Monday, August 21, 2017

Almanac. Musings on One-Lane, Two-Way Tapers

If you are looking for the Almanac on Semester Grading, you'll have to come back next week. What follows is more appropriate for summer. Semester grades are at least an "August" topic.

Also, I'll be reposting all the "Grading over time" posts in sequence on consecutive weeks beginning 8/28/17... just in time for "back to school."

Encourage a teacher you know to give them a read.

While driving the other morning, I experienced a traffic break known as a "One-Lane, Two-Way Taper.[It took me a long time to find that term.] A huge truckload of drywall was being downloaded at a construction site. The truck took half the width of the street.

A worker at the hood end of the truck held a sign with “SLOW” on one side and “STOP” on the other. STOP was facing me.

He was peering intently toward the rear of the truck where an associate held a similar sign. Cars were edging past the truck at low speed. I’m guessing that the SLOW side of that side was facing oncoming traffic.

When the last car in the queue passed the sign holder at the rear of the truck, he flipped his sign around. “My” sign holder did not move.

Once the final car cleared my sign holder, he looked at me and flipped his sign from STOP to SLOW. We exchanged friendly waves as I inched forward.

On the return trip, the setup was the same. The event was not.

As I approached the STOP sign, a black coupe pulled around me and zipped up to the sign and its holder. The holder came very close to smacking the car with his sign when the driver attempted to pass—while a car was coming from the other direction.

The sign holder moved along the side of the car until he could flash STOP in front of the windshield.

When SLOW appeared, the sedan did more than inch or creep past the drywall truck. As I passed the sign holder, I shook my head. He shook his and shrugged. A voice from the sidewalk made a derogatory comment about the driver.

I continued home.

When I was growing up, my family drove to Fort Wayne, Indiana at least every-other summer. This was before air-conditioning in cars, so we usually left San Diego about 10:00 p.m. to “get through the desert before it gets hot.”

The desert we were trying to foil stretches from the eastern side of the Laguna Mountains to at least the Texas border. Leaving at night from San Diego saved us about six hours of heat.
I illustrate the ineffectiveness of this practice, I remember waiting five hours in Grants, New Mexico, for the only gas station to open. We ended up paying an exorbitant price for two tires. The heat of the asphalt melted the glue that held the recapped rubber tread on two of our tires. That gas station was the only source of tires until Albuquerque.

We traveled Route 66. We stayed in motels with separate cabins in the shape of teepees. We ate at places named EAT. We visited “The Thing,” and “The Meteor Crater” in Arizona and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.
Right vintage for the car. We always had Chevy stationwagons.
Our motels always had a swimming pool.

During the second half of our four-day drive, we went through country where winter weather was an issue. Most road repair and construction in those areas was done in the summer. We experienced some l-o-n-g One-Way, Two-Lane traffic breaks similar to the one described above.

In the days before cell phones, I remember my dad turning off the car and telling us to get out and stretch our legs. He leaned against the front fender and talked to the sign-holder for several minutes.

When the last car allowed to travel our direction reached our sign holder, the driver of that car handed the sign holder a red rag. Our sign holder kept the rag until there was a “natural break” in the line of cars he’d stopped. The driver of the last car he allowed through returned the rag to the other sign holder and reversed the flow of traffic.

My high school linebacker coach, Bob Bass (brother of Tom, a former Chargers coach), told us of a summer job he had in college. He was a flagman on a road construction crew. His job was to stand at the beginning of a line of pylons and wave a precautionary red flag. He waved the flag in an arc that indicated to the drivers that they were to keep outside the pylons.
  • One day, he was doing his job. Things were going well . . . until one car didn’t move over when the driver first saw the flag. No matter how hard my now desperate coach waved his flag, the car didn’t swerve. In fact, he had to dive off the road into a patch of stinging nettles to avoid being hit by the car.
  • After he recovered his senses, he handed the flag to his boss and walked over five miles back to the closest phone booth. He never even picked up his final paycheck.
  • He learned later when another summer employee brought him his check what happened after he dove into the nettles.
  • That day the crew had been sandblasting temporary lane lines off the now finished roadway. When the car blew past my coach and continued on, it ran over a dozen pylons. As it passed the man working the sandblaster, he strafed the side of the car as it passed.
  • The driver didn’t file a complaint, even though the driver’s side of his car was bare metal when he got home.

Next Almanac. I'm not sure right now. We'll be surprised together.

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