7:05 am, Corner of Allen, Commonwealth and Eton Ridge

 

Nothing says “start of the day in Madison” like little kids walking to school with backpacks almost as big as they are. At the treacherous five-way intersection of Allen, Commonwealth and Eton Ridge, crossing guard Janet makes sure each kid’s day begins safely – not to mention amiably. Janet is legendary in this neighborhood for knowing just about every child’s name, greeting them with a smile and a friendly word. “Okay, Ben, come on and cross! Have a good day!”

In this line of work, being good with names is an important job skill. Janet notes that kids tend to obey her instructions to “wait” or “cross” if she accompanies the command with “Abbie” or “Charlie.” She is obviously in complete control of her intersection, running from corner to corner with dazzling speed as parents and children start to show up.

Still, there’s time for making actual connections. Janet remains close to families she got to know working the corner of Yuma and Midvale in the 1990s. Watching her in action, you see the appeal of donning the yellow-and-orange vest and standing in the middle of the street with the big red stop sign.

“There is nothing like getting greeted by all these smiling faces,” Janet says, “with kids calling out your name.”

– Dean Robbins

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