I’m getting ready to head out of town for a few days. Chuck and I will be traveling south to visit relatives in Indiana. I’m looking forward to seeing our family, but I’m not looking forward to the hot weather in the Hoosier State. I don’t know what I was thinking, planning a trip down south at the peak of the summer season.
But it’s been awhile since we’ve seen everyone and we managed to carve out some time, so we’re going. Of course we are going to run into miles and miles of road construction.
I know roadwork is inevitable. It’s something we have to live with if we want to have roads that are navigable.
It’s just that I am one of those people who get nervous driving through a construction zone. I need those white stripes painted on the road to let me know where my lane is. All the bright orange and neon reflective cones are intimidating. The signs that tell you how fast to go are never obvious and the bump signs never seem to be in the right place.
My dad worked for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for most of my growing-up years, so you would think I wouldn’t be bothered by road construction. Because dad worked at MnDOT hot mix plants he frequently came home smelling like tar. So I love the smell of pavement being laid. It reminds me of my dad coming home with his sturdy metal lunchbox and a few Oreo cookies left over for us kids.
But I never acquired a fondness for the bright safety orange gear. It seems to be worse than ever now with the new high-tech reflective signs.
My true dislike of road construction though is because of my never-ending quest to get organized. I struggle with getting places on time. I frequently overestimate my ability to finish a task. So I end up hurrying from appointment to appointment.
That’s what happened last week as I headed to Lutsen for an interview. As I left the 40-mph zone by Cascade River, I spotted the dreaded sign: Road Construction Ahead. Another sign followed it: Prepare to Stop.
My first reaction was, “Oh-no! I’m not prepared for delays!”
I should have been. We’ve had articles in the News-Herald about the roadwork being done on Highway 61 and all over Cook County. But every spring when the road bans go off and the roadwork begins, I get caught a time or two in the line of cars, late for an appointment.
I do better after it happens once. Next time I head down the shore—or out east now, as they will soon be filling in rumble strips—I will plan at least an extra half hour. I’ll be prepared to sit in traffic for a bit. I’ll be ready to carefully weave through the bright orange barrels at the direction of the flagmen and women.
And I won’t be so stressed that I can’t smile at those flaggers.
Those intrepid folks have one of the toughest jobs on the planet. I’ve worked retail where I’ve stood at a cash register and I know how hard it is to stand on your feet all day. But my retail job was cushy compared to what the construction flaggers deal with.
My cashier job was inside where it was warm (or cool) and dry. It was in a relatively clean area—no dust from nearby heavy equipment in the air. I had the opportunity to chat with customers throughout the day instead of listening to dump trucks and bulldozers and rock crushers. And I never had to worry about being run over by someone waiting in my line.
So I always try to make eye contact with the people waving me on through the dreaded construction zone. If I can get their attention, I smile and wave.
It’s not their fault orange cones give me the heebie-jeebies. It’s certainly not their fault that I may have failed to plan for construction. Sometimes they are concentrating too hard on keeping order in the coming and going of cars and they don’t respond. But once in awhile I get a big grin in return.
Try it next time you’re stuck in road construction. Take a breath, slow down, and smile.
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The shortest distance between two points is under construction.