I saw the strangest sight on the way to work this morning.
I was sitting several cars back at a stop sign when a long line of children, maybe second or third graders, and several adults came walking down the cross street.
That wasn’t the odd part. There are many schools in the area and it easily could have been a field trip or science walk.
But several of the kids were carrying cardboard signs on sticks. I couldn’t read them from my vantage point, but there was definitely writing on them.
Everyone in the line appeared very somber, even the kids.
At the end of this parade were a man with a yellow bicycle, a golden retriever and a woman pushing a large, purple stroller.
I don’t know if they were part of the activity or just got mixed in as they were trying to get where they wanted to go, but they somehow added immensely to the Twin Peaks quality of the line of children.
I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the log lady, a dwarf and Kyle MacLachlan following along after them.
Between the signs and the lack of youthful energy a group of children usually radiates, my immediate thought was that it was a protest.
Were teachers using kids to protest some school policy with which they disagreed? Did the signs read “fair pay for teachers” or “smaller classes = better teachers?”
Or did the kids decide they didn’t like their school lunches and organize a rally? Were they hefting “Everyday should be pizza day” and “ketchup is not a vegetable” placards?
Adding to the peculiarity of the scene was that most of the children were wearing large, colorful backpacks. In most cases, the bags looked heavier than the children themselves, like they might pull the kids over to lie there like turtles on their shells, legs waving in the air unable to right themselves.
I’m assuming that over loaded backpacks are a part of the standard uniform for school children now. Until we’re smart enough to fund iPads for every student, they are cursed with lugging entire libraries around on their backs.
But again, there was a strange vibe that I could feel even half a dozen cars away and I didn’t get the impression the backpacks were full of Junie B. Jones and The Phantom Tollbooth and Bunnicula.
So maybe it wasn’t a protest but a punishment march. The teachers filled the backpacks with rocks and made bad kids march from school to school with signs proclaiming their crimes. “I chewed gum” or “I ran in the halls.”
Or maybe it was a bunch of kids with signs going on a walk and my imagination was just set to sinister this morning.
It’s been a long time since I took driver’s education, over twenty five years.
And frankly, although I have a nice clean driving record so I must have learned something, I don’t remember much about the class.
The teacher was a grumpy, retired science teacher who gobbled Tums like candy. I’m sure that being a driver’s education teacher does cause some indigestion, but it doesn’t do much to instill confidence in the drivers of tomorrow if you eat a handful of antacids every time they get behind the wheel.
It wasn’t just me. He did that with every teenage driver. At least I hope he did.
He was tall, with skinny legs and arms, but looked like he had a basketball under his sweater. I don’t know why, but I remember him always wearing a sweater.
He was also used the teacher brake pedal very liberally. For years after I got my license I kept expecting the car to brake on its own.
But I survived the trauma of driver’s ed and even got my license on the first try. Although I think the guy administering the test was just impressed that my mother was letting me drive her brand new car.
Every once in a while I come across a driving question when I’m behind the wheel and I wish I could go back to that crusty old teacher and ask him.
The one that most often pops into my head is where does the speed limit change go into effect. At the sign or when you see the sign?
It makes more sense to me if it’s at the sign, like there’s a line across the road saying “you can go forty miles an hour starting here.”
But that seems pretty arbitrary. Why is the sign there and not six or ten feet in one direction or another. Why does that exact point in the road warrant a speed limit change?
The other option, that it takes effect when you can see the sign, doesn’t seem fair though. Some people have better vision than others. And how could a police officer know if the driver can see the sign or not.
And is it when you see the sign or can read the sign?
If you drive the road frequently and know where the sign is, you could start going faster when you saw the white square, but someone less familiar would have to wait to see what the sign said before speeding up or slowing down.
Either way, do cops stop people for speeding that close to a speed limit change? Could you get a ticket for speeding twenty feet from a sign?
Although this is the question that plagues me most often, there are others too. Is it legal to pass people on the right when they have stopped to turn left? Is it illegal to flash your lights at an oncoming car to warn them that you just saw a police car?
I guess I could take a refresher course in driver’s education, but I’m not sure I could stand it. I’d probably have terrifying flashbacks to that grouchy, Tums crunching teacher.
It’s safer to just Google it, as long as I’m not driving when I do.