The Orange Cone Strikes Again

America’s Cable Guys’ Strange Power Trip

I was getting out of my car in my apartment complex parking lot and I saw a cable van. I don’t mean a van made of cables, though that would be cooler and, this being Athens, with our art-cars, not entirely outside of the realm of possibility. I don’t mean a van driven by a man made of cable. I mean I saw the van driven by an employee of some entertainment (re: television, Internet, etc.) provider/installer/repairer. Even though fewer of our TV options literally involve cables than in the past, we still usually call these guys by the familiar term of “Cable Guy.”

Anyway, my point was that I saw the cable van parked in my lot, and what struck me about it was that he, in grand cable guy tradition, had placed an orange cone behind his van. Why? Why the orange cone? First off, this made driving the lanes and getting around in my tiny parking lot more difficult, which made me hate him a little, even though I don’t have cable. Second, why the hell do the cable guys feel the need to put the orange cone behind their van? They’re not hauling around human organs for transplant. They’re not transporting royalty. They’re not even putting them out to keep motorists from running over the guy whose head might pop out of the sewer manhole like a human whack-a-mole who failed his GED exam.

The orange cone always means the same thing — Stay Away. Orange is our color for mildly wary danger. Maybe because it’s the color of the sun, which is ironic since if you looked directly at the sun long enough to be sure that it truly IS orange then you’d go blind and have to wear around an orange vest for protection, even though you’d have to take someone else’s word that the vest was actually orange since you’d be blind and stupid enough to go blind by staring at the sun just to see what color it was.

Is there a cable guy law mandating the orange cone? Is there a first-day orientation class for cable guys and cable gals that teaches them the importance of keeping the riff-raff away from their sacred back doors? Is this really necessary?

The cable guy has cables in his van, and probably some tools and wiring. These aren’t high-value black market items. They don’t put orange cones outside of Best Buy. But there’s always been some inexplicable feeling of superiority to cable guys. Maybe it’s just the drug dealeresque power trip that comes from being the guy in charge of something to which millions of people are completely addicted. That seems like a paltry explanation, but it would explain why these tradesmen have traditionally been allowed to show up five hours after they said they would and why we’re just so damn happy that they showed up at all that we just say, “Aww shucks” and offer them a beer or our first-born so that we can see what idiotic celebrity judges what idiotic hopeful future celebrity’s lack of dancing skills tonight.

It’s not as if all tradesmen of similar vein to the cable guy have this insane inborn sense of superiority. Plumbers seem like decent people on the whole. Sure, it’s a different, non-cable guy feeling when the iconic image of your profession is a fat guy on his knees, with jeans so loose that you can see where the orange sun clearly don’t shine, repeatedly ramming a wooden stick with a plastic end in and out of the place where you poop every morning. Maybe that’s why plumbers are infinitely more humble than cable guys.

Although I’d say their bravado is generally somewhere between plumber and cable guy, the air conditioner and heater repairmen of the world don’t need to conify their work vans, even though they too, like those snobby cable guys, have wires and cables and electronics and tools in their vans. And I know this because they’re not so afraid of letting people within the rear window viewing perimeter that the orange cone magically endows on pavement that I’ve been able to get close enough to peek inside their hallowed vans. The same goes for repairmen of other common household appliances like refrigerators, washers (both dish and clothes) and driers, and stoves (of the gas, electric or microwave variety).

Computer repairmen are, without a doubt, a different breed than cable guys or anyone else. They have the reputation of being nerds, which means that they, stereotypically, make more money, dress worse and have a vast encyclopedic knowledge of fantasy worlds based on books, movies or other stories that come to us through the magic cable. We treat computers with a reverence that we don’t employ toward our other appliances. Maybe it’s a relative newness thing. Maybe when the idea of home refrigeration was still in its infancy, the fridge guys all wore short-sleeve white button downs and knew what the real trouble was with Tribbles. One popular, giant chain electronics store, realizing their reputation, makes their tech guys wear the uniform of the IT office man, but they added a police-like badge to the ensemble (again, a good PR move, since without our iPhones within a five foot radius, many of us feel like we’re in jail).

We love and rely heavily on our computers, increasingly more so with each passing year, and yet know almost nothing about how they actually function. Computers are like Catholicism in the Middle Ages. Nobody but the priest spoke Latin, so if he said you were going to hell unless you break danced, ate halibut on Tuesdays and weren’t married by age thirteen, who were we to argue? Even with the built-in reverence we have for the computer guys, they don’t have the same sense of moral superiority that the cable guys do…probably because they don’t have the orange cones. They might treat their computer repair time schedules in much the same laissez-faire manner as the cable guys, but since none of us actually know how long it takes to fix a motherboard, or even what a motherboard even really is, who can say for sure?

On the whole, the cable guys take the cake on the vast and multi-hued spectrum of American tradesmen douche-baggery, as evidenced by their continued use of the orange cone. Fuck that orange cone. The next time you see that cone, steal it. I dare you.