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National Editorials & Columns

Safety Patrol: Maybe not as cool as I remembered it

“It was cool. I swear.”

Sometimes when my husband laughs, he looks as if he is having a seizure. This would be endearing, if his full-bodied laugh didn’t so often occur when he is laughing at me.

“You were such a dweeb,” my husband said, clutching his stomach.

“I was not! You had to be popular and authoritative to be given such an honor. It was cool. It was the thing to be in sixth grade.”

I was talking, of course, about being a school safety patrol.

Not everyone was made to don the safety patrol uniform, consisting of an orange plastic sash and a metal badge. It was a symbol of sixth-grade status. Of coolness. Of achievement.

When I was a kindergartener, I looked up at those orange-clad elementary-school seniors. Their spiffy reflective fabrics ranked them in my upper echelon of awesomeness.

Clearly, my husband didn’t understand the prestige that came with reciting the safety patrol oath, because he kept on chuckling. “Did you send kids to detention if they didn’t have their hall pass? Narc!”

“How dare you?” I asked. “That’s a hall monitor. They were the dweebs. A hall monitor and a safety patrol are totally different!”

And my husband convulsed into hysterics.

I began speaking at a Micro Machines man pace, attempting to defend my 12-year-old title, clinging to the social status of my primary years. But as I rambled on, my argument unraveled.

“We’d get out of class early,” I said. “Even you have to admit that leaving class is cool.” And it was. An early bell rang just for those of us who had taken the pledge to seat and protect. Every day, the other kids in class groaned and moaned that we got to bounce while they had to sit for another 10 full minutes of learning. That’s, like, 18 months in kid years.

“Yeah, but does that mean you had to get up early in the mornings, too?”


For all the street cred you get for skipping out of class, it is all lost once folks realize you’re the loser who has to get out of bed early to hang out at the bus stop before sunrise.

OK, that example didn’t exactly work to establish my coolness, but there were other examples, such as the respect. Yeah, the respect! I had authority. I had swagger. I had all those little kids on my bus wrapped around my finger.

They would walk in a single line for me. They would stay on the sidewalk. They would keep their voices down. When I told kids to sit down, they’d sit down. When I told them to shut up, they’d shut up.

Well, that is, of course, if you ignore that one infamous time when I asked a third-grader causing trouble to take a seat. To which he politely responded with a right hook. Sure, I had a black eye and a scratched retina, but my heroism earned me a free pass out of school that day — because my mommy had to take me to the eye doctor.

Oh, how my husband laughed when I told him this. I was beginning to hate his smile.

OK, maybe the authority angle wasn’t my best argument. But that’s fine. I mean, it’s not as if I was a power-hungry kid. I became a safety patrol for the perks. Yeah, you heard right. The perks. At the end of every school year, the county put on a special carnival just for us safety patrols. It was a way of saying “thank you” for all our hard work (and black eyes).

When I mentioned this to my husband, his epileptic giggle attack subsided. Even he could admit that a personalized carnival sounded pretty cool.

“So what kind of rides did they have for you?” he asked.

Well — drat! I mean, there were rides. Sorta. They had a slide and a carousel, both of which we all felt too old for.

“Did you at least get funnel cake?”

“Um, yes. Of course I did. Yum.”

I didn’t want to tell him that we had to bring our own lunches.

The years have rusted the prestige of my orange sash. Maybe being a safety patrol wasn’t so cool as I remember. But hey, at least I wasn’t a hall monitor. Now that would’ve been embarrassing.

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