On the Rednal Road by West Heath hospital there’s a lollipop man. A wizened, grumpy old sod who looks like Albert Steptoe. He wears a fluorescent yellow jacket and cap, both of which are at least two sizes too large for him. Almost every day as I approach he makes me stop to allow various mothers and kids to cross. I know he waits for me. I can see it in his eyes, shining red from beneath the peak of his cap. Waits until he sees me coming, then shoves out his stick.
At least he used to.
For some reason a pedestrian crossing was recently installed at his point of responsibility. Maybe it was just too dangerous when he wasn’t on duty. At school time he’s still there, though. They’ve just taken away his stick. Now he only has to press the button and wait for the lights to change, whereupon he escorts people across the road, with everyone concerned clearly feeling a bit daft.
I can understand that perhaps they don’t want to make the guy redundant. Not yet, anyway. And maybe they never will: there are loads of people in our neck of the woods who can’t operate a pedestrian crossing properly. Despite his miserable demeanour and quite obvious grudge against me and my 1998 Nissan Almera, I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for this bloke, in his oversized coat. I suspect that he may eventually be forced to retire due to RSI of the right index finger as a result of repeatedly pushing that button. No doubt suing Birmingham City Council for thousands.
My sympathy is only tempered by the fact that even without his stick, he still waits until he sees me coming to press his button. He’s just had to hone his timing a little.