The closest I ever came to a career in military or law enforcement was my grade school stint in Safety Patrol. I got to wear a bright orange sash with a shiny plastic badge pinned to it and I carried an orange flag stapled to a dowel rod. The flag had the word STOP stamped on it in faded black ink. As a Safety Patrol … Officer? Member? Dorkus-malorkus? … it was my duty to stand at the crosswalk near my school. When kids approached, I assessed the car threat level—I used the ‘looking’ method—and, after determining the threat to be nil, I marched to the middle of the crosswalk, unfurled my STOP flag and directed the kids to cross.
Never were my directions errant or vague. Not one single kid ever wondered if I meant, “Do something else,” when I pronounced the order to cross. I never lost one kid to aimless wandering on the neighboring golf course. And not once did I erroneously direct a kid into the grill of the ubiquitous Ford Aerostar—which, incidentally, was a Moriarty of sorts to my Holmes. The Aerostar: a most worthy nemesis. At any rate, my Safety Patrol record was unblemished and I was proud of it. Still am.
But, look. Chattanooga. What are we doing here? What the hell is going on? I came out of Mean Mug (Southside location) the other day, about to hang a left on Williams Street by Clyde’s. There, zip-tied to the telephone pole, was an end-capped section of PVC pipe—sawed off, evidently, by a baby with a hacksaw during an earthquake—containing a few mini-replicas of my STOP flag from those Safety Patrol days. The pipe had a sticker on it that read, “Be Safe! Be Seen!” And there were directions:
- Take a flag to increase your visibility
- Be absolutely sure all vehicles have stopped before you cross the road
- Place the flag(s) in the bucket on the other side. If you see the other bucket is empty, please take a few extra flags
- The flags are helpful tools but always be cautious when crossing the road, with or without a flag
Under the directions, it read, “COMMUNITY CROSSWALK FLAGS”
Holy S—, Chattanooga.
Okay, first thing. There are five complete sentences there. And only one period. I could walk a block in the opposite direction, up to Battle Academy, and ask any one of the kindergarten students, “What do you put on the end of a sentence that’s not a question?” and they’d all, every single one of them, say, “A PERIOD.”
And “Be Safe! Be Seen!” and “COMMUNITY CROSSWALK FLAGS.” Go on ahead if you feel like it, just capitalize any letter you want to capitalize, like there are no rules for this s— like there’s no such thing as Strunk and White, do whatever you want with your keyboard who cares why not nothing matters we’re all going to hell zm39buaetkbpa0^#)amr
But that’s minor league stuff. Let me get to my main question which is, obviously, “What is the motherf—— deal with these things?”
My immediate thought was: Eagle Scout project gone horribly awry. So, probably what happened was some poor kid procrastinated like hell on this, his final requirement to become an Eagle Scout. When his Scoutmaster reminded him, he went ahead and pulled something out of his ass right then and there. “Uh, crosswalk flags. But. For adults.”
I get it. I was an Eagle Scout. The Eagle Scout project requirement was the part I hated most. I dragged my heels too. But, look. Part of becoming an Eagle Scout is learning how to be a man. And part of becoming a man is learning how to accept rejection with tact and grace. City Council or whoever it was dropped the ball on this one. They said, “Yeppers!” when they should have said, “No way never ha-ha what no.”
If not a Life-Nearly-Eagle-Scout, then some other well-intentioned do-gooder. To be extra clear, I appreciate the sentiment. I really do. I am all for community safety, all for looking out for one another. Please hear my heart. But also hear this. COMMUNITY CROSSWALK FLAGS make it look like our city is entirely populated by drooling, irradiated, humanoid amoebas who must be reminded to breathe every now and then.
Incidentally, the few of these COMMUNITY CROSSWALK FLAGS stations I’ve seen around the city… well, I can’t help but notice they’re situated near places where people like to drink. And who needs more help crossing the street than drunk folks? That is true, true, a hundred times true. But whoever the COMMUNITY CROSSWALK FLAGS people are have evidently never been drunk and, what’s more, have never been in the vicinity of a drunk person. If the COMMUNITY CROSSWALK FLAGS folks are reading—and I kind of hope you are and kind of not—I share the following list. Not to be a jackass about things, though it’s probably too late for that. Just to share a shot of reality.
Top 5 Things Drunk Folks Are Likely to Do With COMMUNITY CROSSWALK FLAGS
- Steal them.
- Use them as Jarts.
- Pretend to sword fight.
- Actually fight.
- Shove them in their jeans and pretend to have erections.
Safely crossing the street would be about number 1,864. So, look. Chattanooga. In conclusion … I don’t know, just take them down, okay? Please?
Paul Luikart is a writer whose work has appeared in a number of places over the years. His most recent book, “Animal Heart,” is available now from Hyperborea Publishing. Follow him on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.