300 children missed morning lessons when a crossing patrol warden caused pavement mayhem outside Teddington Junior School.
But Gladys Hemp, 72, insists she was only doing her job.
The combination of a gas main repair at one end of the street and a badly parked skip at the other end had left the road devoid of traffic. It was the 'perfect storm' that lollipop ladies dread. Without any cars to step out in front of at short notice, Mrs Hemp was unable to use her lollipop. “What is the point in me stepping out at short notice without a car to stop?” argued Mrs Hemp. "There is no point."
But some disagreed. As the pavements started to clog, tempers rose. After an hour and a half, a handful of parents tried to take matters into their own hands. But they were swiftly beaten back "for their own safety". Three people were treated for stop-sign wounds.
Quick-thinking Headteacher Mr Cuffley finally broke the deadlock around lunchtime. Driving the school's ride-on mower up and down the road in a loose figure-of-eight, he enabled Mrs Hemp to step out repeatedly at short notice and by 1:25pm the backlog was largely cleared.
But not without personal cost to the Head. He is undergoing treatment for white knuckle syndrome and his trousers are suffering from severe exhaust burns.
Mrs Hemp has been asked to hand in her pole until she has completed additional crossing patrol training to help her cope with situations where light volumes of traffic make the standard ‘stepping out at short notice’ crossing procedure less appropriate.