The south city traffic jam on Tower Grove Avenue is a soul killer, and that's not changing any time soon. We'll all have jet packs before they finish rebuilding South Grand, much less Kingshighway. Lucky for us, there is Lewis Claybon.
A 51-year-old daily affirmation in human form, Claybon posts up at 6 a.m. outside of Lamb's Bride Child Care Center (1324 Tower Grove Avenue, 314-531-2425) to watch out for school kids and make your life a little bit better. He waves — two hands if he recognizes you — at every passing car and cyclist. He roars like a lion to make kids laugh. He blows kisses to pretty women.
"Sometimes, I even dance a little for them," he says.
Claybon started his daily routine about twelve years ago. A bachelor with no kids of his own, he noticed a young girl waiting alone for the bus one morning. He stayed out on his porch to make sure she was OK. The next day he did the same, and soon he was watching out for kids every morning in every kind of weather. As long as he was standing out there on the corner, he figured he'd start to wave to the drivers grinding past. People deal with darkness in this world, he knows. Why not try to lighten it? Claybon says you know it's bad when you hear about rich people committing suicide.
"People come through and you never know what they're going through," he says. "I give them a smile and a wave. Don't cost nothing."
He mans the corner until 9 a.m., and then he goes inside Lamb's Bride and works in the kitchen until 1 p.m. He might go across the street to volunteer at Adams Elementary School after that or just walk the neighborhood before returning to the corner for 3 p.m. school dismissal.
He sees you coming, grim-faced in all that traffic, caught up in God-knows-what problems. He waves and smiles. Feel better. Lewis Claybon cares about you.