By Carol Masshardt
City streets, the people who occupy them and the cars that share them are nothing new to Safety Officer/Crossing Guard, Stacey Menjin. Living in Chelsea until she married husband, James, twenty-nine years ago, she has lived in South Boston in the multi-generational house where he was raised and where they then raised their two daughters and one son. Her beat now, after having worked for many years at the Perry School and then as a crossing guard in Dorchester, is on the corner of “I” and Broadway.
Stacey is practical and outgoing with her eye on the cityscape while focused on the footsteps and greetings of children and parents.
“In the past, it was great to have hours that worked when my kids were in school, but now I do it for some extra money to help pay for college (youngest child, Andrew, is a freshman at Tufts University) and to get to know everyone in the neighborhood. We are here for the school children, but there are so many dogs, and then people with challenges like wheelchairs and the elderly, and then some baby carriages. So, I try to keep any eye out,” she said.
This corner, among others in South Boston, is one of the busiest intersections of a highly engaged urban neighborhood. It also has safety issues, with traffic flow in several possible directions and drivers eager to get downtown and beyond every day.
“People are so nice. American Provisions asks me if I want coffee and most people say hello every day, but the traffic is so fast,” she said. Her assessment is no surprise to anyone who has their eyes open.
“It says ‘No Turn on Red,’ see,” she said “how clear is that? Everyday, cars come and turn right to beat the light. There is such a rush, especially in the morning, and if there is a second delay, the horns are honking.”
With a positive, friendly, and focused demeanor she also has a necessary authority as she stands in the middle of the four-way intersection with reflective clothing and the proverbial held “Stop” sign held high, and yet.
“I am standing here ready to cross children and I’m in the middle of the street with the sign, with a red light, and you know what? A car comes right along my side,” she said as that nearly occurred the moment, she was explaining it.
On a busy Monday morning, everyone does looks to be in a rush in a neighborhood as vibrant as the beautiful fall. It can change from an idyllic movie-like urban dream of a connected community to a fierce competition of who will be get where the fastest.
Seamus, a young student at the Tynan School walked across the street with his mother and said a quiet good morning to Ms. Stacey. His mother commented without hesitation about the value of crossing guards and Stacey in particular.
“She provides a safe space to walk to school, and it kicks off our morning in the right way. I really appreciate her,” she said.
And dad, Thomas Russomano walked with his son, also Thomas, on his shoulders was equally pleased. “It’s great to have her here, and we like saying hello, plus the traffic is crazy,” he said.
Stacey Menjin has seen a lot in her years in South Boston, and still appreciates the changing neighborhood.
“I like this. Saying good morning, and seeing children change over time, and their parents are nice and grateful. Most everyone says hello unless they are buried in their phones, I will tell you, it is a great little gig,” she said laughing as she launches yet another start to the week.
Before the next group of children came along and with cars halted, she shared that she is getting ready for Thanksgiving when extended family get together and this year will include friends of her sons from college far from home. “It’s a collaboration,” she said, describing her sister-in laws dinning room and plans afoot for space and food. There is something about extending hospitality and noticing what and who is around her that seem central to the match between a woman, community, and job. Now, if only cars would stop on red and at the Stop Sign.