Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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April 27, 2013

RICH FLOWERS: Sometimes shortcuts just end up setting you further back

ATHENS — These days, when I drive to work from Poynor, I have to maneuver past an annoying construction site on U.S. Highway 175.

The work crew is adding shoulders to a skinny portion of the heavily traveled road, so I have to keep my eye peeled for the dreaded flagman. Even though I know the Texas Department of Transportation is doing all of this work for my good, I start every morning with the potential of a long traffic delay that’s sure to try my patience.

When I see a line of cars up ahead I know the flag person will hold up a sign that says “STOP.” That’s right, I said a sign. It seems TxDOT retired the red flags decades ago, but the “flagman” title stuck. In most cases, the wait doesn’t last more than about five minutes, but it’s five minutes that I have to sit there in my F-150, breathing diesel fumes waiting for the caravan of cars to creep past from the opposite direction. Finally, they’ll pass and my westbound row will get its turn.

Now, I’m of the personality type that hates waiting in line. I’ll drive 30 minutes out of the way to avoid a five-minute delay. I’ve done that a few times lately, leaving the straight-as-an-arrow certainty of Highway 175 to try to find that county road that will cut past the line of cars and merge back onto the highway.

My first shortcut took me to the New York community, so I figured I’d just get on the road to Leagueville and Farm-to-Market Road 317 to the road that goes by the Fisheries Center. Sure enough, I was 30 minutes late for work, but in a cheerful mood because of the rolling hills and blooming flowers I saw along the way. There’s something to be said for  getting to work in a good mood without stopping for donuts.

The next day, I decided not to deviate so far from the main road, but instead travel the scenic route just far enough to cut in front of the suckers who sat waiting for the flag person to flip his sign. Sure enough, I found a county road that led to another county road that led back to U.S. 175 just past the point where the construction signs were.

Well, actually, I should have said, where the construction signs used to be. I pulled back onto the highway to learn that work had progressed to the point where I was behind the line of cars again. This made me madder, and later, than ever.

Having failed to find a suitable back road to breeze past the construction location, I realize that my options are down to taking the long way every day, getting up early enough each to leave before construction begins, or just preparing myself to sit and wait out the delay. I can use those minutes to check my e-mails, or even do a little texting.

 That’s the way it’s been the past few days — watching the construction crew slowly progress toward getting the roadsides ready for paving. When it’s finished we’ll actually have shoulders on a pretty scary part of the highway. If you ever have a flat tire on that stretch of road you’ll be happy to for that extra few feet of pavement.

   That’s the way it is with highway projects. I drive by them day after day for months thinking they’ll never get finished, then once they’re completed, take the convenience of a new loop or four-lane highway for granted.

So the next time I’m stuck in the U.S. 175 line, I think I’ll take some time to watch the heavy equipment operate and the construction crew at work.

Actually, I don’t know if that’s me or the diesel fumes talking.

Rich Flowers is news editor for the Athens Review. He can be reached at rflowers@athensreview.com.

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