It's the time of year when one sees them standing in the road. It may seem an easy job, just standing there day after day, but flaggers hold one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs in road construction. Not only do they stand for long hours in the hot sun during these dog days of summer, they also face anger from motorists who have been told to stop and then must sit in the hot sun as well. What makes it worse is the longer the stretch of the construction zone, with traffic from one direction moving slowly through and traffic from the other direction waiting impatiently, the greater the chance the flagger may face someone who has gone ballistic about the delay. And since the flagger is often the person most handy to complain to, they get it with both barrels.
So the flagger gets the heat in two ways; from the orb in the sky to the hot tempers of those he or she is trying to protect.
There is also more to this job than first appears. People tend to measure others by what they do for a living, and a job no matter how seemingly simple to the uninitiated, is often much more complex than people realize. The flagger's job falls into this category.
A flagger must have the physical endurance to stand the stifling heat and the chilling cold. Sometimes, when they work in the mountains they face both in the same day. They must have strong legs and good feet to handle the long day. They must be public relations specialists to handle mad people, and have a sense of order about their work as well, to be sure things proceed as they should.
They also have to face danger, at least daily, sometimes hourly. Many drivers don't pay attention to signs. Many flaggers are killed and injured each year because someone didn't see the sign that warned them of a construction zone. I have stopped at construction zones where people in has literally had to jump in front of them to stop the car. It's dangerous work when you deal with unpredictable human personalities.
When I was a kid I loved construction equipment. I used the have all the Tonka stuff and built endless roads and mountains in my parents back yard. I wanted, one day to operate the big scrapers and the track hoes. However, I never, ever thought of wanting to be the flagger.
Yet it may well be the most important job, in terms of the public, on a construction project.
Not all flaggers are perfect. Sometimes they make mistakes or don't do what you, the driver thinks they should do. But the truth is that they are always more perfect than the motorists they direct.
So the next time you are late for an appointment or you're in a hurry to get somewhere, don't cuss the flagger who has stopped you. Slow down, be patient and observe the rules.
As they say "Give 'em a brake."