I’ve once again been digging through old photos, and I ran across a standard school picture of myself as a sixth-grader. Nothing unusual about that, but I couldn’t help but notice the white band across my chest. I immediately recognized it as part of my Safety Patrol belt, which in turn released a flood of memories — and not all of them were happy.
For those who don’t know (or remember), the American Automobile Association has for many years sponsored a nationwide program that’s intended to help keep kids safe during their daily walks to and from school. In my day — and I assume it’s still the case — the School Safety Patrol consisted of several of the older and more responsible (!) students, and they were stationed at busy corners to help younger kids.
We were given the white belts to wear, and although it doesn’t show in the picture, I also had a captain’s badge. Don’t ask me why I was chosen to be in charge but I was, and that meant that I had duties above and beyond just standing on a corner. It was my job to walk around every morning and check all the stations, making sure everybody was on duty and doing things right. Of course, when you’re 11 years old and have a fancy badge on your chest, it’s a short journey to being a little full of yourself, and I’m sure that I strutted around and made myself annoying — but one day I met my match.
One morning I was making my rounds and discovered that a girl named Wendy was not at her station, so I had to fill in for her. I knew that she lived just a couple of blocks away, and as time passed I began to get a little steamed. Finally a car pulled up to the curb alongside me, and when I saw her in the passenger seat I began to chew her out.
I didn’t get far with my scolding because a demon from hell — actually her father — suddenly leaned across her and began to unleash a verbal barrage at me that probably peeled the bark off nearby trees. He used a few words that were new to me and probably to his daughter too. (Or maybe not.) Somewhere in all that he communicated that she’d felt a little sick earlier, but didn’t want to miss school so he was driving her there.
So I got it that she didn’t feel too good, but by then I wasn’t doing so hot myself, so it’s hard to say which of us was a better fit for the following: