Yes, I see “them,” the construction workers taking yet another break while traffic snakes around for miles upon miles. We are stuck, nearly motionless, while they stand there sipping beverages and watching. Watching, I say, as we are stuck in the relative comfort of our air-conditioned cars while they are standing in the July heat in jeans, long sleeves and protective gear. How dare they?
Like all activities that require many people, construction projects are process-driven. A finisher cannot finish the concrete until the concrete arrives. The concrete truck cannot pour until the forms are set. So, yes, many of the construction workers are waiting.
While they sip their beverages, probably Gatorade, they are preventing heat-related complications. Fatigue while operating a concrete cutter, a jackhammer, or a grinding machine can be disastrous. Let’s leave their personal safety for just a minute (since we zoom through the construction zone anyway) and look at how their fatigue could ruin our commute. As I watch the construction worker jackhammer the bridge deck to remove a precisely measured rectangle of flawed pavement, he is careful to avoid his boot, his coworker. He is careful to prevent chunks of newly removed pavement from battering our cars. You, too, can be part of this process of protecting your car by moving over as much as the flow of traffic allows. Really, all of this is about you, the driver, sitting in your air-conditioned car, having to slow down and keeping you safe.
The bright orange cones, the huge flashing arrow, the even larger sign heralding “Right Lane Closed Ahead” are really all about you. These are to warn you that closings are going to happen. Rarely do those resting construction workers just close a lane, willy-nilly, with absolutely no warning. (Sure this happens, but this is not a best practice.) They are not there to prompt you to break out of traffic, rocket past the Nile-esque line of stationary commuters, to plunge into an opening in front of the rest of us, giving courteous space to the other pilgrims eagerly awaiting the end of our journey. This type of behavior puts drivers and workers at risk for injury or a serious case of road rage.
The cones, arrows, and signs protect those construction workers from our 5,000-pound vehicles. The vehicles whose mirrors and tires are mere inches from the man jackhammering the precisely measured rectangle blow them a little off balance with each car that whizzes past. As you whiz past, please remember this: Those construction workers have names like Joe, Gary, or Gus. They have Louises, Amys, and Lilas who want them to be there for Christmases, birthdays, and walks down the aisles. They are up working before the sun rises, working in heat that punishes our cars’ air conditioners, working to provide a living for their families and safer roads for all of us. While you are stopped, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the equipment. The fine orchestration of man and machine that will move on to the next road in a short while.
Drive safely, my fellow commuters.