Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Guardedly optimistic about DST

The 19 Minutes staff has called the Milwaukee area home for around six weeks, and we continue to marvel at quite a few things we experience every day. Daylight Saving Time, for starters. After seven years in Arizona, Daylight Saving Time took me by surprise.

Not the setting-the-clocks forward part, of course. You have to have live in a Habitrail, turned away from all forms of media, to miss the helpful reminders to set your clocks forward. I believe even Iron Chef Chinese, Chen Kenichi, took a few seconds out of the Rutabaga Battle to remind Americans to set their clocks an hour ahead.

The aspect that threw me was the part where it actually stays light later in the evening. For the first week after we sprang forward, I was continually confused by the visual cues around me – convinced it was earlier than the clock claimed. But after getting used to it, I have to give it a pretty favorable review. Not only is it nice to get home from work in daylight, but I could now get things done in the garden, should I suddenly develop an affinity for gardening.

The Milwaukee area also continues to dazzle me by its amazing proliferation of crossing guards. There are probably half a dozen schools between my house and the park-and-ride lot, and each of them has a platoon of crossing guards at the intersections nearby. These are adults wearing bright orange jackets or vests, and who carry hand-held stop signs to let children get to school more quickly and safely.

Or you would imagine that is their charge. The reality is that Milwaukee-area crossing guards are a little scattershot. Maybe it’s their training program. When I was a crossing guard, at Glenallan Elementary School (the crossing guard program against which all others are judged), Officer Barnes instructed us to wait until a group of children had reached the curb before having them all cross at once (perhaps to ratchet up the body count in the event of an accident).

The local crossing guard establishment favors a policy wherein they walk out and stop traffic to let one child cross, then head back, only to stop half-way to the curb as another child approaches, after which they stay out in the middle of the street to let a parent – fresh from dropping his child off at school – cross in the other direction. All this does wonders for the blood pressure of Milwaukee-area drivers, which is perhaps why the crossing guards want to keep any potential body counts low.

The crossing guards also are deployed at traffic lights, which seems like an interesting use of resources, considering there are already crossing guards at those intersections, in the form of blinking white guys and orange guys.

Our immediate neighborhood also features a guard known to all as “The Waving Crossing Guard”, who – not surprisingly – stands at her corner and waves at every single passing vehicle, which seems like an oddly distracting activity for a crossing guard to engage in.

And finally, this update on the "Woman Who Probably Has Her Hair Done Very Nicely, Only She Wears a Knit Hat On Top of It Somewhat Precariously, So We Never Actually See What It Looks Like", who often rides our bus, but whom we had lost track of: She has returned to our Freeway Flyer bus, and with the temperature reaching the upper 60s, has - in fact - dispensed with her hat. As it turns out, she sports a simple pony tail. So much for the mystique. We'll now have to scan the bus for another Mystery of the Ages. Stay tuned.

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