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Every Cone Tells A Story


Recently, I’ve taken an interest in traffic cones. They’re popping up everywhere, sometimes serving a purpose, other times just hanging around like kids with nothing to do and no one to supervise them.


My interest in these two-foot, semi-flexible temporary warning markers is not financial (I’m not looking to invest) or relevant to anything. I guess the best way to say it is I’m entertained by their presence and the places and positions they pop up as I see them occupying the roads, sidewalks and paths I travel on a routine basis.


Lately, I’ve been assigning plot lines and character traits to high-vis icons as I run across a group “guarding” an electrical transformer or warning motorists of a pothole. I note their positions, creating human story lines that explain why one orange cone is positioned 20 feet away from a group of four that are marking an uneven patch of a school parking lot:


He’s the new kid in town, having trouble making friends. The other cones see him as aloof and stuck-up, but he’s just shy and has trouble meeting new people. His parents – cones that themselves moved from town to town when they were kids – understand how difficult it is go to a new school in a new place, and they told him he needed to break out of his comfort zone and be the one to make the first move. But he can’t, so he stands there, alone, waiting for the first bell to ring, when he can blend into the rest of the crowd.


One day, I noticed some roughly painted lines across the sidewalk leading to an electrical box. Red, yellow and green, they indicated the approximate location of underground utilities, portending that excavation was in the offing. Several days later, as I walked the same stretch, I noticed two orange cones had been place among the painted lines:


When the boss assigned the job to the painted lines a week ago, he had a bad feeling. They’d let him down before. Going with his gut, he sent his two best cones out to supervise and make sure they job was done right.


Designed to be resilient, and given the high-activity places they’re often used, it’s not uncommon to see one cone lying on its side, like I did the other day, when I spied six cones in a small group along the road, one tipped over:


Suddenly, Jerry collapsed. At first, the rest of the group thought he was joking (“He’s always pulling stunts like that” his friends would tell the EMTs later), but when he didn’t get up, they got worried. After a few moments of wondering what to do, Gina – Jerry’s wife – called 9-1-1. Turns out it was just a freak thing (low blood sugar or something) and after a short trip to the emergency room, he was sent home.


I added that last sentence because the next time I came upon this scene, “Jerry” had been placed back on his “feet” to join the rest.


I’m not sure what started this preoccupation, but as the Brits say, “I quite enjoy it.” And speaking of the English, that reminds me of another scenario in which four cones were placed single file in the crosswalk of a busy intersection:


They knew it had been done thousands – maybe millions – of times before, yet they couldn’t resist. Four friends on vacation, visiting the very spot where John, Paul, George and Ringo were photographed for that famous album cover.


You might think it strange (you’d be correct), but if you tried it, you might find it fun (it is, for me anyway). More likely, you think it’s a waste of time and that I’m stupid (both relevant points, though I could develop counterarguments).


Nonetheless, I’m enjoying myself, sometimes even chuckling under my breath at the personas (personae?) and stories I’ve attached to these brightly colored inanimate objects. And who can’t use a good chuckle these days?


To be frank, I also have wondered about this activity and myself in the process, but I’ve decided if it’s fun and harmless, why not go with it? For me, it keeps my imagination moving and makes me more observant of my surrounds. Who knows? Maybe I’ll compile and publish a collection of traffic cone stories, titled, not coincidentally “Traffic Cone Stories.”


Stranger things have happened, right? (I think I’ve already proven that.)


© 2021 David R. Haznaw

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