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crossing guards
Lil' Sharkey
So I live on the other side of town from the university. This is partially because rent is approximately one-third what I would pay in any reasonably liveable neighborhood close to campus, and partially because I prefer to live in a completely separate space from where my work is, so that I don't end up staying at work 14 hours a day and so that it is difficult for people to get me to come back to work at night. (I am a wily person.)

This means that, instead of a simple one-bus commute to campus, I have to change buses Downtown if I want to use public transit. This takes roughly 45 minutes, and the neighborhood bus only runs about once an hour, during fairly circumscribed hours, since the last round of bus service cuts. I find it much simpler to drive to school now, and I found a fairly cheap parking space to lease. Everything was great during the summer.

But now school has started, and with it a new menace. I'm not talking about the school buses, although they are also a menace. I am talking about CROSSING GUARDS. These evil minions did not exist when I was growing up. In my part of the country, a small child's walk to school is considered an evolutionary hurdle that must be survived in order for a child to even merit reaching adulthood. Shit, my neighborhood didn't even have SIDEWALKS until 1999. Anyway, I'm not so much upset that crossing guards exist to help small children and little old ladies cross the street - after all, Pittsburgh is a city, unlike where I grew up. I'm upset at the manner in which they do it.

During my drive to campus, I pass through two or three separate school zones. Each one has a fanatical crossing guard. The crossing guards are almost uniformly large and bulky females, like stereotypical high school volleyball coaches. Whenever anyone approaches their crosswalk, the crossing guard zooms into action, running out into the middle of the street and ushering person across the street, even if the person didn't even want to cross the street in the first place. The crossing guard will then stand there blocking all the cars until the light turns yellow, at which point cars are finally allowed to turn left, and backed-up traffic runs the red light until the crossing guard starts to yell and shake her fist of fury. I understand that little kids and feeble geriatrics need to cross the four-lane street without becoming roadkill, but surely there must be a way to accomodate this without leaving four or five cars stuck in the intersection, unable to turn, during morning rush hour? Why not alter the light cycle when school is in session, so that all the cars get a red light and pedestrians can cross in all directions?

Furthermore, does the crossing guard really need to spring into action to help able-bodied men and women cross the street? I have been yelled at by crossing guards for having the temerity to cross the one street I need to cross, rather than crossing the street in order to cross AT THEIR CROSSWALK and then crossing back to go where I need to go! I actually find it rather embarrassing when a matronly uniformed officer forces all the traffic on a street to a halt, just so that I can cross it. I'm 24 years old. I have been crossing streets by myself, without the benefit of the crossing guard, since I was FIVE. Furthermore, I survived in the absence of the crossing guard for the entire summer and was not run over ONCE.

Why don't they put the crossing guards at actually dangerous intersections, like Bayard and Dithridge? That intersection receives a LOT of pedestrian traffic, and has neither a crosswalk nor a stoplight. Bayard doesn't even have a stop sign (though Dithridge does). Every time I go across that street, I have to step into half the street and block traffic with my body until I can get across the rest of the street. Sometimes the cars don't stop when I do this, and I end up standing on the center line of the (narrow) road with 30-40mph traffic whizzing past me in both directions. Including police cars and school buses. And this is in close proximity to the School for Blind Children. I wouldn't mind a crossing guard there, but the crossing guards at Federal and North, or Middle and North, or Liberty and Pearl, are just superfluous - there's already stoplights and crosswalks at ALL those intersections. I can't believe the city wastes so much money posting asshole crossing guards there and then doesn't put any crossing guards where people are actually in imminent danger of being run over by cars.


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