I've heard an annoying buzz a couple of times today, and realized it was the fire alarm at Hedgepeth-Williams. The second time must have meant business because within a few seconds of hearing the sound, fire trucks came screaming up Cuyler, and kids came screaming out into the streets. I'm not sure what school procedure is, but many students — it seemed to me — decided to make a break for it on this lovely spring day. So, middle school-aged kids began milling about the neighborhood starting at 1:45 this afternoon. My fence is far more likely to get graffiti'd on days like today, when the kids are randomly walking around, so I made sure I kept an ear to the street. I sent out my dog into the yard periodically, too, for good measure, since he's a yapper and does not abide by people hanging (or even walking) by our fence. Forgive him, for he knows not what he does. During this "listen and let the dog out spell," I overheard the conversation of a group of girls, and to my surprise, I did not hear a single swear word, or any of the usual emotionally heightened "he said/she said" stuff. They were calmly talking about the fire at the school.* There was no smoke, no visible flames, and while the kids were out in the street, it seemed at least from here (I didn't stray far because Matty was taking a nap), the emergency vehicles were all gone.
Today there are kids everywhere, and tomorrow, the state law mandates that motorists stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and intersections. I wonder how the law will impact Trenton, since so few people here actually use the sidewalk, and when they walk across the street, they do so as slowly as possible, essentially stopping traffic, anyway. But then again, this city — and my neighborhood, in particular — is full of some of the lousiest and speed-loving drivers I have encountered. So, the new law, if followed and enforced, could add decency to the community. Maybe. As long as there aren't a couple hundred school kids wandering about in the street because of a fire drill.
With the new law in mind, I think about Mayor Douglas Palmer's impassioned speech yesterday, about how hard the governor is dissing Trenton. And the governor is dissing Trenton, but I also know that if Palmer had run this city every day with half the passion he used during yesterday's speech, we just might not be in this bind. If it had been a priority to enforce the laws here, maybe the city would not have deteriorated the way it has, and maybe there would be the revenue from collected fines in the budget to help keep us running properly now that the economy is in the toilet. When people are allowed to sell drugs with impunity, and litter without worry of fines they might incur elsewhere, and speed without the slightest concern of tickets (or pedestrians), I don't have much hope that pedestrians in Trenton will suddenly be safer tomorrow.
* It is odd that a fire is boring compared to the thought of getting disrespected by one's peers.