What My Traffic Guards Have Taught Me About Stories

You may think, "Wait, what? Traffic guards, as in those people who stand at four-ways and crosswalks directing cars and kids just before and after school hours?"

Yes. Them.  We have two at my sons' elementary school.

First off, on the corner before one gets to the actual entrance of the school, there is a Grumpy Old Man. He is such a very clearly Grumpy Old Man he deserves caps to express his grumpy old man-ness. He's new this year. I don't like him. I want our scrawny, ball-cap-wearing, three-packs-a-day-smoking guy from last year back. He understood my blasting "We Will Rock You" from my windows as I drove by on Fridays was a sacred thing between myself and sons, and he realized it is totally cool to enjoy a rousing play of "Low Rider" in  a minivan that seats seven. Also, he knew what the hell he was doing.

Not the case with Grumpy Old Man. GrOM, for lack of a more sensitive way of saying it, is not only grumpy, but he is wibbly-wobbly without the timey-wimey fun. Now, to be fair, I suspect judging solely on his physique he's recently gone through a necessary and rapidly successful gastric bypass surgery. In other words, I think he's lost quite a lot of weight in a short amount of time, and much of his skin just hasn't enough wibbly-wobbly to catch up, yet. Meanwhile, he cannot direct traffic. Not because of his body, but because he can't seem to get the concept of, "You point in the direction you WANT the cars TO GO." Instead he does a sort of hoppy, skippy, jig step, points in three directions, whistles out his lungs, and tries to glare the oncoming cars and their drivers into submission. We're never sure where he's going with this, and I think we're all just profusely hoping the damage will be minimal when we all pile up because of him.

If GrOM where telling a story, he'd tell it in stops and sprints, all out of order, and with a bullying tendency to beat the reader over the head with plot points. I wouldn't like that story much, would you?

Meanwhile, our other traffic guard is a spry-if-plump older lady who looks like she could eat the Big Bad Wolf for breakfast, until she smiles and then you realize she's just a granny and cookies appear out of nowhere. She stands right in the point of a T where the lines meet, regulating cars coming from the street in front of the school onto the road that winds up into the Car Line (where you drop off and pick up your kids, FYI), and back onto the front street from the Car Line. It takes a bit of finessing the pace. How many cars to let in before you stop them so other cars can get out? What if a car comes from, or needs to go in a different direction? Don't you worry, she's got it. Her movements are precise, distinct, clear. Let in X# of cars, raise hand to indicate stop. Pause to step back two steps, motion for current number of cars in Car Line to exit. Repeat as necessary. Make calculated adjustments for cars coming from the left-hand side of the road (almost all of us come from the right), and for cars wishing to exit right from the Car Line. If the cars were scenes, excepting the "adjustments" cars, which we'll consider plots twists, Spry Granny controls the pace with grace. Scenes flow by smoothly, twists are not slammed into the traffic, but gently, stealthily maneuvered in, and all of it with a stony expression that becomes a sincerely warm smile in the flick of a reflective-striped wrist.

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather be a Spry Granny writer than GrOM.

Personal Note: My cat is named Fable. He thinks he is a dog, or maybe an owlet, and despite his feline anatomy, he loves baths. He seriously tries to sneak into the tub while the boys bathe, and when I take off his collar he KNOWS he's about to get a bath, so he starts mewing at me excitedly.