Orange cones and barrels

This past summer, as we drove miles across South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington, we encountered a fair amount of road construction. We also encountered more than a few places where they were preparing for road construction. There would be the warning signs, the reduced speed limits and lots of orange barrels and cones. In some states they call lane closures “traffic revisions,” a designation that sparked some humorous conversations between us. “Do you suppose that this is the original traffic revision, or are we working with the New Revised Standard traffic?” It was a reference to various Biblical translations that might not be funny to the average person. Most frustrating were lane closures and speed reductions where there was no obvious construction going on at all. We followed the speed limits, but there were places where we backed up a lot of traffic by doing so. It makes sense to slow down for the safety of construction workers and to adjust to narrow lanes, but it doesn’t make sense to slow down for places where all you are doing is driving next to lines of barrels and cones.

That sparked a series of funny conversations. I expounded the theory that the ups and downs of oil prices was sparking temporary unemployment in the Bakken oil field. Normally that part of North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba is filled with lots of construction. But when the price of oil dips too low, they stop new exploration, waiting for higher prices. This results in massive numbers of orange barrels and cones that are temporarily without work. I speculated that putting too many of the devices in a field results in rowdy behavior, wild parties, excessive noise and other social problems, so the Bakken exports orange barrels and cones to neighboring states and provinces when they are not needed and those states spread them out alongside the highways to keep them from converging - too many in the same place. This results in miles of orange barrels and cones without any apparent reason.

Of course it is just a joke. Highway engineers have reasons for placing the barrels and cones and not every aspect of construction can happen immediately. There are reasons why we encounter lane closures and reduced speeds when we can’t see construction workers.

So I was surprised to learn yesterday that there is currently a shortage of orange barrels and cones in eastern South Dakota. After three EF-2 tornadoes struck Sioux Falls Tuesday night, downing trees and spreading debris around the city, heavy rains continued across a region from Mitchell to Sioux Falls with flooding inn Mitchell, Parkston, Madison and other communities. The South Dakota Department of Transportation has closed Interstate 90 between Plankinton and Sioux Falls due to the flooding. The official detour for traffic traveling from the west is to go north on Highway 281, east on Highway 14 to Brookings and then south on I-29 to Sioux Falls. There is an additional section of Interstate 90 that closed yesterday afternoon between Mitchell and Sioux Falls. And it isn’t just the Interstate. There are hosts of county and secondary roads that are closed as well.

Apparently it takes a lot of orange barrels and cones to close so many roads and appeals had to be made to providers of cones and barrels in other states for additional devices to warn motorists.

I am sorry for the inconvenience caused by road closures and I am sympathetic to those who have experienced losses due to the tornadoes and floods, but it somehow strikes me as funny that there is an actual shortage of orange barrels and cones.

I guess I usually can find something to strike my funny bone when others aren’t laughing.

So I had to stop my car and ponder a sign that I noticed yesterday at the corner of the lawn of 1st Assembly of God Church in Rapid City. The sign announced a “Huge Kids’ Sale.” I thought to myself that it might be a good thing to plan a visit to the sale. After all I love kids and although neither of the children who grew up in our home were obtained at bargain prices, and I thought that we were mostly past the stage of raising children, it might be worth checking out the market and finding out what kinds of kids they had for sale. You know, if they had really good prices, it might be worth picking up a couple of spares. You never know when you might need a few. Then I thought that maybe we should get a group of people from the church go go to the sale. Our church school and youth programs could use a few more children. Sometimes we have small classes and small turnouts for events that have been carefully planned. A few more children would make the activities better for all. So if we could pickup say 25 or 30 more kids for our church programs, that might be a good investment. Besides, they are going to have them on sale. You don’t want to pass up a good deal.

Then I though again. The sign advertises a “Huge Kids’ Sale.” The classrooms at our church are set up for regular sized kids. I’m not sure that we would have the right kinds of play equipment and toys for HUGE kids. And I wondered whether or not HUGE kids would require special skills of those who care for them. In the preschool area of our church, we have a bathroom with smaller fixtures to accommodate small children and to make it easier for them to use the facilities. But we don’t have any special toilets for HUGE kids. Maybe HUGE kids are just adult sized, which would probably work, but what if HUGE means bigger than adults?

Maybe I won’t go to the sale. HUGE kids might be frightening.

So you see that it doesn’t take much at all to amuse me. I’m wondering whether or not we should make a special appeal in church for orange cones and barrels. You never know, there might be a church member that has one or two stored in their garage that they wouldn’t mind donating to ease the shortage . . .

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!