Please Dress Your Children Warm


2015-02-22 – We live across the street from a lovely school and park. The school and especially the park were two of the things that attracted us to the neighborhood. Those and the fairly low price on a house that was decorated rather poorly. It was a lucky find. Just a little bit of paint and some sprucing up and the house was excellent, and we had this lovely school and park just across the street.

We’ve been here 20 years next month. It turned out that we hit a rough patch in the school’s history. We sent Nat there for only two years, Cal not at all. They went across town to a magnet school. But the school has apparently changed for the better. And they’ve done things to significantly improve the building and the grounds—that is what we see from our window.

A few years after we moved here, they installed a marquee sign in the yard so they could post messages about school events. It wasn’t always up-to-date, but parents could see when major events would take place. It was a “manual” sign. This past fall, they installed an electronic sign on the building and stopped posting messages on the manual sign.

The problem is that they seem not to know how to program the thing. Through the fall, the only messages that appeared on the sign were the name of the school, the time of day, and the temperature. The temperature was always amusingly wrong—five to ten degrees high at dawn and as much as 20 to 25 degrees high in the afternoon when the sun shone on it. It also has a brief animation of an American flag flying in the wind in shades of red and black. This is next to an actual American flag that is mounted on the side of the building.

No messages.

I’ve become acquainted with the school’s assistant principal who seems like a bright and genial guy. We chat when he comes out for fire drills or to supervise work being done on the school or for any other reason that brings him into the school yard on my side of the school. Not long after the electronic sign was installed, I made a small contribution to the Arbor Day Foundation and they sent me a package of 10 sapling trees and several bushes. Not knowing what to do with that many trees (even though they were still tiny), I gave them to the assistant principal and he gave them to his science teacher. We’re now buds.

Just after their winter vacation, I saw the maintenance guy taking down what turned out to be the last message from their manual marquee and the assistant principal was clicking on some sort of remote. It appeared that he was trying to adjust the electronic marquee. No adjustment had been made to the time display when switched from daylight savings time in November so, apparently, they were having trouble operating the new sign. The maintenance guy told me that new messages would start to appear on the electronic marquee.

It hasn’t happened.

They did manage to make some changes. The time of day is now displayed to the second—even though it is still on daylight savings time. And they managed to add one message, but it crawls at an excruciatingly slow pace across only the left half of the screen, one … word … at … a … time, at a glacial pace:






“Warm,” not “Warmly.”

I wonder what the grammar teachers think about that. Do they still teach grammar? I wonder what you think about that. Is it correct? Or is it wrong? I’m nor sure. I think of that when I walk Lefty in the morning. Part of me wants the adverb “warmly,” but maybe that would convey a message about the parents’ love for their children rather than the thermal R-value of the kids’ coats and hats and gloves and boots.

Maybe they mean for us to think about both.

Be that as it may, the messaging on the sign is a little cockeyed and it hasn’t been changed now for a month and a half. The time display, which was an hour off to the minute, is now an hour off to the second. And the temperature display still averages about 10 degrees above the actual, depending on time of day, whatever that is.  The temperature divergence is greatest when the sun shines on it. Maybe they’ll fix the sign when the (real) weather is better (and parents no longer have to dress their children warm).

. . . and the virtual flag still waves as before. Right next to the real flag.

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