange hard-hats and orange vests signified their position and commanded my respect and admiration. They valiantly held down their posts every morning and every afternoon with quiet loyalty to their calling. So naturally, I made it my ultimate ambition to one day be counted among their limited numbers.

The Safety Patrol.

I didn’t know exactly what they did, other than to yell at the other children to “SLOW DOWN!” whenever it was deemed that underclassmen were exceeding the vague pedestrian speed limits of the sea-green-tiled hallways. But that, in and of itself, was a pretty big carrot dangling in front of me. A little authority granted to an 11-year-old goes a long way. I looked forward to being able to utter those powerful two words that, up until then, had been reserved only for big, burly lifeguards at the pool and the P.E. teacher.

At some point during my sixth grade year, my dream was granted. I joined the secret society of the orange hard-hats and was granted access to the big black cabinet in the recesses of the teacher lounge that stored our sacred uniforms. My heart swelled with pride as I donned my hat for the first time and slipped on the bright orange vest that was trimmed in neon green. The time had come. I was going to serve my school. Do my duty.

Head held high, I marched to my assigned post on the outdoor covered sidewalk between the first and second grade buildings. And like a sentry, I waited for the bell to ring, for little bitty kids to pour out of the gym where they were held like tadpoles until class was to begin. I saw them coming from some distance away, and as they approached me, many of them automatically slowed down to eye me. With awe. Yes, little tadpoles, I was once where you are now. I knew exactly how they felt in the aura of my presence.

But of course, I remained aloof and uninterested in the riff raff. Safety Patrol rule number one.
I wasn’t watching the slow kids passing me. I was watching the one kid (there’s always one) who was flying out of that gym as if no higher authority even existed. He was going to be the first one to his class, Safety Patrol or not.

And there I was. The only one standing between him and certain doom. A loosely defined doom, but still. Doom. (Otherwise, there would be no need for my elite, mysterious organization).

This was it! This was my chance to do my duty to keep students safe! The principal and the Safety Patrol faculty sponsor, and for all I knew, the entire school, were counting on me!

“SLOOOWWW DOWWWN!!!!” I bellowed mightily.

I locked eyes with the offender, who complied and bowed his head, chagrined. Every head in the immediate vicinity turned to witness the unfolding drama, there on the outdoor covered sidewalk. The chattering and hustling to class quieted and slowed, as it was once again established that the Safety Patrol ruled the school.

Times have changed a little bit. These days at my house, I have traded in my orange hat and vest for God-given parental authority that doesn’t require fluorescent colors. But as a carryover from my patroling days, I am still a big safety proponent. I just bought two of these signs for our cul de sac.

  SLOW

And if I have to get out there and blow a whistle on some people, I just might. Don’t mess with the Safety Patrol.

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