I am one of two school crossing guards for the busy, stop-signs-only intersection at 16th Street and Irvine Avenue in Costa Mesa, serving Newport Harbor High and Ensign Middle schools.
The high school has 2,500 students and the middle school has 1,200 students, and the intersection is near the large Coronado at Newport Apartment Homes and the adjacent residential neighborhood.
In the morning and afternoon, we arrive at our appointed corners wearing our required red visors, high-visibility vests, identification and whistles and carrying our trusted stop signs.
We are two crossing guards trying to safely cross pedestrians, primarily students, as well as cyclists, parents with babies in strollers, joggers, maids, caretakers, dog walkers, musicians and the homeless.
We mirror each other, both crossing either 16th or Irvine, in order to protect the pedestrians from oncoming cars.
The older students are allowed to skateboard and cycle across on the outside of the crosswalks, though in elementary school crosswalks we make them walk their wheels.
Locals have expressed gratitude for our vigilant presence. One woman told me, “It was like cats running in traffic before you came here.”
This isn’t “The Glamorous Life” that Sheila E. promised us in the ‘80s. We aren’t rock stars or athletes with endorsements for our shoes, sunglasses and clothes.
We wish! I have only one pair of tennis shoes.
We work on our birthdays and in all kinds of weather. We don’t have an office atmosphere and a nearby bathroom. We monitor our fluid intake, breathe car and truck fumes as we work our corner posts, and pray for another safe work shift with no drama.
We face impatient drivers with Mapquest printouts who want to hurry through. So many drivers are distracted as they buzz through the crosswalk while we stand in the middle.
As crossing guards, we put our lives on the line for a part-time job to keep people safe, yet too many people are rude and selfish, thinking of their importance and not of others.
So many students travel by us several times a day as they frequent the local eateries. Newport Harbor would make a fortune if it ran its own cafe and had a closed campus, not to mention alleviate off-campus smoking and shenanigans.
Entitled high school female and male drivers attempt to make left turns from Irvine to 16th while the crossing guard is still in the middle, and most don’t stop. Aging drivers bewilder us with their insistence on taking their turn — when people are crossing.
Factor in morning weather, sun in eyes, people on phones, texting, coffee in hand, eating, dogs in their laps, rushing and bad moods, and, well, it is a miracle I am still here.
Mild-mannered moms working as crossing guards have to glare at some drivers or shout at them to stop. The drivers don’t care because it is all about them and not the reality of their impatient actions.
We do our best to give time in between crossing people to let traffic flow. We can’t direct traffic, and our supervisor has contacted the police to give us more support through a more-visible presence. We have contacted the school staff (we cross several of them) when we have issues with jaywalking or defiant and uncooperative students, but for the most part they are a great bunch of kids.
We have contacted the city traffic department to review the need for more large, visible signage to remind drivers about the school zone. People see the need for a flashing light and even signals.
We do our best to advise students to look left, right, left and pay attention as they cross.
We love our jobs. We are college-educated, middle-aged women who have worked in various industries, yet we are crossing guards right now and are very proud of our role.
In addition, the jobs give us freedom midday to work on our other projects, such as writing articles for websites, booking bands on tours, minding children and going to school for new job skills.
We help precious cargo across the street. We keep people alive. Please support your local crossing guards, especially at this busy intersection, which is in dire need of upgraded safety features.
Costa Mesa resident LORRAINE CHAMBERS works as a crossing guard in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.