A character at the crosswalk

    For the past month, Traci Olson has entertained many students crossing Sixth Avenue as she enthusiastically directs traffic.

    Rather than only flip her stop sign and point to where cars and pedestrians must go, she gets her whole body into it. Using both arms to signal where and when to move though the intersection, Olson will talk with everyone that goes by, always giving a smile and a nod.

     Olson is not the typical construction flagger.

    ”It’s much better for a flagger to have presence,” Olson said. “I know some of the people that flag will stand there all day, looking like slackers. Those people think the job sucks, so they’re not having any fun.”

    Olson has made her presence known, as many students have come to know her for her fun and interesting flagging. Many students have also established a minor rapport with Olson, given that they pass her during their daily commute around campus.

    ”She’s a sweetie,” said Katelin Delaney, a graphic design major who often passes Traci on her way to the Fifth Avenue Art Building. “It’s great making friendly conversation with her and watching as she really gets into her job. I don’t know how she’s able to stay so happy throughout her day, but every time I pass her she’s very energetic and definitely the most active flagger on the job site.”

    Olson does not use any tricks to keep her energy level up – just caffeine.

    ”Pepsi – it’s definitely a good chunk of my energy boost, along with some coffee, the hard caffeine every morning,” she said. “Thank God there’s a Coffee People right next to my job!”

    Olson has been working on construction sites, mainly as a flagger, for over 10 years. She is employed by Chick Of All Trades (C.O.A.T.), a labor contractor that promotes women having positions in the construction workforce.

    ”She’s definitely a chill lady,” said Jason DeHaan, a cyclist who often rides in the University District. “I drive and ride my bike through here a lot and Traci’s the sort of gal you really appreciate. The way that she gets into her work is fun to watch, but the coolest thing about her is that she actually gets traffic through the stops really fast, managing to usually get a smile from drivers or foot traffic.”

    ”It’s all a part of my philosophy that you got to love your job,” Olson said. “Not just like it, but love it. It makes my day to see people smile when they pass me, and I just never worry about the stupid ones that ignore us flaggers. It’s just my job to know what I’m doing, for you to trust that I know what I’m doing and I certainly hope that I know what I’m doing.”

    Even though the daily work rarely changes, Olson said that some days are worse than others.

    ”Last Friday must have been a full moon or something because we had a whole hell of a lot of idiots just cruising on by, thinking that I’m just standing here since I look good,” she said. “Well guess what, full moon or not, I’m still responsible to get you through the intersection, and it’d be just dandy if you paid some attention to the orange vest! I know you see it on me – the God damn thing’s brighter and shinier than diamonds!”

    For any students who have yet to meet Olson, she will be at the construction site working on one of the intersections on Sixth between Jackson and Harrison through the rest of October.

    ”OK, so I hear we might get done with this area by Halloween,” Olson said. “Construction is a kind of working that doesn’t always follow the schedule, but the main contractors, Stacy & Witbeck and Kiewit, Inc., are pretty good outfits. I’m sure we’ll get done and then we can all have a trick-or-treating party, maybe cut a jack-o-lantern to put up as a memory to the job.”