Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Sign of the Times

I have a friend who has been in the construction trade for decades.  He has headed up projects constructing entire subdivisions, as well as road and bridge construction.  He is now nearing retirement and for whatever reasons the company to whom he has given his life is now treating him badly before he exits.  He has been demoted from his multi-faceted responsibilities and lately they have him working as a “flagger.”  I should say, standing around and being bored out of his freakin’ mind as a flagger.  No offense to any flaggers, but a chimpanzee—on an off day—could perform the job.  (If you can earn that kind of income--read further-- doing what you do, more power to you.)
I didn’t realize this but apparently the state regards “flagging” so difficult that certification is required.  Flagging 101.  “Class, we will devote the entire morning to the intricacies of turning the sign.  Write this down:  turn it to the side that says GO when traffic can resume; turn it to the side that says STOP when you want traffic to, uh, stop.  Now, in groups of two’s practice this maneuver with each other until you can do so without notes.”
He feels humiliated that he may very well finish his career in this capacity.  Maybe that’s the whole purpose of the company doing this.  One of my favorite sites for sarcasm——offers this “demotivator:” 

I think that’s their attitude--dead wrong, but thoroughly convinced.

It gets absurdly funny.  He tells me that a flagger will start out at  around $28 an hour, some of them working 14-16 hours a day, time and a half on Sat., and double-time on Sun.  Here’s the “welcome to America” moment.  At some of the bridge or RR crossing construction sites flaggers are standing at attention with their signs for 8-16 hours but, get this--the road is completely barricaded, closed to all traffic.  There are no “flagees,” only a solitary flagger.  I think this is absolutely brilliant.  Only in America

Maybe there’s a metaphor here.  Am I “flagging” a non-existent crowd?  Do I get on any one of my personal soapboxes and provide answers to questions people aren’t asking?    Am I intersecting with the traffic of humanity around me or am I off in my own little world waving irrelevant signs?  Am I on roads no one is traveling, not because I'm so advanced but because I'm clueless?  

And why am I waving an abrasive sign in someone's face, anyway?


Anonymous said...

Are you sure you mean only in America, or rather "ONLY IN ILLINOIS?"

cath said...

Thanks again, corporate America, for proving just how inhuman you can be in your treatment of employees. Disgusting. I am sorry for your friend. I have also experienced what it is like to be chewed up and spit out by an organization.
Good post Steve!

@jonesbabie on Twitter

JIM said...

Sorry for your friend. I think a single digit sign would be something he should consider caring.
Following you

Steve said...

Anon, I wish it were confined to IL. thanks for reading.

cath, I'm sorry you've gone through something similar. It's so brutal and so unnecessary.

JIM, :>)

Mary said...

Incredible how people are treated! You commit yourself to a company and then this is what you get! Great post. Thanks for sharing this.

Laura said...

It may be a ploy to try to get him to quit before he can retire (saving them money)... sad, but true.

Bongo said...

This is just sad....but yeh we live in this great big rich place called Ämerica"HA....But I wouldn't mind holding a sign on an empty road for $28 an hr...As always.......

Steve said...

Update on my friend: he will retire on Sept. 1 with full pension, and has a very positive attitude about life and work. Thanks for your concern and feedback.