workzine

Ronald Roy, 12/5/2011

Current Occupation:  Operating Room Processing Technician.

Former Occupation: Operating Room Processing Technician, Car Dealership Delivery Driver, Traffic Flagger.

Contact Information: Ron Roy has always written about work and working people.  Since graduating from college with a degree in Literature, he has worked primarily in the Health Care industry. His first novel, “Passing Time” which takes place in a paper mill, was published last February by Blue Cubicle Press of Plano Texas, which also devotes itself to people caught in the daily grind.

###

Jamie and the Flagger

I think it’s the hats.  Maybe the dark glasses.  In the morning before we leave the yard, they seem to be a normal enough bunch.  But once they put on their hard hats and shield their eyes with mirrored safety glasses, they take on the swagger.  They slouch.  Their bones dissolve. Every motion is a shout: I’m tough.  I’m cool.  I lay pipe.

Curtis Brigham, the foreman, doesn’t swagger.  He speaks through his collection of T-shirts

“OBAMA LIES AND GRANNY DIES.”

“WORK HARDER. MILLIONS ON WELFARE ARE DEPENDING ON YOU.”

“THE BEST MAN FOR THE JOB IS A MAN.”

In spite of Curtis Brigham’s T-shirt, we have one female laborer on our crew, Jamie.  She’s always the first one down the hole, emerging caked in mud and sweat, but those can’t hide her smooth skin, her exquisite features.

Sometimes she drives the roller from one part of the jobsite to another.  The thing practically runs on autopilot, so she reclines, stretched out like Cleopatra on a chaise lounge, waiting for Marc Anthony to pay court.

I direct traffic while the others lay pipe, but my job is a joke to them.  Sometimes, one of the dirt workers has to hold a sign.

“Flagger, flagger,” the others taunt, as if there’s no greater insult they could find.

One evening, Jamie waits for me by my car at the end of the shift.

“Hey,” she says.  “Did you want to get a beer?”

“Well, well,” a voice says behind us.  “What have we here?”

I turn to find Marco, Curtis Brigham’s second-in-command with a half dozen others from the crew.

“Why don’t you assholes run along,” Jamie says.  “Can’t a girl get a little privacy around here?”

“Privacy?” Marco says.  “Why did you need privacy?  What did you want to do with the flagger that you can’t do in front of us?”

“What the fuck is going on here?”  Curtis Brigham says as he comes up behind them.

“We caught Jamie getting cozy with the flagger,” Marco says.  “She could do better.”

“Better?” Curtis Brigham says.  “The only reason you guys look down on flaggers is because you don’t know what they really do.  Did you ever watch this man in action?”

“Action?” Marco says.  “What action?  He holds a fucking stop sign.”

“This man is always on top of things,” Curtis Brigham says. “Not only that, he knows all the people who drive by here regularly.  He waves at them and smiles.  He talks to them when they’re waiting at the head of the line.  Not just the pretty women, either.  He talks to the old geezers and the fat broads and the punks in their pimped-up trucks.

“That’s why you don’t hear any horns blasting or drivers cursing on this site.  People trust him. He’s like a fucking member of their family”

“So you’re saying we should let Jamie screw the flagger because he’s good at his job?” Marco asks

“Shit, no,” Curtis Brigham says.  “I’m saying you should mind your own goddamn business. Get the hell out of here, all of you.”

I’d like to say they skulk off, defeated, but they only shrug and swagger to their cars.  Each step says they have better things to do than argue about who Jamie wants to bang.  They are SO past that.

I turn to Jamie, ready to head out for that beer, but she isn’t looking at me.  She only has eyes for Curtis Brigham.  He winks at me as he drapes an arm over her shoulder and walks her to his truck.

#

back to WORK

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  1. Flaggers do get a rough shake in the reputation mill, but it takes a certain attitude to stick out a long day in 90-100 degree heat or frigid, blowing snow.

    Thanks for this one.

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