Cone Stealing

Cone Stealing

Ah, the road cone. The orange trumpet, the witch’s hat, the tradie’s funnel. Whatever you want to call it, it serves an important purpose within society: allowing drunk students to commit a (mostly) victimless crime and be creative with interior decorating. Except it’s mostly exterior, and decorating is a generous term. 

Since the invention of the road cone in 1940, Aotearoa has developed a bit of a problem with road cone hoarding. In 2020 we had an estimated 1 million road cones: enough for roughly one per flat, if you do it right. One for every five people is a crazy number considering that the UK has only 300,000 more cones than us, and that there’s only 140 million cones on the planet. Granted, New Zealand probably owes some of this success to our constant earthquakes, floods and general debauchery, but it’s not easy being #1.

With so many cones on the streets, it's easy to feel as if they’re free to the public (sort of like the ducks in the Botans). Some of them end up in flats where they remain, untouched, for several months, but far more seek higher aspirations, like the top of the railway station, presumably chasing the best views of the industrial district as possible. 

We wanted to know why we all do this. We wanted to know the psychology behind it. So, rather than turning to an expert, Critic Te Ārohi sat down with Orange Trumpet Society, (a growing Instagram account posting photos of cones in strange places around Ōtepoti) to answer these questions from a completely non-scientific or logic based viewpoint. 

“Very rarely would there be any forward thinking, you take it and a couple minutes later you’re like ‘why do I have this’,” said the page admin. “It’s a heat of the moment sort of crime,” they explained, reinforcing the monkey brain stereotype and suggesting there is no such thing as premeditated cone theft.  While the Orange Trumpet Society does not condone people being drunk pests and acknowledges it’s probably very frustrating for construction workers, they said “It’s funny seeing a cone where it shouldn’t be.”

They went on to compare cone stealing to the supermarket trolley scenario. “You know it's the morally right thing to put the trolley back at the supermarket but there's no laws around it,” they explained. It’s technically legal to just leave your trolleys in the middle of the lot, but it’s still wrong. Much like cone theft. For this reason Critic Te Ārohi suggests having a first date that includes both putting back the supermarket trolley and then drunk kick ons to somewhere with a plethora of construction cones. That’ll tell you more about their personality than anything else. 

Orange Trumpet Society is a fan of the classics, with their favourite cone location being the simple “cone-on-the-car” placement, where the perpetrator didn’t even have to steal, just a minor relocation. Or when “You see someone knock over a cone and it's like ‘we all hate roadworks’ like, ‘this will show them’. It’s like bin tipping lite.” Bin tipping, of course, being North D’s most truly heinous crime.

This brief interview told us everything we already knew about road cone theft. Honestly, it was more just an excuse for us to talk to this page admin, go out on a Saturday night and see if we could spot any thefts in progress (we counted four, including one group who took the ENTIRE traffic light from a construction site). Road cones will forever adorn cars, telephone poles and tall buildings, and there is nothing the police can do to stop this, bar catching the culprits orange-handed.  

This article first appeared in Issue 23, 2022.
Posted 8:17pm Sunday 18th September 2022 by Keegan Wells and Fox Meyer.