Today I was driving to meet my friend so we could walk our dogs and I came up to a 4-way stop. Standing under each of the stop signs was a highway flagger person holding a metal sign with “slow” on one side and “stop” on the other. There was no construction being done as far as the eye could see.

The person facing my side of the traffic had his sign turned to “slow.” The car in front of me pulled forward. When I stopped, as has been my custom for many years in this intersection, he started waving the sign frantically for me to GO SLOW (NOT STOP)!

I don’t know what the guy’s big hurry was. There were no other cars in the entire intersection, and no construction going on, and even his walnut-sized brain could figure out I’d stopped out of habit, so why’d he throw a hissy fit?

I can imagine the skilled training he was required to complete when hired for this position.

“Okay, you’re going to hold this sign here, directly underneath this Stop sign, and when the cars get close, you want to wave it in the air like this to make ‘em stop. Then you make ‘em wait a few minutes while you look back and forth like there’s something important you need to check, and take a puff or two on your cigarette, and then oh so slowly turn the sign around and let ‘em go. You got that?”

“Whoa, that’s a lot to remember. You say I need to take a puff off my cigarette? But I don’t smoke.”

“Holy Jiminy Christmas.. Where do they get you guys? If you don’t smoke, you should. In the meantime, just pick your nose or scratch your ass or whatever you can think of to stall drivers approaching this intersection.”

“Why can’t I just let them go right away?”

“Now what on God’s green earth would be the point of that? You want to make this job fun, don’t you? Well, it ain’t no fun if you just let ‘em go. If you hold them off long enough, they’ll start squirming in their seats a little, and then they’ll start slapping their fists against the steering wheel. I get a real kick out of that. It’s pretty entertaining on a long shift in the rain. Otherwise your days are going to seem like they last 60 hours. Is that what you want?”

“Well, I…”

“And another thing. You start letting people through in a hurry and you’re going to make the rest of us look bad. Then we might lose our jobs, especially on a project like this where we got four flaggers standing under already existing stop signs, and it’s totally unnecessary for any of y’all to be here. We stick together and go by the code, which is: make ’em wait, make ’em wait, make ’em wait. If that’s not something you think you can handle, then you’d better hang up your sign. You got all that?”

“I guess so.”

“You’ve taken me well over five minutes to train you, and now I’m behind for my break. I hope you learn to pay attention out here or else you’ll need to find yourself another line of work.”

“I just…”

“Don’t give me no lip, boy. Now get a holt of that sign and get out there and start slowin’ down some traffic like I told you.”

When I went back home this morning, I took another route. I didn’t have the time to waste watching the State of Oregon spend money on construction crews waving signs to tell me to do the obvious. I’m sure Oregon had good intentions this morning, but you know what they say about good intentions. The road to Hell is paved with them, but the road to the dog park is paved with tax dollars and nincompoops.