Thursday, February 10, 2011

Guarding the Crosswalk

I used to hear people talk about their back trouble and feel terrible, of course, but not have any of my own reference points. That was until a few months ago. After a prolonged spell of what I thought was a pulled muscle, I learned I actually have a pronounced herniation between two vertebrae in my neck. Since January 3 I've had constant shooting pains down my shoulder and arm and some nagging tingling in my left hand and index finger.

This creates some major quality-of-life adjustments, not to mention low-grade depression, but since a blog isn't a journal I'll spare you the weepy details.

What I can say is this: I haven't been able to ride my bike since January 3. I haven't been able to exercise, enjoy a dinner out, or sleep on my stomach or side. I go to sleep in pain. I wake up in pain. But I'm adjusting. One thing I've started doing is walking the 45 minutes to work -- a little exercise, a little scenery. Plus a daily visit with my favorite crossing guard, there at the corner of Albany and Fullerton in her yellow slicker, stopping 6 lanes of traffic so pedestrians can get across.

If she doesn't love her job, you could've fooled me. Every day she offers up a heavily accented "Good morning!" or "Be careful, sweetie." Then she'll point to the same slushy pile at the mouth of the sidewalk, as if to say, "Don't slip. Take it slow."

There are hazards aplenty at that corner. Six full lanes of traffic on a route designated for semi trucks. Snow piled up so it makes the crosswalk impassable. That same snow turning to sheets of ice as it's packed down.

But the crossing guard is always there, making sure we don't fall off those cliffs of rye. Every last one of us -- schoolchildren, seniors, dogwalkers, people in wheelchairs, and plain old grown-ups like me -- is safe on her watch. She wouldn't stand for less.

People in Chicago talk about legendary bus drivers or el operators, with their affirmational messages and charming quirks. But my kudos go to the protectors of those of us who rely on the sidewalk. Hardy though we may be, we are sometimes fragile creatures.

1 comment:

Rosemary said...

I love these posts of yours, Christy. They're like a grown-up, thoughtful version of Sesame Street's "Who are the people in your neighborhood?"bit. So cool to see the people that *you* meet when you're walking down the street.

However, I'm *very* sorry to hear that you're in such chronic pain, and unable to ride. So depressing and exhausting and unfair. I really hope you're able to get some relief soon.