Gary Brown imagines what the inanimate among us are thinking from their permanent posts around town. This month, some witty words from construction cones.“When I grow up I want to be just like you,” says the orange lane-marking cone to the brightly colored road construction barrel.
“Sarcasm doesn’t help pass the time,” the barrel answers.
“It seems like we’ve been out here since spring,” claims the cone.
“Just be glad you aren’t a wooden sawhorse barrier,” the barrel says. “Those guys can be out all winter keeping cars out of potholes.”
“You know they got some of the guys last night down on 12th Street. A car crushed three cones—flattened them right out—and a truck bounced one of your barrel buddies clear onto the new sidewalk.”
“We should get hazard pay for this.”
“How long do you think they’ll leave us out here?” the cone asks.
“I don’t know. The truck just drops me off the same as everybody else. Doesn’t tell me any more than you.”
“The project was supposed to be done awhile back, wasn’t it?”
“I have no clue.”
“Just sayin’ …”
“Quit your whining,” the barrel chastises. “Pay attention to your job. People are driving around you.”
“Hey, let ’em. I’m on break. Besides, they don’t pay me to be responsible for traffic; I’m just supposed to get it started in the right direction. Where it wants to go after it passes me is out of my hands.”
“You know, cones like you are the reason the rest of us have gotten a bad reputation.”
“Huh? Me? What am I doing?”
“Absolutely nothing. That’s the problem. I was talking to some of the other old barrels the other day and they were saying you young cones are soft. All you do is stand out here. You barely acknowledge the cars going by. I’ll bet half of the drivers don’t even notice you.”
“Look. I just do my job. Frankly, I would have preferred if they would have just left me in the parking lot, keeping the cars from driving on the resealed parts until the tar dried. It’s quiet down there. A cone has time to think.”
“That’s exactly the selfish attitude they were talking about,” the barrel says. “In the old days, barrels were working together, proudly telling people driving by that ‘there’s work going on here—important construction work is taking place.’ ”
“You’re not going to go through that whole ‘all barrels in a line’ and ‘we’re all made in the USA’ routine are you?”
“Well, it’s true. You cones think it’s enough only to show up,” the barrel says. “In the old days, we showed up and made a statement. Men were building highways then. And we were marking the path through America. Every car and truck that passed us could tell that such construction is critical to the growth of this great country.”
“Do you know,” asks the cone, “that this ‘cones are lazy’ speech is the same way that the old cement interstate highway blocks—the long ones with the reflectors built in—talk about you orange barrels? They say that it takes a forklift to set them down, but you guys can be put in place by two guys walking beside a truck.”
“Easy, little cone. All somebody needs to do is lean down from the open door of a truck to plop you onto asphalt. Half the time you bounce too far out into the street. By the way, watch out for the tire on that pickup … oops, too late.”