No one holds a red stop sign quite like Eric Saide.
Five days a week, the 82-year-old crossing guard can be seen stopping traffic at 172nd Street and 24th Avenue to allow students at Pacific Heights Elementary to cross safely. He's held that post for six of his 17 years as a crossing guard, and he's there Monday to Friday, every morning and afternoon, no matter what.
"People stop by and thank me all the time," said Saide.
"They can't understand how come, in all types of weather, I'd be out there doing that.
But it's got nothing to do with the weather - it's got to do with want you want to do."
Saide took up being a crossing guard as part of his volunteer work with the local Royal Canadian Legion's Frontiersmen of the Commonwealth. He previously ran the crosswalk on Pacific Highway at 20th Avenue for Grandview Heights Elementary until the school closed down.
"Back in '76, I happened to have a neighbour (who) knew about the Frontiersmen and he suggested I talk with them for something different to do besides my normal work," said Saide, who retired some years ago after a 50-year career in aviation. "I liked the organization and found out that they do voluntary work in Surrey here."
Since day one of his crossing guard duties, Saide has waved at the cars that pass by. At first, it was to get the attention of motorists to show them there was a crosswalk at Pacific Highway. But soon, people - thousands of them - started waving back as they passed Saide on their commutes.
"I enjoy them waving back to me and there's usually at least one person a week that stops by," said Saide, adding that about 85 per cent of passing drivers return the wave. "Complete strangers thank me for what I do, and that's what it's all about.
"You make a lot of friends, you know. You get 800 cars going by in the morning, 800 cars in the afternoon."
Saide's work has made him a sort of local celebrity: he frequently gets recognized in his neighbourhood, even when he's out of his Frontiersmen uniform and not holding a stop sign.
"No matter where I go, in the supermarket or the doctor's office or wherever, there's always someone that comes along and says, 'Oh, you're the one that does that crosswalk on 24th Avenue,'" he said.
"Some of them will say, 'I drive a white such-and-such vehicle.' They don't realize that maybe 40 of those vehicles go by," he said with a laugh.
But Saide doesn't mind the attention. After all, that's why he started waving, and it makes him happy knowing that his hand motion has notified people to slow down and also put smiles on their faces.
"That makes doing it worthwhile," he said, "when you know people appreciate it."
BRADY WINS GUARD CONTEST
Cathy Brady, a crossing guard at Don Christian Elementary, was named one of three winners in the annual Canada's Top Crossing Guard Contest late last year.
Brady - along with Arnold Knickle of Bridgewater, N.S. and Lynne Wright of Hillsdale, Ont. - beat out hundreds of nominees from across the country for the prestigious title.
She was recognized for her hard work in ensuring that the students made it safely across 184th Street near 64th Avenue, a busy intersection in the area.
The yearly contest is put on by FedEx Express Canada and Parachute, a national charity devoted to injury prevention and saving lives. Winners of the contest receive a crystal maple leaf award, $500 and $500 to their respective schools.
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