The Safety Patrol

Alvin grew up when cop shows did not have much to do with forensic evidence. He was watching shows with full names and not abbreviations covering several cities. He could count on good fight scenes and less courtroom drama. Starsky and Hutch, SWAT, and The Rockford Files sent Alvin a steady stream of testosterone infused crime fighting where instinct served the good guys well, the cars were part of the show, and a roguish attitude created as many problems for the characters as it helped to solve. Because of this intravenous drip of detective drama and given the real life circumstance of growing up in a police officer’s home, Alvin could answer with certainty in third grade that he would like to be a cop when he grew up.

When the his third grade teacher, Mrs. Hamilton, announced that the class would need a safety patrol, Alvin volunteered and was elected by the class. He would only attend Macgruder Elementary for third grade, but he would learn so many life lessons in that year. He would learn that whistling could be career when the Andy Griffith Show guy gave an assembly. He would learn that nobody really cares how smart a person is if they are boring, the NASA engineer showed that. Long division reared its ugliness right after note cards for reports showed Alvin how uninteresting schools can be. He would also develop a distaste for being a pawn and an understanding for the hypocrisy of circumstance and propaganda.

The mid-seventies were a time of big collars and crazy colors. On the day that Alvin started as Safety Patrol, he wore a polyester nearly hunter green shirt with the aforementioned big collars. The safety belt was bright white with its diagonal shoulder strap that tied into an around-the-waist belt. A silver badge came with the belt and when Alvin put the whole thing on, he felt like a dork. There should have been a confidence in wearing the gear, but Alvin was sure his friends were laughing at him. They were. Still though, he settled into the new fashion look and waited for recess where he would help police the grounds with the teachers. He had never noticed them on the playground before because he was always playing football. Whatever the day, Alvin and his friends would have great games and somehow no one ever got a concussion or so much as a jammed finger. The teachers gathered around a bench and did whatever it was teachers do at recess duty.

Alvin took up a position on the macadam where the two-square games were being played. There was plenty of cheating like there always is in two-square. Most of the cheating, and winning, was being done by one kid. The other kids were letting it slide, seemingly content by the daily drubbing they took. Back then, just like today, there were bullies. This kid was by definitions that go back at least until the 1950s health videos and extend right up until 2016, a bully. He called other kids’ shots out when they were in. He physically intimidated those who didn’t agree with him. He was a classic bully. Alvin had seen enough and called one the bully’s shots out and made him go to the end of the line. This would make Alvin’s next trip to the bathroom an interesting affair.

There was always a mad dash for the water fountain in the cafeteria after recess. From there it was off to the bathroom before math. Alvin thought nothing of it as he got his water and then headed for a quick pee. Waiting for him in the bathroom was the bully. The kid was nice enough to let Alvin pee first. Then he decided to work out the issues of power on the playground.

“You will never call me out again,” said the bully.

“But you were out.”

The bully moved in close, but he was no taller than Alvin. They stood eye to eye. Their meeting could have easily been the start of a boxing match, the first to blink signaling to the other a bit of fear or weakness. Alvin never broke contact, but he undid the safety patrol belt and hung it off the sink. Then he stepped even closer to the bully, who blinked. And that was it. The fight was over before it ever started. The bully walked out of the bathroom with a different perspective. Alvin, too. He knew the safety patrol thing was not for him because it felt too good to be out of the belt. He also knew that the big collars were not his thing. He would carry that fashion lesson to his late forties when he still only wore T-shirts and shorts.

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