A: Hey Leah?

Me: Yeah?

A: I see your avatar is wearing a traffic cone… why is that?

Me: Well-

A: Like, please don’t tell me you’ve worn a traffic cone before in real life…?

Me: Uhm, I have, but-

A: Why, why would you do this to yourself, Leah…?

Me: Because it all started from a meme. Now just shut up and let me explain-

A: Ugh, kids these days…

Me: audible silence

Now, I’ll admit that this meme is kinda strange, but it all started when I was in the Fabric Community Discord Server (or Fabricord for short) back in 2020.

There was a prominent member called i509VCB (i5 for short), who’d later go on to found Quilt with a couple of other people. His avatar is nothing but unique—a rotating red traffic cone stuck between two escalator railings:

(It was originally an animated GIF, but now all I can find is a static image. Lame.)

And… can we just appreciate how surreal this is? The sight of a red traffic cone, with two railings sliding past it, applying torque to it and making it rotate at a constant speed, indefinitely. There’s a mesmerizing quality to the image, no matter how absurd or pointless it is. Something about a plastic conical object spinning in a perfect loop, over and over again, activates the funny nerve in our primate brain.

And such, some people in Fabricord started copying him. We started adding traffic cones to our own avatars, and naming ourselves with silly nicknames containing “cone”. I even altered my old (pre-trans) avatar to include a traffic cone as well, but I’m not exactly proud of the person that avatar belongs to anymore, so I’ll not display it here. In the end, lots of people got on the bandwagon, and everyone, for a time, was enamored with the traffic cone.

However, the traffic cone fad, like all fads, died down sometime around 2021. That’s the cruel reality of fads—they’re just ephemeral, one-of-a-kind occurrences that quickly get replaced by other fads or other more important things going on in a community. (Fabricord in 2021 has… a lot of things going on, something I will not touch on today.)

But I remained enamored with the traffic cone. When everyone else has taken the traffic cone off, I kept it on my old avatar. Somehow, the traffic cone made my crude stick figure pop out more as an interesting entity, and without it, my avatar became oddly spacious and incomplete. It lodged onto me as an important part of my internet persona, somehow.

Where we are now! :3

And so, I became a hold-out of the traffic cone. In a way, I kinda even revived the traffic cone. As i5 left Quilt to focus more on his work on Wayland compositors (oh wow, that sounds cool) and I gradually climbed up the Quilt Management Echelon, people started calling me “the cone girl” due to my close association with it. Some even just call me “cone.” Some people started wearing traffic cones in their avatars again, who weren’t there during the traffic cone fad in Fabricord.

In a way, I’m pretty surprised that I’ve clung to traffic cones for this long, but I’m happy to see it picking up steam again. After all, a big part in life is forging your own path, and letting an icon of yourself flow in people’s memories, isn’t it? I guess traffic cones serve as that icon for me, for now, though it is still admittedly pretty bizarre. :p