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  • Writer's pictureJim Pfiffer

Southern Tier Comedy Shop

Driving through the dreaded zone of cones

IllustratED by Filomena Jack

Summertime and the livin’ is easy, but not the drivin’.

Summer means road repairs, and that means the dreaded transcontinental-long rows of orange traffic cones and barrels set out by various purveyors of traffic disruptions and delays.

We see them almost every day, but what do we really know about them?

According to the Internet, Charles D. Scanlon, a Los Angeles street department painter, designed the first traffic cone in 1940 to keep traffic away from painted lines on city roads.

I suspect that, a few months later, Scanlon had to go into hiding when a hoard of angry torch- and tire-iron-carrying L.A. motorists, who despised the cones, tried to kidnap him and give him a traffic cone enema.

The Internet says that JBC Safety Plastic, Inc., with offices across the nation, is the leading manufacturer of injection-molded traffic cones. I bet their parking lots are a maze of cone rows that are so long, and you must stop and get gas several times before you find a parking space.

The cones sell for $10.79 to $36.01 each depending on size.

There are an estimated 140 million cones worldwide enough the circle the globe three times, which is normally the length of the lines of cones on our highways.

Illustration by Filomena Jack

I realize that the cones and barrels are there to slow down motorists for the “road work ahead,” but do they need to start the warnings a gazillion miles ahead of the work sites?

Worse, the cones reduce the two or three highway lanes into one, slowing traffic for so long that I don’t arrive at my summer vacation destination until Halloween.

By the time I actually reach the work site, which is laughingly tiny compared to the space where the billions and billions of cones occupy.

“But at least I’ve reached the work site and the end of the cones,” I tell myself.

Wrong, cuz there is yet another line of cones, stretching across several time zones before the single lane of us harried, impatient and “are you friggin’ kidding me?” seat-pounding motorists get to once again merge into two lanes and reach our vacation destinations just in time for Trick or Treat.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I recently made a 42-mile drive to Keuka Lake, and 43 miles of it were traffic cones. The line of cones even led into the front room of our cottage.

Sometimes, when the cone-delayed traffic is moving at a glacial speed, I have fun by swerving in and out of the cones like an Olympic skier on a solemn course.

I’ve discovered that the highway workers don’t appreciate this and will likely beat your car with picks and shovels.

I read that approximately one million traffic cones are stolen each year in the United States.

“What do people do with them?” you ask.

Angry motorists toss them from their speeding vehicles or run over them or drag them under their cars until they are reduced to orange stains on the pavement, all the while laughing with deranged glee at their retribution.

We’ve been conditioned to slow down or stop when we see orange cones. That’s why smart cone-stealing motorists, realize the power that orange cones possess and use them in several ways:

  • Place them in front of primo public parking spaces to reserve the spots for later.

  • Use them as makeshift soccer goals for their kids' soccer practices.

  • As witches’ hats for trick or treating.

PS: I know that road repair crew jobs are difficult and dangerous, and that most of those workers do a great job. I poke fun at the cones to vent my road trip delay displeasure.

Be smart and slow down at all work areas. It’s safer for you and the workers, and you’re less likely to have your vehicle beaten with picks and shovels.

About this Feature

Get more Jim Pfiffer humor on his Facebook page, his blog, FullOfWit, and his podcast The Viewsroom on Zoom with Pfif & AWAC.

To contact and learn more about Filomena Jack and to see her artwork go to


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