Tag: traffic

Living In Tennessee, Work

My Not-So-Stinky Commute

Many events stop traffic on my morning commute: Crossing guards in the school zone; Parents dropping off their kids; An occasional accident…But few things have been more memorable than the day a skunk stopped traffic on the corner of Old Fort and Veterans Parkways.

I was sitting patiently at the intersection, munching on my Cheerios and waiting for the impossibly long light to turn green. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a black-and-white animal, ambling down the road, completely oblivious to the lines of traffic directly in front of it. I had been waiting at the light for a good 30 seconds, and as I anticipated the light turning green, the skunk decided it was a fine time to prance in front of the lines of stopped traffic.

What do you do, when a skunk walks in front of you, and you are driving the lead car in a long line of traffic? Do you accelerate into it, hold your breath, and hope he decides not to spray you? Or do you sit and watch patiently, knowing that the cars behind you will begin laying into their horns with each passing second?

I glanced at the driver next to me, who was leaning over his steering wheel, staring at the road in disbelief, a smirk of a smile in the corner of his mouth. I caught his eye, wrinkled my eyebrows as if to say, “What do we do?” And he chuckled and shrugged his shoulders.

So we sat. And we watched the skunk make his merry way across the six lanes of traffic, back into the intersection, into oncoming traffic (oh no, oh no, oh no!!!!) and miraculously into a neighboring yard.

The skunk survived. The light turned green (amazingly, it didn’t turn green while we were watching the skunk…I told you it was a long light)…and we continued on to work.

That intersection has become one of my morning favorites…stopped at that light, I find myself next to business people, young moms, truck drivers, and other random characters, all a bit groggy, slurping their coffee and crunching on random breakfast bits. It’s an odd camaraderie; a place of daily life; and sometimes, like that morning, a place of unexpected grace…for the skunk, and for us.

Living With School, Mom Life

Hail To the Crossing Guards

I just moved to a suburb south of Nashville, and I feel like I’ve found myself in a Richard Scarry “Busy Town” book. Traffic lights dangle from the power lines, bobbing in the wind; lawns are perfectly manicured; firetrucks are tucked neatly into garages every few miles apart; there is a big library, as well as bakeries and parks with playgrounds…it’s all so different from the small mountain town where I spent the last 20 years of my life. It’s all so…busy…so many things to do…so much traffic to take in…

That traffic is why they need the school crossing guards.

Every morning, truer than the clock, the guards take their positions in front of the elementary school we drive by, and then the middle school my kids attend. The guards stand boldly, smack dab in the middle of the intersection, systematically creating one traffic jam while relieving the others.

The first guard on our route is the thin black woman I’ve lovingly nicknamed Flo. She looks to be about 65, and has the look of a grandma you wouldn’t want to cross. This is the lady who blew her whistle with a severe look of disdain the first day I drove my kids to school…I didn’t realize the school zone started quite so soon. Being me, I gave her a big broad smile as she frantically waved at me…I thought she was saying hello…My, these Tennesseans are friendly!!!

Then I heard the whistle…and her face came into focus. My face dropped. Yes, Ma’am..I will slow down…way, way down, every single time I come up to your corner, from now on…they put Flo on the first corner for a reason. She means business, and isn’t afraid to make you know it. The sound of her whistle can overpower my crying toddler in the back…

Next is the older white man who is at least 65. I call him Ned. He has the easy corner, guarding an intersection into a neighboring subdivision. Flo already slowed down the traffic for him…all he needs to do is nod and wave, every once in awhile when a car or child decides to come out of the neighborhood. I like to wave to Ned because he often smiles and waves back at me…which is kind of confusing, because then I wonder if he’s actually signaling me to stop…or slow down…

I should probably stop waving at Ned…

Bravely standing watch over the next major intersection is Belle. Of course, I don’t really know her name, but she is a bigger black woman, a bit younger than the others, but certainly old enough to stop us. I study her black outfit every day as I wait for her to wave me on…marveling at her gloves. They are called “Glo Glovs“…all black, with orange caution triangles on the palms, and I think they come with superpowers. Unfortunately, Belle has the version with the triangles on her palms, not the stop signs. Her hand motion says stop, but her gloves say caution…and I think I look at her with a confused, knitted brow as I drive past her, every single morning.

After we get by Belle, it’s smooth sailing for a few miles until we come up to the middle school. There is only one crossing guard there, but she is the grand crescendo of the morning…I call her “Crazy Arm Lady.” Crazy Arm Lady is in her 30s, blond and thin with a very tidy, no nonsense appearance. She stands at the corner, rolling her arms in a spectacular fashion that make her look like she’s doing some kind of aerobic move…yet with such a serious face and deliberateness, that you KNOW she learned that move from some kind of traffic training program. Man, she is fun to watch, that Crazy Arm Lady…arm roll, arm roll, arm roll…stop!

Every morning, I think about how I’d like to buy each of them a cup of coffee. I want to say thank you for being out in the rain and braving the miles-long parade of minivans with children spilling out of it…but their hands are so busy, I’d have nowhere to put the cup. It would just result in an awkward dance of arm gesturing, and a sad Starbucks cup left on the cold sidewalk, waiting for the commute to be over. So I’ll just continue to drink my coffee from the confines of my Toyota. I will drive by quietly, heeding their passionate arm signals, and saying a prayer for their safety as they take on another early morning commute.

View More