Tuesday, September 29, 2009

School Zones and Old Folks and Red Lights, Oh My!

I hate driving. I absolutely hate it. I hate driving on quite streets on a nice day in a car with automatic transmission. Driving on busy streets on a 90 degree day in my persnickety old stick-shift makes me want to poke somebody’s eyes out.

I think it should be a law that everybody is required to drive 35 miles per hour on all streets at all times. Period. No exceptions. Ever. Inevitably I get stuck behind an old person or somebody poking along looking for an address or somebody who insists on breaking for every single speed bump or someone who thinks that because they are in residential neighborhood they should only go 20 mph even though the speed limit signs every couple of blocks or so clearly say 25 or somebody who just has no clue what they are doing or all of the above.

Then there are the school zones. There are two school zones on my way home. These are the kind where the speed limit drops to 20 when the flashing yellow lights are on. But one of these school zones is several blocks from the actual school and the light is still on until 4 p.m. even though school ends at 3:15 and even the kids who like to hang around on the playground after school have gone home by 4. I have never once seen a child in this school zone, at any time of day.

But what really gets me going is school zone number two. It’s for a private school that is, admittedly, on a rather busy corner. It would be impossible to drive faster than 20 anyway due to the procession of giant-SUV-driving mothers clogging up traffic. What bothers me about this school zone is the crossing guard. They have an adult crossing guard stationed at an intersection where—this is why it bothers me—there are lights, stop lights and “walk/don’t walk” lights. There are no left turn signals or anything that might be confusing. It’s a busy intersection, but not at terribly dangerous one (for anyone who lives in Boise, it’s 8th and Fort Streets). This crossing guard walks out into the intersection with her stop sign even though the light is red and the cars are already stopped. But here’s the real kicker. I was sitting at this intersection about a week ago and the crossing guard headed out into the intersection to cross two adult women who came from the other direction. No kids were crossing at the same time. These women didn’t have any kids with them. That really makes me angry. If they must have a crossing guard, she should be told to help cross kids only, not random pedestrians who just happen to walk by and are perfectly capable of crossing the street by themselves.

Why do crossing guards and school zones bother me? Well, to put it bluntly (and I’m sure there will be disagreement from any mothers who might be reading this) I think that if your kid is not old enough to cross the street by himself, he’s not old enough to be in school. But on a deeper level, it bothers me because I think it’s representative of the way childhood and adolescence are being continually extended, which I think is a serious problem. If elementary school children can’t be trusted to cross the street by themselves, then society is doing something very, very wrong. I have heard it said that people trust the kids, they don’t trust the drivers. But we trust drivers not to run over all the adults who cross the street downtown every day. And like I’ve said several times already, this intersection has lights. If drivers can’t be trusted to stop when the light is red, that’s also a sign that something is very, very wrong (and honestly, a driver who isn’t going to stop for a red light probably isn’t going to stop because some lady is standing in the crosswalk holding a plastic stop sign either). And finally, I am willing to listen to arguments in favor of the crossing guard being there, but there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why she should have gone out in the intersection to cross two adult women. That is where I absolutely draw the line. Period. No exceptions. Ever.

--Melissa J.

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