Kissing and smoking aside, I have always wanted to stand out as someone who worked hard and could be trusted. One of the few things I remember getting from my dad is his work ethic, “If a man pays you a dollar to work for him then give him a dollar’s worth of work.” I have always tried to uphold that philosophy in the workplace. I did not give the same effort in all my school studies, being able to make decent grades without hard study. I often wonder what else I could have become if I had applied myself, although, my career path turned out well.
The chance to be noticed in the fifth grade came during recruitment by the school for “Safety Patrol” members to assist the “Traffic Guard Officer” with traffic control before and after school.
Wow, those guys got to wear neat looking bright red-orange and reflective vest with white crisscrossed belts that met and fastened in the front with a shinny gold plated buckle! Plus, they carried long poles with a big red and white canvas STOP sign on the end. What color, what power, and who could miss me!
I went to a meeting where the Traffic Guard, a rather large black lady that talked very loud, gave her spiel and psyched several of us into volunteering for duty. She only had to hold up the uniform, as it were, neither my eyes nor ears ever saw or heard anything else.
After going through the routine several times in the gym, we were graduated “Safety Patrol” dudes and ready to protect our fellow classmates as the crossed the dangerous four lane Dickerson Road.
Along with another new recruit, I spent the first morning observing how the older guards performed their duties, before taking our turns when school let out in the evening. All I could think of was how proudly my girlfriend looked at me that morning as I passed her trailer on the way to “work.” The uniform had done its thing!
The Traffic Guard blew her whistle and shocked me back to life. This was going to be a cinch!
That afternoon, I got up in class before the bell sounded, another perk, and donned my “uniform.” Out of the corner of my eye, I could not help but see my girlfriend and others checking me out. My chest swelled as I strode to door and ran into the hall.
Out front, near the crosswalks, the others were gathering. I was handed one of the long poles, maybe ten feet in length, and I walked to my position while an experienced patroller stood nearby. “When she blows her whistle, just look back down the road and put your sign out in front of the next oncoming car,” he directed, “Nothing to it.”
In the distance I heard the bell sound and watched as kids poured out the front doors, headed for buses and waiting cars, and on toward the crosswalks. My stomach tightened a little and I looked back over my shoulder at the cars whizzing by the school. “What would it be like,” I thought.
Suddenly the Traffic Guard Officer raised her white gloves in both directions at the side of the curb and blew loudly twice!
Instead of looking around and stopping the next car with enough time to slow down, I immediately dropped the pole right in front of the next car. The poor drive had no recourse but to lock the brakes and slide in under and bumping my pole!
The sound of screeching tires and the smell of rubber was not easily missed and the Traffic Guard glared at me and pointed at my tutor, who simply shrugged his shoulders to say, “Ain’t my fault!”
I looked over at the driver, and he was yelling something in a foreign language I did not understand until the sixth grade!
I then looked around to see if anyone else important had seen me screw up – all was clear, and eventually I became an accomplished “safety patroller”, that even I was proud of.