By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
He’s in line to be Red Bank’s next fire chief, but a rainstorm last week convinced John Mego that the risk associated with being a crossing guard in town isn’t for him anymore.
Saying he’s “tired of being a hood ornament,” Mego’s last day directing traffic is today.
“I like life,” said Mego, who returned to his post this school year after being hit by a car while on the job last December. “I came close to being hit this year. I’m not doing it this year.”
On December 9, the day he was hit, it was raining. When it rained last week, Mego said it scared him, and considering he’s already had a couple close calls this year, he said he’d rather play it safe and give up the job.
“People don’t concentrate anymore,” he said.
Mego, who serves as Red Bank’s first deputy fire chief and is slated to replace Chief Alan Soden on January 1, said he sees drivers doing all sorts of things in their cars: reading, texting, talking on the phone, eating breakfast — just about anything but pay attention to the road. Last week, he was dressed from head-to-toe in bright neon yellow and a man still nearly ran him over as he directed traffic, he said.
“He says, ‘I didn’t see you.’” Mego said. “I said, ‘Well, put your goddamn glasses on.”
The hazards of being a crossing guard have been evident in recent days. Last week, Red Bank guard Andy DePonti was taken down by a driver backing up in the crosswalk. And in Little Silver, crossing guard William Gibson was taken to the hospital when he was hit on Branch Avenue Wednesday morning.
DePonti, who became a guard just a month ago and has returned to work, is astonished at what he sees drivers doing.
“They’re shaving, they’re eating. They go through red lights ten seconds after the light has changed,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
“I wish people would pay more attention and get off the phones,” Gibson told redbankgreen, though he noted that the driver who struck him was not using a cellphone at the time.
With his impending move up the ranks to fire chief next year, Mego would rather not be the next victim.
“I plan on living to make it,” he said.
Someone will have to fill Mego’s spot at the heavily-traveled intersection of Maple Avenue and Peters Place come Monday, but he doesn’t think it should be a crossing guard.
“I hope they put a cop here,” Mego said. “That’s what they need.”