Stop, slow, stop, slow, and remember to wave
VAIL – Dick Perkins always waves, and it won’t hurt his feelings if you don’t wave back.”That’s our company policy: to smile and wave,” he said.As a construction flagger, Perkins swivels the “Stop” and “Slow” signs that control cars in Vail.He works long hours on his feet, but it doesn’t bother him any more, after eight years as a flagger. Being alert is key – whether it’s watching for cars, coordinating with another flagger or keeping an eye on construction work.He lives in Fruita, and he’s staying at the Roost Lodge in West Vail. He gets back to Fruita about every other weekend.On Friday, he was directing traffic on Vail Road near the Lodge at Vail, where construction workers were digging holes for sewer work for the Vail Front Door project.It was a fairly run-of-the-mill assignment. Perskins said he likes more complicated flagging jobs – stuff with multiple flaggers, multiple radios, high traffic and coordination among construction vehicles.”I prefer the more high-action areas,” he said.Mostly drivers respect his directions, though sometimes people get peeved when they are stopped.”I know sometimes they don’t like seeing us, but if we weren’t here, how would they get through?”One flagger was actually run over by a disgruntled driver a few weeks ago near the library, Perkins said.He’s heard of people getting coffee thrown on them. Perkins even almost got in a fight once.”I had a 75-year-old man get out of his car and try to kick my ass,” he said. “Some people flip you the bird or say, ‘What are you tearing up now?’ But you just tell them to have a nice day.”Advanced flagging techniquesVail is one of the friendliest communities he works in, Perkins said.The normal wave-back ratio is 70 percent, he said. Vail approaches 80 percent wave-backs, he said.Flaggers in Vail have to also help pedestrians who are lost. Pedestrians are first priority, then cars, then construction vehicles.Not any flagger can get an assignment in Vail, Perkins said.”You’ve got to be a better-than-average flagger to work in Vail,” Perkins said.That means not sitting down on the job or taking your eyes off the road, even if there are no cars around.It’s also important to use creativity when your equipment fails. If your radio stops working and you don’t have extra batteries, you have to improvise. If you’re alternating traffic through a single lane, that could mean sending your hat with the last car to pass through the single lane to give to the other flagger. When the other flagger gets the hat, he knows it’s OK to send traffic through the other way.Perkins doesn’t work much in the winter.”It’s something like being semi-retired,” he said.He moved to Fruita from Wisconsin, where he was a dairy farmer. Flagging pays well, he said, and there’s plenty of work to be found.And when he’s driving himself and encounters another flagger, he never gets ticked.”Oh, no,” he said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado
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