Just Write: The DOT Worker

He sits perfectly perfect, posture textbook worthy, with his work-issued STOP sign leaning next to him on the bench. His orange vest is clean and zipped, his hood pulled over his head, under his hard hat.

He’s a DOT worker I pass every morning on my way to work.

Without fail, he’s sitting on the bench at the intersection with a book in his hand. There’s normally a pen, frantically jotting down notes in the margins or underlining passages. Whatever it is he’s doing, he’s doing with intensity, not seeming to notice that he’s sitting five feet from one of the busiest streets in the area.

This morning he had a small legal pad, again, frantically writing line after line on his lap.

In my head, at that stoplight, I wonder what his story is. I mean, he’s a young guy. The options are endless. Today my thoughts flowed and my imagination went wild.

He’s working a DOT job during the day and going to school at night. He’s been up with a crying baby because his girlfriend who delivered their first baby a few weeks ago had to return to work at nights. Running on about 90 minutes of sleep, he figures he can get his school assignments read and written while he’s waiting for the bus.

It’s his few minutes of peace before he hits the pavement, holding the sign that switches from STOP to SLOW, allowing the long line of pissed off drivers through the construction zone where his coworkers are jackhammering, bulldozing, and standing around pondering the meaning of life. Work is noisy. Waiting for the bus is quiet.

He doesn’t mind it.

In fact, he loves getting immersed in the novels he’s been assigned at school. His European literature course is his favorite. He’s pondering changing his major from Business to Education. He feels himself being drawn to teaching kids about the power of literature and the power of writing.

As he sees the bus coming down the road, he flips the legal pad to the back and catches a glimpse of the letter telling him he’s been chosen for a short story award at his college.

The young man slips his book and notepad into the side of his lunch bag, grabs his STOP/SLOW sign, and gets on the bus. He smiles to himself knowing that if he can keep on going, working hard, and loving his family, he will never live his life on STOP or SLOW — he will live it on GO.

This is my installment for Just Write, hosted by Heather at The Extraordinary Ordinary.


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  1. Jana, I love this!

    Wouldn’t it be nice if this were the DOT worker’s real story? That, or he’s scribbling his future bestselling novel the way J.K. Rowling did the first installment of the Harry Potter books on napkins in a coffee shop?

    Imaginary land is so much more fun than reality. Let’s just stay there.


  1. […] I became taken with a DOT worker I passed every morning and wondered what his story […]

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