Monday, June 18, 2007

"You can't tell me that!"

Pondering on my road construction experience, I thought of one instance that has managed, I am told, to turn me into an amusing anecdote shared with classes at the Traffic Control Supervisor certification program.

We were working on US 50, headed east from Lamar (if you drive over that road in the future, think of me- I've walked every inch of that sucker from main street to about seven miles out of town, and I've done it several times) doing a recycle.

Now, recycling roads is an interesting concept, and it creates a lot less waste. What they do is, they bring in a big "train" of equipment, about five hundred feet long. The first two trucks are "burners," they've got ginormous propane tanks on top, and hanging underneath are the worlds fastest pig cookers. They heat the asphalt thats already there to a proper temperature to slightly liquefy the oils in the mixture that hold it all together. The next piece is a roto-mill of a smaller type than we usually see, that is attached to another truck. It grinds up the first inch or two of asphalt, and then lays it into a neat windrow in the middle of the lane. After this comes a semi full of NEW asphalt. Then the paver, which picks up the old asphalt, mixes it with a little of the new asphalt from the truck, and lays it all down, in a nice shiny new road. As I said, this whole processional is about five hundred feet long, and it moves slow enough that the semi driver is instructed to place his truck in neutral and let the paver push him along. Thanks to the sheer girth of all of this equipment, and the fact that there are a lot of workers around a lot of really noisy machinery, a flagger stays with the train and slows people down going by the whole shebang.

On this particular day, I was that flagger. The fact that traffic is coming from two directions means that I had to walk to each end of the train, so that the traffic would see my slow sign BEFORE they passed the paving operations at a bazillion miles an hour. Trust me, when you're the one standing on that yellow line, trying to slow people down, forty five is NOT slow enough.

In one line, coming from the front of the train, we had a bright one that wanted to go sixty five. He was in the middle and I can only assume that the other end had said they didn't have traffic, because the gap was too large for Mr Gofast to have been lagging back.

I tend to walk a ways in front of whatever it is I'm "guarding" for the simple fact that its easier to be seen that way, and I had walked maybe a hundred feet in front of the first burner truck. I saw the speed demon coming, and waved my slow sign a bit. Hmm, must not see me. I hang the sign out into the lane he's driving in (a surefire way to get the attention of the tunnel vision struck) and he starts slowing down. I pull the sign back, and he speeds up. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

I finally get fed up with it and figure that he doesn't understand the dangers of this place, radio that I'm going to stop one of the cars and ask him to go by the paver slowly, and step out into the lane, flipping my sign to "Stop."

The guy stops, rolls down his window, and the first word out of his mouth is "WHAT?!?"

"Sir, I'm going to need you to go about twenty five miles an hour past our paver, as you can see we have a lot of workers down here, and they can't hear much next to that noisy equipment."

"You can't tell me that!"

"Sir, I can tell you that, its for your safety and that of our crew members, now, once you're past the paver you can speed up to-"

"YOU can't tell me that! You aren't a cop, you aren't my mother, and you cannot tell me how fast to drive!"

"Sir, I may not be a cop but I AM traffic control, and that means that yes, I can tell you how fast to drive, while you are in the construction zone. Aside from that you were driving faster than the posted speed limit of forty five to begin with. Now, I need you to drive at about twenty five miles an-"


This is about the point where I started losing my temper. He had other people behind him that were being held up, he was being flat out obnoxious, and that petulant "no" kicked my switch from "polite and professional" to "oh HELL no" in a heart beat. Then he added to it.

"I'm going to call CDOT and report you!"

"You want to use my phone? Both of the engineers on this job are on speed dial.. actually, there's one of them there, would you like me to call him over for you?"

"I'm going to call your boss and complain!"

"Again, would you like to use my phone? Or were you talking about my immediate supervisor here on site? I can get her if you like,"

"You're going to lose your job for this!!"

"Listen, buddy. Look around you. You see all these vests and hardhats? Anyone out here in a vest and a hardhat is Jesus, and can tell you to do whatever the hell they like as long as it concerns traffic and safety. Me? I'm god. Now you have two choices at this point, you can drive through MY site in an orderly and safe manner or you can pull your happy ass right over there on the shoulder and SIT THERE until the state patrol shows up. Did you not notice the damn signs as you were coming in that stated that fines are doubled? Not to mention the fact that if you give him the same shitty attitude you've given me, you're likely to get slapped with reckless endangerment and reckless driving on top of the speeding violation. If you run me, sir, I will get your license plate number and I WILL report you to the state patrol, and you WILL be stopped for it, wherever they find you."

I had seen him tense at the mention of the cops, and I figured he was preparing to run for it. He didn't, after he realized I was serious about turning him in.

"Now are you going to be a good boy and go through my site in a safe and proper manner or would you like to have this discussion with the nice officers?"

He went past the paver at twenty five, and then floored it on out of the site.

A couple of minutes later I hear on the radio: "Farmgirl, have you been cussing at traffic?"

"Yes, but he deserved it."

Apparently one of the crew members had run into my supervisor elsewhere on site, and related the story, as related to him by the driver of the first burner truck, which caught up with me in time for the cussing to start. I'm still not sure how he managed to hear what I was saying, but it was pretty much word for word, so I suppose I might have been a little loud.

I was also reported to have grown three feet in height, sprouted coarse dark hair all over my body, and large curving horns.

This is my legacy to traffic control.