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a not-so-random act of kindness

August 10, 2012

My traffic control gig ended yesterday.  I’m happy to have done it and even happier not to

today.  There’s something inherently malevolent about getting up at 5:10 a.m., during the

most evil hour of the day.  My mind could barely catch up with my body before I stopped

my first vehicle.  Here I am practicing my stern, authority-figure glare.

It’s not easy glaring in sunglasses.  Also,

I undercut my sternness by smiling and

waving at people most of the time.  I

wanted to see how many folks I could

get to wave back.  I got a return rate of

approximately 92 percent.  And no one

flipped me off.


I was stopping traffic coming from here . . .

. . . and sending them here:


You likely noticed that in the second shot, there aren’t nearly as many trees on the right

side of the road as the left side.  That’s because they were being cut down at a rate of about

75 a day.  The only reason the ones near the power lines didn’t go is because they have to

be cut with professional arborists.


It will have to be done soon because, with the rest of the woodlot down, those trees are very

susceptible to winds.


Flaggers are not allowed to sit but can lean on something.  I was fortunate to have my truck

for that.  Plus that allowed me to keep my water and food out of the sun.


Although the road we were controlling is one of the major ones on the island, traffic was

surprisingly light.  This left me with plenty of time to fight off drowsiness and to conduct

my aforementioned  study of the waving patterns of passing motorists.  When that wasn’t

enough, I tried to see how far across the road I could spit.


I did well and improved steadily.  I was soon able to make it consistently past the centre

stripe.  I thought about going pro but eventually stopped when I realized that my globules

were wind-assisted and therefore would not be recognized at any level of competition.


Also, it was making me thirsty.


That all might sound glamourous; but before you consider a career change, let me tell you

about one particular ten-minute stretch on the job.


Wednesday a young man came screaming around the corner, past the warning signs and

well over the 60-kilometre (37 mile) speed limit.  I had just been told to hold traffic, so I

was out in the middle of the road (against my mother’s specific instructions).


He stopped in time, but then started creeping toward me.  I held the stop sign further up.

He kept creeping, so I yelled at him.  He stopped and rolled down his window, saying “I’m

trying to talk to you, man.”


I went over to him and said — with heartfelt sternness  — “and I’m telling you that we’re

falling trees here and it’s dangerous.  Stay there.”


So he backed up.  I yelled at him to stop.  So he drove forward past me.  I screamed at him

and radioed the falling crew to stop.  He then turned around and drove off.  I got one good

look at him through all this.  I could tell that he simply wasn’t tracking.  He looked seriously



I radioed the crew to continue,  the tree went down and I cleared traffic.  The next car along

was driven by the famed little old lady.  I waved her on; but, with several other vehicles right

behind her, she stopped and said “can you tell me how to get to Camp Homewood?”


I said “you’ll have to turn around”, so she started doing just that. As I was holding up the rest

of traffic, out of the corner of my eye I saw another car about 100 metres away pull off the

road and then immediately back on just in front of another.  They almost collided.


I fleetingly thought that this might be the Apocalypse.  The little old lady got straightened

out and on to Homewood.  I waved the remaining traffic on, but the very next car stopped

and the driver said “where’s the campground?”


I didn’t know which one she was talking about, so I said “straight ahead”.    She drove on and

the Apocalypse ended abruptly.  It was almost noon, so I asked the crew leader if we could

break for lunch.  I drove to the nearby RCMP office and reported the impaired driver, then

bought a Coke and a large pepperoni stick with a tube of cheese.


I have no idea why I thought a lethal dose of chloresterol would calm me down, but I was

certain that my usual apple and granola bars wouldn’t be enough that day.  I went back to

the work site and told my tale to my co-workers.  They were blessedly sympathetic.  My

adrenaline spike dropped back to an acceptable level.


We went back to work.  About an hour later, three young men on rental scooters came down

the road just as I’d stepped out on it to stop traffic.  One of them found it amusing to come

right up to me before stopping.


“Stops right on a dime,” he smirked.  I considered sticking the pole holding my stop sign down

his throat, but I knew that would be frowned upon by the island tourism industry. Fortunately

they were cleared to go before I could reconsider.


I was hoping that we might make an early afternoon of it.  I really wasn’t sure what my idiot

tolerance limit was.  Then my friends Alison and Vinay drove by.  It was heartening to see

some familiar, friendly faces.


When they came back by in my lane 20 minutes later, they slowed down and Alison handed me

a cold bottle of iced tea.  “I love you guys!”, I shouted to them as they drove away.  They have a

bumper sticker on the back of their car that says “Practice Random Acts of Kindness”.  It’s good

to have people around who walk the walk.  Or drive the drive, in this case.


Work did in fact end.  On the way home, I recognized a woman who had driven past the im-

paired kid.  She had stopped to tell him that he was partially in her lane, and looked at him

close up.  She said his eyes were glazed over and he couldn’t focus.  I don’t know if RCMP

ever found him, but I didn’t hear about anyone getting plowed into that day.


I realize this has rambled a bit, but the retelling has caused something of an adrenaline

echo.  Here’s what I’d like to leave you with: please go easy on traffic controllers.  They’re

standing for hours on end in pounding rain, withering heat and numbing cold, making very

little money at it.  And they’re vulnerable.  There’s no sign they could hold that can actually

stop a vehicle.











  1. Gordon permalink
    August 10, 2012 12:44 pm

    Well the sign might not stop a vehicle, but that stern, authority-figure glare — now you’ve got that down. Kept waiting for “What we have a communicate.”

    • August 11, 2012 9:43 am

      Spot on, Gordie. I was thinking of Boss Paul (Luke Askew) at the time.

  2. August 10, 2012 3:58 pm

    LOL You do sort of resemble old “Cool Hand Luke” there Allen. What a great story. I actually snorted my chai tea out of my nose a couple of times. (Not Pleasant) but very effective in making me belly laugh. Just what I needed today.
    My son Nathan got his flaggers license and considered going to work for Transportation. It might not be a glamorous job but one that is needed to keep our men and women safe as they work on our roads and all in between. I am glad that it is over for you. Not sure what it is in Canada but yesterday was a 108 and that was without our heat index. Today we are down to 95 and still I am staying in the house.
    Good to see your post, I enjoyed it as always.

    • August 11, 2012 9:49 am

      Thanks, Beth. When I can get someone to snort tea out the nose, I’ve done my job. Jude and I just did yoga, and some of the kinks are working out of my back. Wee’re supposed to hit 26 C. (80 F.) here today. Folks here consider that hot.

  3. August 11, 2012 7:55 pm

    i think if you put that sign on the end of a rifle you could stop a car.. just sayin’… kidding!!

    • August 12, 2012 9:44 am

      I don’t think even that would have gotten the attention of that impaired kid.


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