Scouts-L Mail Archive for October of 1998: "Road Crossings" [Reflection]
"Road Crossings" [Reflection]
Wed, 21 Oct 1998 22:39:53 +0000
I found this while unboxing a file box this evening. As many of
you know, I've been unpacking (and I'll be continuing to do so
probably until it's time to leave! *laughter*) after moving here
from western Kentucky. Some of you also know that I frequently
find things that make good "stepping off points" for Scoutmasters'
Minutes or just personal reflection.
I promised Jessica (my wife) that I would NOT put this in with
"Eagle Feathers", but it's just TOO GOOD to leave out!! Sorry
"Crossing the Streets"
(to eventually go into "Eagle Feathers", (c) 1993 Mike Walton)
One of the many things I enjoy about being a partner to Jessica and
being the father to my kids is discovering how sometimes grownup
things and childlike wonder and impressions intermix in our lives.
Both wife and children can be so grownup AND yet so naive too.
Take for example, road signs. Since I was five years old
(according to my mother, who proudly tells me --and anyone else
whom would listen to her -- (the fine art of storytelling doesn't
drop far from the tree!!) that I was a "whiz" with road signs. My
Mom would tell me that I would sit for hours looking at the
illustrations in the South Carolina drivers' booklet, and when I
failed to understand what a particular sign meant, I would bug her
and ask "What does this mean?"
Growing tired of her oldest son asking her "What does this mean"?,
she spent one afternoon between "doing heads" (she was learning the
trade which would eventually be her career...beautician) and
reading and showing me everything dealing with road signs and
So, it was natural that the first thing I received after we had
settled in over in Germany...was the USAREUR (United States Army in
Europe) Traffic Manual. I read and re-read the book from end to
end, and memorized the international road signs contained within
the book. I learned that a white circular sign with a red border
means "restriction"; that a yellow sign gave directions to
something, that the octagon STOP sign was the same as the octagon
STOP sign in the States.
And any circular sign with a red border means DON'T whatever's
depicted. If nothing's depicted, it means DON'T go this way! We
Americans took this sign, added a slash and now, here it means
"don't" whatever the picture says:
If a camera's "red lined out", you're not allowed to take pictures
there. If a horn is shown being "red lined out", you're not
supposed to blow your horn in this area.
But perhaps the most common sign found here in the States is the
one that means "DON'T CROSS HERE".
My youngest son Jonathan, whom cannot make up his mind whether he's
"black" or "white", saw one of those signs one afternoon while we
were walking back from the center of campus. Seems his friend Matt
had misinformed him of some essential information; and up until the
time we confronted it together, I had no idea that his young
thought processes (four and a half then) was thinking along racial
lines instead of Power Ranger lines.
He loves the Power Rangers. I thought it was the only thing he
"Dad!!", he yelled before we approached the crosswalk. "You can't
cross there!" Sure enough, that man was encircled and "red lined
out" on the circular sign. "No Crossing".
I complimented him on his knowledge of street signs and asked him
how did he know that's what the sign meant.
"Matt told me one day. We were walking back from up the hill. He
told me that Black people have to cross at the crosswalk...see the
man on the yellow sign?"
There was a black stick figure of a person crossing on the
diamond-shaped sign almost in front of us and before the crosswalk.
Curious as to what direction this was going toward, I looked at
"So, where do White people cross the street at?"
"Anywhere they want to. See", my youngest child pointed out in
response. And if on cue, a pair of white students crossed the
street, in total disobeyance to the crosswalk just feet in front of
them and the red light against them. They took their time, as they
knew that at this time of the day, very little traffic would mow
them down crossing at the corner of Kit Carson and Park Drives on
the college campus.
"That's not right, Jay," I attempted to correct my son. "The sign
means NO CROSSING by ANYONE, not just Black people!!"
Little impressible boys are not the only ones to experience such
naivity. Adults are subject to the same things.
Someone told me during a visit to a part of Evansville, Indiana,
that the first Neighborhood Watch signs featured a black figure on
the white sign and "it was originally meant to warn Blacks not to
come into this part of town because we're watchin' you".
Yeah, right. People really have to get a grip.
I later wrote the Commonwealth's Department of Highways suggesting
that they use a blue stick figure instead of black on their
Neighborhood Watch and "crossing/no crossing" signage. I never got
an answer back.
On one of our first trips through central Iowa, my wife Jessica and
I drove through a small town. Just looking around, seeing what a
small town in Iowa looked like. Because it was a Sunday, we
attended a church in town and then drove around the town, talking
and chatting as we usually did on a road trip. After about thirty
minutes of "driving around town, just looking", my wife told me
"let's go. We've done about all of the looking...it's nice...let's
I relented and drove the car toward the Interstate. Along the way,
we passed several crosswalks with signage above them stating so.
My wife informed me "You're lost, aren't you?"
"No. We're on the way to the Interstate."
"No, You're not. We've going around in circles, Mike".
"I haven't turned once, honies". She told me to pull off the
"I know you're good with directions and all, but I'm telling you
we're going around in circles." She looked at the roadmap, trying
to re-establish her bearings.
"How do you know we are??", I asked. I was getting a little
irratated...it was coffeetime and I did without it while we
attended church and then during the drive around town.
"I've seen the same sign above the street as we drove around. It
says "Pedzing Street or Drive or something".
"Pedzing? Are you SURE? I haven't made any turns at all...it's a
straight shot to the Interstate. That's a weird name for a
"I'm sure. The next time I see it, I'll show you. Now let's go!"
Sure enough, we crossed another street and she yelled "SEE!! I TOLD
you we're driving around in circles!! That's the SAME sign I saw
just a few seconds ago!! Mike, we're going in CIRCLES!!"
The sign was immediately above the crosswalk and spanned the
street. In white letters on a green sign, it stated "PED XING".
I couldn't help but to bust out laughing. I tried my best to hold
it in, but it all came out. Loud laughter, too.
"Honies", I said between chuckles. "That's a sign that says
"Pedestrian Crossing. Ped X ing...!"
"Not Pedzing Street....I guess they put them above all of the
crosswalks in this town!" I continued to laugh until Jessi balled
her fist up and hit me on the top of the left shoulder.
"Sometimes I can be SO STUPID!!", she yelled out. "And I hate you
for laughing at me! You're SO MEAN TO ME!!". She pouted as I
continued to laugh at what my wife thought was a special name for a
I stopped laughing long enough to show her the hotel where we
stayed the night before and the Interstate ramp on the other side
of the hotel.
"Pedzing Street" has become of our favorite "introduction stories"
we share with our new friends. They laugh...we laugh again, and we
made new friends.
(c) 1998 Mike Walton ("no such thing as strong coffee,...") firstname.lastname@example.org
http://mninter.net/~blkeagle Burnsville, MN 55306-7130 (612) 435-3085
privately at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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