The power of a smile

Back in 2011, Grand Junction had the unwelcome distinction of becoming Colorado’s divorce capital. State demographers speculated that it had a lot to do with a combination of stressors, like stagnant wages, a low ranking for household income and tougher-than-average economic conditions.

The local economy may have improved since then, but it still lags behind the rest of the state. And other depressing trends, like a high suicide rate, growing demand for welfare and social services and a vagrancy problem give this community a palpable hard edge. And if this all weren’t enough to contribute to a community morale problem, there’s always national politics to divide us.

That’s why Shawn Quintana, Grand Junction’s dancing road crew flagger, is such a breath of fresh air.

Quintana works in a hellish environment. Not only are the physical conditions harsh — working outdoors on hot pavement — he has to deal with cranky drivers annoyed with construction zone delays.

By all rights, he should be more dour than the drivers — especially because they’ve been mighty unfriendly to him. But he took a rough situation and made it better — by dancing on the job.

“I’ve found that just by grooving a little bit, it makes people’s day, they laugh and they enjoy it,” he told the Sentinel’s Erin McIntyre.

It’s such a small thing — getting someone to smile. But it’s so needed in a town that often has a jaded and cynical quality to it.

Quintana, a single dad, took the job in traffic control for CC Enterprises to provide for his 2½-year-old son. He’s also a college student hoping to enter the nursing program at Colorado Mesa University. We’re rooting for him to achieve his educational goals.  Can you imagine the levity he could bring to a health-care environment that can often be scary and intimidating?

Quintana isn’t the first working man to dance on the job. Traffic cops in New York’s Times Square are known for showy performances. But his intent is more about establishing a fleeting human connection and turning a negative into a positive.

He’s being the change we all want to see in the world by making it a friendlier place.


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