Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
After Hurricane Ike, my father-in-law suggested that regular people should get out into intersections without working traffic lights and start directing traffic.
I said that’s the worst idea I’d ever heard.
He thought (thinks?) I was an idiot.
But haven’t you seen people, even those who should know what they’re doing, like the flagmen at construction sites, just suck at it?
Like the kid, who looks 12, in an oversized reflective vest, his hard hat falling over his eyes, his sign swinging around (Is he trying to say something or just fiddling with it?) who might be making some sort of gesture, but it’s unclear and he’s not looking at any of us. Drivers hesitate, stop, inch forward, have no idea what they’re supposed to do.
And you know those police officers who dance and play tunes on their whistles and put on a show, the ones who are covered by the local paper or news station (like this one and this and this)?
Bah, humbug: Just clearly and decisively direct traffic, please.
Actually, police officers are usually better than flagmen, maybe because they are used to having what my husband calls “the voice of command.”
According to people who have been on the other side, directing traffic is no picnic. This police chief says, if you want to see your officers fall over themselves volunteering for any other duty, just mention directing traffic. According to this retired police officer/professor, “It's fun for about three minutes. It's a little like conducting an orchestra, except all of the musicians have lethal instruments and a random number of them will try to kill you.” Directing traffic is one of the most dangerous things police officers do.
So, we might all want to thank our lucky stars, we’re not out there, directing traffic.