In my urban corner of the Garden State, it’s important that the people dressed for the role of traffic safety play their part. While I have complaints about some individuals, I don’t want to ignore the efforts of most. I appreciate the police officers who wear their mirrored sunglasses authoritatively, step into the road, hold up hands that command obedience from drivers, and wave me on to cross safely. I have no complaints about those officers – except that they’re not assigned to the closed sidewalks on the boulevard of death I cross daily. While my view of oncoming traffic at these intersections is obstructed by construction vehicles, I can see clearly the safety vest of the officer standing behind a concrete barrier, texting and out of harm’s way. That’s an officer with whom I have issues.
I have only praise for crossing guards whose spread arms shield the children they guide through intersections. But again, these guards are not along my route, where crosswalks become crosshairs once I, a small child or a wheelchair-bound elderly person step into it. Approaching drivers regard us as they do speed bumps: slowing down is optional and only if there is no way to cut in front of us without breaking momentum. The crossing guards assigned to these corners observe the action from the sidewalk as they sip their coffee contemplatively.
Remember when we were kids and played pretend? The rules were simple: if you dressed the part, you had to play the role. Non-compliance meant the cool accessories were taken away. Maybe those rules should still apply now that we’re adults. I’ll take the whistle from the crossing guards so they can enjoy their coffee. And I’ll take the safety vest from the cop tucked away behind the traffic barrier. I would put these accessories to better use, not to play the part of a traffic safety enforcer but to play my own role more effectively: that of a pedestrian scared for her life.