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Archive for April 25th, 2012

This one has been coming for a long time … a rant about traffic controllers (aka ‘flaggers’) …

Before I rant, let me just say that I do respect the individuals, and the dangerous work that they perform on a daily basis, with little thanks and far too many close calls.

So, there is a bit of roadwork being done in my area of the woods, and the place is crawling (well, the cars are crawling … slowly) with people dressed as aliens from some 1980’s neon world. Their attire is very eye catching, in shades of neon yellow and green, and safety vests in a shade of red that is so bright, it could be identified as orange, with a reflective ‘X’ in the middle.

I remember  w  a  y  back when I was a kid, and all that distinguished them was a yellow hard hat on their head and a stop sign in their hand (and often a cigarette in the other hand … and, come to think of it, short shorts, and a shirt tied up much higher than their waist … kind of Daisy Duke style … ).

As I have been driving this road construction route, and others over the past few years, I always seem to end up pondering the same question, ‘what the heck is taught to these poor people in traffic control courses?’

When I was a new, teenage driver, I do not ever remember being confused when directed by the person holding the stop sign. The worker was usually a homemaker, looking to make a few bucks while the kids were in school, or a teenager who was smart enough to realize that there was much better money, and a better summer tan, in directing traffic, than working at a fast food establishment.

There were no courses to successfully complete, and be given certification, before being allowed to hold the stop sign. You just had to be available, and (literally) street smart.

Today there are traffic control certification programs. They include in class as well as practical training, and a final exam.

I am afraid that whoever established these courses forgot to educate the drivers on what form of sign language they are trying to communicate with.

I just cannot tell, when a flagger hold their ‘slow’ sigh up and kind of keeps pumping it up continually, if they just want to be seen, or they want me to drive slow, but not as slow as I am going.

Then there are the hand motions … was that a motion forward, or a motion to stop?

And when they are in the middle of an intersection it would seem very clear that not one of any four drivers understands what the flagger is, non verbally, trying to communicate, because all four are constantly looking from the flagger to each of the other four drivers to try to figure out what to do.

I remember a particular time when I was driving along with my kids on a country road, and we came to a lone flagger. He was holding a stop sign and pumping it up to the sky, so I figured he thought I was not going to stop, so I stopped immediately. He then pumped it higher and harder, with an angry frown on his face. As a people pleasing person (I love alliteration) I knew I had blown it, so I started to motion forward again. Then he yelled and pushed his stop sign towards my vehicle. I knew I had done wrong, so I halted immediately … and felt the frustration rise in my face. Finally Mr. Flagger seemed to be motioning me forward. I was nervous, and did my own hand signal to ensure that my moving forward was not going to cause him duress, he nodded affirmation. Since my natural (and chemically enhanced) hair color is blond, I decided to pause when I got to him. I rolled the window down, and apologized profusely for my negligence. I wanted to ensure that I said it all in my sugary sweetest voice possible. He seemed to be empowered by my humility. Then I rolled my window up, and slowly, cautiously, moved forward … then my kids heard a word they do not often hear from their mother’s mouth. GRRR!

Personally, I think that since ‘flagger’ schools have opened, their ability to communicate effectively has deteriorated immensely.

Glad I got that off my chest!

 

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