By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
It’s a school day, in the afternoon, and there’s traffic in Red Bank. For the most part drivers are quickly readjusting to the stop-and-go routine that comes with trying to get through town shortly after the last bell rings.
Most drivers are, but some aren’t. These people get John Mego’s hackles up.
“If people would just concentrate,” he says, then pauses to jump into the street to stop traffic so a group of girls can cross safely, then returns to the sidewalk, “I wouldn’t have gotten hit.”
Mego, with just a few days back at his post on Maple Avenue and Peters Place as a school crossing guard, has a reason to be particularly agitated by insouciant drivers. Today, he can’t completely close his right hand to make a fist. He lost about 40 percent of the use of his arm last year when he was hit by a car while on the job last December. The accident also left him with a split lip, cracked skull and a loss of memory.
Still, Mego says, “I’m doing pretty good. I’m still breathing.”
He missed the remainder of the school year and hadn’t been able to fully return to duty until April.
He returned to his role as crossing guard when school opened two weeks ago, with a neon yellow vest and matching hat that makes him, at the very least, conspicuous.
“I’m a little nervous, but OK,” said Mego, who is also first deputy fire chief of Red Bank Volunteer Fire Department, slated to rotate into the top spot now held by Chief Alan Soden on January 1.
His nerves don’t show. Mego earnestly darts into the street and raises his stop sign, sometimes having to yell at drivers who are a bit preoccupied or are trying to turn where they can’t. He smiles at school children and waves to bus drivers and people from town who know him. He’s happy to be back, he said, and it’s going to be a good, safe school year.
“I’m not going to get hit this year,” he said, “unless they wrap me in bubble wrap.”