Maybe it’s time to look at the school assignment thing from another angle…the perils of walking one’s child to school. The Parent Imperfect knows of what he speaks. After two children and a total of 18 years in the Boston Public Schools, we finally have someone going to a school that is within walking distance. The Washington Irving Middle School, where Connie attends sixth grade, is about fifteen minutes from our home.
Connie has to be at the Irving by 7:20AM, or she faces the dreaded demerits. Too bad her brother didn’t have that training before he started at the nation’s oldest public school. It might have saved him a few of those cumulative “tardy” detentions.
Getting out of the house at 7AM is pretty early after the 9:30AM start last year at the Hennigan, but Connie wants to walk most days. We’ll see what happens when the pumpkins get frosty. On many days, the walk to school is her last chance for exercise (except for walking between classes) until she gets out of school at 4:15PM. This seems like cruel and unusual punishment for middle schoolers.
One day last week, I had the pleasure of walking with Connie on one of these early morning trips. It’s much more about having a few minutes along with her, than it is worrying about her being safe on the way to school. Connie insists on saying goodbye a good distance from school as “nobody” walks to school with her father in middle school.
I was on my way back home, thinking about how nice it was to spend that time with Connie in the AM. Almost home, I arrived at the corner of Washington St. and Firth Road. For about the tenth time in the last year, workers were getting ready to dig up Washington St. right at this busy intersection. A truck was parked strategically on each crosswalk and men were milling around between the trucks. A police officer in a bright yellow jacket was grooving to whatever was on his iPod, looking out across Healy Field.
When the “walk” light lit, I walked between the two trucks and into the intersection, I was about halfway into the intersection when I heard him.
“Hey”—shouted the cop—“where are you going?”
“Across the street”—I shouted back, loudly, so that he could hear me over the traffic and the iPod.
“Go around. Come back and go around.”
“Why?. I’m already through.”
“Because I said so. Either go around or you’ll be at the booking desk at Roxbury Crossing.” I assume he was talking about the station near Ruggles so close to my work. The workers had now stopped what they were doing, thinking that they might see something fun. I noticed that one of my neighbors was watching all of this from the other side of Washington, trying to decide how he was going to cross the street. He took a very wide swing around the cop.
I used to get this sort of treatment from police as a younger person, but it had been a long time. As a person of my age, my gender, my class and my race, I’m not accustomed to it. I know that people of Vince’s age deal with this (and MUCH worse) every day. Walking back between the trucks required me to walk right past the officer. I stopped for a second, right in from of him. Rather than visions of sugar plums, I had all sorts of crazy things dancing in my head. For example, “there’s part of me that wants to go to “Roxbury Crossing” and talk to this guy’s supervisor,” and “wouldn’t that be ironic to end up in jail for walking my daughter to school.” Luckily, that first part of me was suppressed by the occasionally adult part.
I walked around one of the trucks and into Washington St. As if on cue, a car turned right coming out of Firth Road, and the driver didn’t see me until she was quite close to me. Luckily, she was aware enough to stop. My friend with the electric jacket was back to his iPod, suddenly paying not a bit of attention to me.
Even “close to home” is not without its parental perils in Boston.