Janie Watson’s first day as a crossing guard at Chew and E. Mt. Airy avenues began with uproarious laughter.
Years ago, one of her son’s grandmothers had manned the very same intersection. While Watson knew that, and her assignment, long before she suited up, it didn’t all click until she physically got to the Mount Airy junction.
“I stood on this corner and I know people were wondering, ‘What on earth is she laughing about?'” recalled Watson on a recent brisk morning.
Thirteen years later, she’s still smiling.
The caring matters most
For Watson, the job, while not glamorous or high-paying, gives her the opportunity to care for people. It’s a love she didn’t get to spread much while working for UPS.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Watson, who crosses students from Henry Houston Elementary and Holy Cross Catholic School.
The Germantown resident especially loves watching her children – her “babies” – grow up. Some have returned to the corner years later with children of their own.
Watson also enjoys all the waves she exchanges each morning with pedestrians and drivers. Nearly everyone seems to participate in the ritual, some opting to honk their horns instead.
“I think that’s the greatest thing,” said Watson. “First thing in the morning, you have someone to tell you to have a good day. Especially now with all that’s going on, that’s the greatest gift.”
But make no mistake about it: Watson takes her responsibility very seriously.
As she pauses between questions to cross students, Watson holds her stop sign out horizontally instead of vertically. She said doing so draws more attention to the activity at hand, a persistent problem.
Many drivers who approach the intersection “have no respect for life,” in Watson’s estimation.
“It’s not the children I have to worry about,” she said. “It’s the people behind the steering wheels.”
It’s why she hasn’t been afraid to tap cars with her stop sign or foot when she feels drivers aren’t paying attention. (“I’ll fight for my babies,” she said)
It’s also why students who tell her they don’t need or want her help must pass the aptly named “Cross the Street Test,” wherein they must prove they know what precautions to take before crossing.
Parents – new and old – told NewsWorks that they appreciate Watson’s commitment to the job and her friendly rapport with students.
Marqueta Aiken said the latter has been wonderful as her second grader adjusts to life at Houston Elementary. Aiken’s daughter was previously home-schooled.
“She’s a good student, but she was always home, so everything was overwhelming,” said Aiken on her way back from the Allens Lane school. “So her first person to meet was friendly so it was really helpful. It was very exciting that it was a positive start.”
Steven Cummings equally enjoys having Watson on duty. He walks his 11-year-old son to school each day. He did the same for his older son, who’s now 17. Watson was at the corner then as well.
“She’s very grounded, down to earth, real and she helps kids out all the time,” said Cummings. “It’s a real blessing.”
By about 8:30 a.m., most of Watson’s “babies” have crossed the corner. About eight are left by her count. When they arrive, you can almost be sure she’ll be waiting with a smile and a warm greeting.
“I love this job,” said Watson. “I wouldn’t trade it, especially for all of the good morning waves.”