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Eugene Weekly : Living Out : 9.24.09




Flagging Desire

Dreaming of a job on the blacktop

by Sally Sheklow

I’ve had it with my desk job. Struggling to manage an unmanageable workload stresses me out, devours my creative juices and, gosh darn it, saps my mojo. I want simpler employment. I want to be a flagger.

That is, a Traffic Control Flagger. You have to be specific. A friend more street savvy than I informed me that flagging also means flashing a colored hanky out your back pocket to advertise your sexual proclivities — a whole intricate system of color coding by particular fetish. Who knew? Not too likely there’s a hanky code for my vest-wearing, traffic directing obsession. If it turns out there is, I’ll be a flagger flagger.

Flagging isn’t one of those heavily promoted careers. My inspiration came last spring when I volunteered at a recycling round-up, was given a neon green vest and assigned to direct traffic. You know lesbians and vests — I was hooked. 

Now I want to wear a safety vest all day. I’d happily leave behind my current job’s requisite multi-tasking to join the cadre of safety-booted, hard-hatted, two-way shoulder-mounted radio users working in the great outdoors along Oregon’s roadways with the singular task of rotating a sign from SLOW to STOP. 

I could do that. I’ve noticed lots of other large women of a certain age directing traffic around work zones and construction sites. They stand like goddesses, so confident holding their big signs along highways, city streets and, as luck would have it, in front of my house.

One summer day I was out watering my blueberries while a couple of neon vested Road Goddesses directed vehicles around the jackhammering work crew. A Levi-clad buff brunette stood just beyond my driveway. During a traffic lull I called out to her, “How do you like your job?”

“Oh, I love it.” She beamed. 

“Are you treated OK?”

“The guys on the crew are nice and very respectful,” she said. “Plus I get my choice of job sites.” She paused a moment, made sure no cars were coming and then added, “I feel so powerful.”

I was in awe. I tried to imagine feeling powerful at work. “I guess choosing your assignments would do that,” I said, re-aiming my water-wand into the blueberry patch.

“No, I feel powerful because I can stop traffic!”

A string of cars approached just then. Goddess Flagger kicked into action, rotated her paddle to STOP, raised her arm and gave the universal open palm signal. The motorists all complied.

Oh, how I’d love a job like that. I want the brain freedom to stand by the side of the road with nothing to do but control the traffic. Put me outdoors in a brilliant lime-green vest striped in that snazzy orange reflective tape, with hours on end of singular focus — oh, yeah. Out of the office and into the streets. My mojo’s coming back just thinking about it. 



Stay tuned for the next installment of award-winning writer Sally Sheklow’s saga as she pursues her dream of becoming a certified flagger.