Friday, September 23, 2016

Flagging Don't do that! Part 2

For our third day of flagging we were sent to Jaffrey NH.  We met up with the guy we were working for at a gas station.  We were working on a very busy 2 lane hwy going thru town.  The people we were working for were digging some sort of huge hole in one lane of the road.

I knew from the get go it was going to be an interesting day by the look on the guy's face when he realized he got stuck with 2 women as his flaggers.  Some men like to make it impossible to work with.  I know language can be hard to some but some sort of communication is crucial when working together.  Michelle and I were standing there waiting for instructions, then standing there waiting for cones to be put out.  Wasted time really... Then we just had to read their pea brain minds to know they were ready to start working... Pretty much when they just went out in the middle of traffic with no warning was our cue.

They finally put out cones and the traffic was constant.  No rest for the weary.  Back and forth we let the cars thru as these guys dug a whole in the middle of the road... Then for quite some time stared down the hole in the middle of the road.  I was almost hit by a car or two, had a guy come right up to me and started waving his arms.  I gave him the bird and made him go around.  Another guy thought if he got in the other lane from over a block away I would change the sign to slow... Then when I didn't he sat in oncoming traffics way.  I was sure to tell him he was an asshole and made him go all the way down a side street to turn around.  Soon I was starting to feel light headed... I was getting hungry and needed a break.

The guys working had stopped and were packing up for lunch.  So, I called over to the head guy we spoke with and asked him when was lunch break.  We had been working straight with no breaks for over 5 hours.  He told me to call my manager he doesn't give breaks.  I told him someone has to give us a break.  He said he didn't have any certified flaggers on his team so we didn't get a break.  I told him it is the law... We need a break.  Then he gave that snort laugh that makes you want to kick a man in the balls so hard he kneels down, singing like a soprano and beg for mercy.  Then he gets in his car and drives away.  

While directing traffic I got on my phone to call our manager.  He told me he was sorry we didn't have any break and he will call the guy who was an ass and tell him he has to give us a break.  He hangs up and I wait about 10 minutes and call our manager back.  He told me the guy will give us a bathroom break when he gets back.  I told him that was not acceptable.  We had been working 5 1/2 hours by this time and we needed a lunch break.  Our manager said "we normally work thru our lunch break and just take two 15 minute breaks."

I told him "you may choose to do that but I need a lunch break, especially since we have had no break for over 5 hour."

Manager said "well, that is the way it is.  You get two 15 minute breaks"

Mind you, we have no idea when we start the day how many hours we will be there.  It could be 7 hour or up to 15 hours.  No one says anything... Even after we arrive.  We had been there for 5 1/2 hours with no break, no one willing to give us a break and we had no idea when we would be done. We are directing traffic that doesn't care about people on the road.  They would run you down for sport or complete obliviousness while talking on their cell phones.  We need to be aware and people who have not eaten or drank anything in hours are not at their best.  At this point I felt we could be in danger... Especially since I was having to rely on the stick to hold me up because I was feeling dizzy from lack of food and water.

After the guy came back one of the workers came to take my stick and told me we could go use the bathroom.  By this time I was pissed to say the least.  I got on the walkie talkie to Michelle told her we were leaving... They were not giving us a lunch break and I was done.  So we left them with no signs and walked away. I laughed as the men started yelling at us to leave the signs.  We kept walking.

The traffic was starting to build up and we saw a police officer where we parked.  He asked us if we were done for the day.  We told him we were done because they wouldn't give us a break.  The police officer was surprised that the company took that stance since now they don't have flaggers.  He told us he would go look at the situation.  When we left the police officer was directing traffic.

I did look up the the law on breaks for New Hampshire and it is 30 minutes for every 5 hours worked.  It says nothing about 15 minute breaks.  It does say if an employer can not give a break one can work thru their lunch if hey are able to eat and work.  They are also paid for that lunch.

I sent this info over to our manager, told him we quit and we would pick up our checks when we dropped off our stuff the next day.  I also contacted the New Hampsire Labor Department, who unfortunately doesn't care about the workers of NH.

The next day I got a call and many text messages from our boss saying he was sorry and wanted us to come back to work.  We said NO THANKS!

We figured out quickly why this business was whacked... Our boss looked and acted like Tweedle dumb.  How many people can say their boss truly looks like Tweedle dumb!?  He wore these long shorts that hung down, a t-shirt and a cap on sideways strutting out of the back office like he was 12.  We dropped off our stuff and he told us our last paycheck would be mailed to us.  No problem... Except when we got our last paycheck they didn't pay us for all hours worked... So that screwed me over to getting to the beet harvest for my next gig.  

Supposidely it is fixed and we will get our check in the mail in the next couple days...as my time for the beet harvest is passing.  So, after all that I don't have a job and no money to get to my next spot.  I rearranged a few things and will be leaving this weekend to spend some time with a friend in NC and hopefully find work for the fall.  I have just enough money to get there... Keep you fingers crossed that I get there without any Blue or TicTac issues.  It's only 800 miles.  😳

I have mixed feelings as I am excited to be on the road to somewhere new but sad it will be just me and Yoska as Michelle is staying back for school.  It will be different being by myself after almost a year traveling with someone else.  Guess we will see what happens!  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Flagging... Don't do that! Part One

For whatever reason I have wanted to try out being a flagger for road construction.  How hard could it be and everyone says you get paid so well.  So, when Michelle and I arrived at our new spot in New Hampshire and saw an ad for flaggers we decided to give it a try.  Mainly because we knew it was temporary until other jobs came through.

First, it is crucial to know it is not a well paying job unless you get in with the state.  We worked for a private company. The rate depends on the job but ranging around $10-$18/HR but from what I hear if you work for the state you are talking $30-$40/HR. 

Before we were hired we had to watch a couple videos and take quizzes of pretty obvious answers online.  Then they give you a call and text you a street to meet them on.  Our first day we had to arrive a little early to meet with our trainer. A random residential culdasac with about 3 houses on it in the middle of nowhere.  Our trainer was a guy with that hard Boston accent talking about football, hockey and baseball who couldn't stand in one place.  Right off they tried to pay us less than the advertised rate.  I was sure to put a stop to that right away. He told us the basics of what we needed to do, what we learned from the video.  Then waited for the company we were working with.  We waited over an hour having to listen to sports talk and face palm political talk.  


The company finally arrived, Asplundh, however you say that.  We were going to be flagging as they were trimming trees on the side of the road.  Our trainer kept telling us how he didn't like these people but Michelle and I thought they were all very nice.  The trainer also made a big to do over getting bathroom breaks.  I figured we wouldn't have a bathroom around so Michlle and I planned ahead for that.  No fluids for us. Haha. He seemed to think that would be the biggest concern for us.  We weren't sure why, but whatever.  

We were the first ones to be fully certified on the same day this whole summer... Actually, in about an hour.  Who knew you had to be certified to turn a little stop/slow sign.  I'm totally putting that on my resume. So we are certified flaggers in the state of New Hampshire.  Every state has different regulations so you have to be certified per state.

The first day wasn't bad.  A short day at 7 hours.  Our trainer said the days can be as long as 15 hours... He didn't know of anyone working longer than that.  

A few cars almost ran into each other because those 3 signs before us weren't enough to get people to slow down.  People are insane!  The trainer said if people aren't slowing down make them stop before letting them through.  That is exactly what I did... I treated them like the children I use to babysit who misbehaved.  Made them sit and wait for a minute before letting them pass.  Then there are those people who look like they won't stop at all.  You are suppose to drop the sign and run to the side of the road.  No one really came at me that fast so I would take a step forward, pound the sign into the ground as if I were Gandolf with his staff.  Everyone stopped.  The amount of people who then sped thru the actual part with people working is ridiculous.  Shame on them!!  No matter how much you tell them to slow down with hand signals or just yelling at them they don't care.  This really isn't a surprise for me since I ride a motorcycle and see this kind of crap daily.  People in a hurry, on their cell phones thinking of no one but themselves. 

With these people we worked with we got a 30 minute lunch we took on the side of the road as they headed off somewhere for lunch.  It sure didn't seem like much work was getting done on their end. They got a break at 10, noon and we were done at their afternoon break time, 2:30.  I was also shocked as to how many of them would be smoking while working with chainsaws in brush and trees during a drought.  Even when they went up in the lift part they were smoking.  The amount of swearing was also worse than a 90s cop movie.  F this and F that.  A few of them came over to chat and in a normal conversation the F bomb was used every other word.  Guess it was the only way they knew to show emphasis. 

Michelle working hard.

It really didn't seem too bad.  The road wasn't all that busy so Michelle and I could chat a bit over the walkie talkies while we waited.

The lingo we had to learn:

Car coming towards my side...

Me: Clear to send?
Michelle: Clear to send
Me: Sending
Michelle: copy 
If it was one car you would say: sending solo
If it was multiple cars you would say color, make of car and last 4 digits of plate of the last car you send thru.
Michelle and I don't know our car types very well so we just used color and the last 3 or 4 digits of the plate:  Red 4532
Michelle: Copy
after the car got to Michelle's side she would say: received red 4532
If there were no cars on her side she would say: all clear 
I would say: all clear 
but if there were cars we started all over again.

I'm not sure what was so funny... Talking on the walkie talkies, being in my own mind, me doing this job or the cars driving by but I laughed the entire first day.

I learned from my Australian friend that we are called lollipop girls.  That helped entertain me the next day we worked... The entire time with the lollipop guild from the Wizard of Oz was stuck in my head.  I would even do the dance and voices.  Yep, the job was that boring.  The second day we worked with the same company and we had to leave early so it was another easy day.  I did get a little scared for a bit as we were on a weird blind turn for a little bit.  No one slows down after the flagging signs before us so at full speed people would come around the corner and then slam on their brakes.  I had one lady yell at me that I should be elsewhere.  I told her I tried multiple spots before and after the curve but the signs are to advise you to slow down, that a flagger is ahead.  She got quiet and drove thru. One thing I learned from that spot, if you are too far away from the workers people go around you and back into the lane where they are working... Idiots! Hence, having to be in a awkward place on the blind curve.

Our third day, which turned out to be our last day, we worked with a different company.... I will tell you all about that drama and why you don't want to be a flagger in my next post... To be continued!






Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Part of New Hampshire

We headed out of the White Mountains at the end of August so Michelle could start her class.  I was quite thankful for new scenery.  The White Mountains are beautiful but dealing with the campers where we worked and stayed were a bit more than I care to deal with.  So, my limit was met and we headed south to Michelle's family in NH.

Leaving Crawford Notch Campground
 
So far Michelle has been enjoying her class, we are still looking for work but did try Flagging for road construction... Ummm... Don't do that. Will tell more about that on another post.  Yoska has been having a blast with all the attention.

Practicing before shift. haha


Yoska's new bow tie... A definte must have during all those formal occasions he attends.

Visiting the apple orchard
We had a picnic at an apple orchard.

And a must stop for this 80s kid to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.

Cool poster for sale at the museum of Christa McAuliffe

I'll be here for a bit more then hitting the road where I call home.  This time it will be me and Yoska as Michelle furthers her dream of being an architecture in New Hampshire.  

More to come...