Sitting at the lights on Longueville Road recently, I spied Lane Cove local Stephen Miller, now off duty and heading home from his job as School Crossing Supervisor at Lane Cove Public. After the green man lit, without saying a word, he just walked across the road really slowly beside three very elderly residents. This gesture didn’t go unnoticed by them and after finally reaching the other side; they let him know how grateful they were. Watching this snippet of community theatre play out reminded me I’ve been meaning to catch up with him again to find out about his new role, so this week we got together on his birthday no less for a coffee. Not only does Stephen work as a School Crossing Supervisor, he is President of Lane Cove Rotary and he is a marriage celebrant: a man who wears many hats and one of them is FLURO.
Why Did You Decide to Become a School Crossing Supervisor?
I saw the advert on ITC actually and thought, I’ve got time to do that, so why not? Somewhat naively, I thought if I got the job I’d be on a crossing within a week or two, but it actually took several months. The process is very thorough and after a lengthy online application there was a full medical examination; Police and Working With Children checks; and three days of training.
Well I should probably say that my wife, Henrietta, thought I was bonkers… as did my 20-year-old son who also works at Lane Cove Public in the Before and Aftercare Program. But I just thought, hey this could be a nice little bit of community service and from that point of view I haven’t been disappointed. My main priority of course is to assist the children safely across the road, but where possible I also work hard to maintain good traffic flow – or ‘let the cars have a turn’ as I describe it to the kids.
So here I am ‘strutting the stripes’ as we school crossing supervisors like to say… Actually we don’t, I just made that up!
Have You Seen Some Crazy Things While Strutting the Stripes?
I thought I’d seen pretty much all I was likely to see after about a fortnight – but sadly no. I’ve ducked for cover twice after two vehicles separately hit the broken curb nearby and their rear tyres exploded… Once I was about to summon the children to cross when I suddenly heard the car behind me rev loudly and lurch forward brushing my arm with their wing mirror. I yelled to the children to stop, which they did. Incredibly this vehicle just kept on going. On another occasion a man who’d driven through while I was on the crossing, celebrated his driving ability by then giving me the bird from his open window?!?
Twice now drivers have decided it was actually ‘okay’ to do a three-point-turn on the crossing itself – they wanted to go back in the other direction to get into the school pick-up zone. After suddenly veering at me on the footpath, they then held up angry traffic while completing this dangerous manoeuvre.
So what do you hate and what do you most like about being a School Crossing Supervisor?
I don’t think there is anything I hate about the job but I suppose there are one or two things that frustrate me. Speeding cars would be top of that list.
Too many seem oblivious it’s a 40kmh school zone when I’m there and also 25kmh over the crossing itself – at any time!
Then there’s the occasional pedestrian who despite being greeted warmly, chooses to just look the other way.
Once, as I walked out onto the crossing to stop the traffic, a very grumpy older man shouted at me in a highly derogatory tone “Do you know how embarrassing it is at my age to be seen across the road by a lollipop man?”. What this gentleman failed to understand was just how many drivers simply won’t stop unless they see me going out on the crossing. As an adult though, he’s entitled to take his chances I guess. Thankfully none of the children are ever this silly.
I do however love the genuine feeling of ‘gratefulness’ from parents, teachers and children alike; this always makes my day. I was introduced to the school community in the newsletter so many parents and children now know my name. I always try to brighten their day and their responses back always brighten mine. Seeing their trusting, beaming smiles and observing such polite manners from some so young is heartwarming. Hearing “Thank you Steve” yelled by an excited pre-schooler or once being given a hug of appreciation is just lovely. I’m there to do a job though and I take it extremely seriously. I look after all the children as if they were my own.
So are you still doing marriages?
Oh yes, nothing has changed there I’m still very much a marriage celebrant and have married a number of lovely Lane Cove couples since we last spoke. I also do funerals now, which while obviously not the joyous occasions weddings are, they can still be an enjoyable celebration of that person’s life.
As you know we lost our 21-year-old son Elliott to a rare cancer three years ago and if anything good can come out of that heartbreaking tragedy, it would be it’s given me a newfound empathy towards anyone who’s also lost a close loved one. I live every day as if it were my last – life is a precious gift and as I’m painfully aware, you never know how long you’ve got it for. You can read more about Stephen’s journey to becoming a marriage celebrant here.
I know you describe yourself as ‘passively retired’ but you seem to be busier than ever?
You’re not wrong. After 40 years I’ve now given up the ‘day job’ as a Creative Design Director, as I’m fortunate enough to now be able to only invest my time into things I really want to do.
By that I mean – and if I can paraphrase Marie Kondo – if something isn’t sparking joy, then it’s gone. I think though you’re probably alluding to my recent heavy involvement with Lane Cove Rotary.
Having only been a member for just over a year, I certainly wasn’t expecting to become President quite so soon. But having been voted in I’ll gladly be doing my best for our club and the Lane Cove community as a whole. We do so much for Lane Cove – probably far more than many people realise.
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