Thank God it's Friday

17th January 1997 at 00:00
Monday: 7am. I am woken by the telephone. On my way to answer it I notice that outside it is a wet, cold, murky Januaryish day and that the cat has peed in the kitchen yet again.

A Jovial Voice orders me to Site One Alpha. I groan and hope I imagined the weather but a look out of the window confirms that the wind is whistling around the trees and a few cars are slithering along the road. Site One Alpha may as well be Alpha Centauri.

I don my yellow fluorescent overcoat and yellow plastic hat, pick up my multi-coloured sign and prepare to start the day as a Mobile School Crossing Warden - otherwise known as a peripatetic Lollipop Lady.

As I am about to brave the elements, another fearless soul trudges down the path towards me and hands me a soggy package. Thanking the postwoman, I return to the warm, snug chaos of my living room to open my letter. I have an interview for a job in an OFFICE! Oh, Frabjous Day!

Tuesday: Site One Alpha is covered today, so Jovial Voice redeploys me to site 36 Omega, in the red light area of the town.

My heart sinks. Grimm's Community School is well known for its trainee thieves, vandals and muggers. My job today must be to stop all the traffic so that it does not get damaged while Grimm's clientele swagger across at snail's pace. Their school is not so much concerned with "green" issues as blue ones, demonstrated fluently in Grimm's students' discourses with drivers. They ignore me, on the whole. But some of them, unexpectedly, give me a big smile and a "Thank you Miss!" Freezing in a blizzard seems momentarily worthwhile.

Wednesday: Site 36 Omega is wonderful, even in the slush that the nice kind motorists throw up at my face and the dear, sweet children push down my neck in handfuls. I have warm, glowing thoughts - of central heating, of carpeted floors, of looking out at the weather instead of being in it. Only another few days to go.

Thursday: Jovial Voice sounds less jovial when I impart the news, but promises to give me a good reference, and hopes I'll get the job. My heart sinks in to my waterproof boots, specially purchased to take me through today's snowstorm. Does she think I may not get the job? This is unthinkable. I trudge out with head and shoulders bent, heavy-hearted, to site 77 Theta, to cover St Perfect's High School, full of nice fresh-faced children with scrubbed necks, and set in a leafy suburb.

St Perfect's is the academic home of apprentice judges, politicians, social workers and archbishops. I hate them all. I bet they've never had to stand outside in the middle of the main dual carriageway into Birmingham, carrying a silly stick with a lollipop on the end. I cover the crossing with scowls and growls at all these horrible children with parents who smile politely and say "Thank You". I'd do that if I had a Mercedes. I bet they all work in offices.

Friday: Only the morning shift to cover today, as the interview is this afternoon. My mood of yesterday seems to have lifted. Jovial Voice is very jovial and wishes me well as she deploys me to site 42 Epsilon - covering a tiny nursery unit on the western boundary of the town and surrounded by fields of cows. All the children, by virtue of their age, are with parents. There is virtually no traffic. "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world. " My shift passes very peacefully. Apart, that is, from a short but scary episode with the bull in the adjoining field, who takes a dislike to my fluorescent coat and tries to break out of his compound to mangle me. Bless him, he's only doing what comes naturally. I shall miss all this ...

What if they don't think I'm good enough? I couldn't bear to have to see another school gate, another pelican crossing, another dual carriageway. Maybe I could write articles about being a lollipop lady. The pay couldn't be any worse.

Friday evening the telephone rings. An important voice imparts the good news that the interview panel was "unanimous in making its decision" and gives me a debrief. I feel quite numb. Surely I am supposed to feel something? Maybe I will on Monday, when I drive past Grimm's and St Perfect's on my way to work. I'll try not to splash the poor lollipop lady.

Belinda Maddox now works in a town planning office

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