It's the kind of question every father of a 16-year-old son fears:
"Dad, have you ever heard of coning?"
It used to be, "Can I borrow the car keys?" Now it's questions about random bits of pop culture.
Get it right and you look like a too-cool, Ed Hardy-wearing dad who doesn't know how to act his age. Get it wrong and you're the out-of-touch geezer who gets way too excited about a double-header of "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune."
I chose the latter.
"No, Brian. What's coning?"
"Coning is the new planking."
That helped a lot. I knew about planking.
For the uninitiated, planking is the act of laying down straight as a wooden plank with arms at your side on top of a public object while someone snaps a photo. The stranger the object used for a perch, the better. The more difficult the placement, the cooler the planking. The photographic evidence is crucial. To borrow a phrase, if a planking happens in a forest and no one is there to shoot it, it never really happened.
For a few laughs, go ahead and waste a few moments by running the term through a photo search engine. You'll see goofballs laying on top of statues, on an empty shelf in a grocery store milk freezer, in between two NASCAR race cars. I saw one where a guy bridged the humps on two camels that were taking a siesta. Another got on top of a helicopter's rotor blade.
It's pointless and stupid and, when done well, entirely hilarious.
Planking is a distant prank cousin to forking, in which hundreds of white plastic forks are embedded tines-up in someone's lawn. Think of it as a miniature Forkhenge.
Coning takes the joke and makes the stunt less redeeming but more edible.
Here's the way it goes: A customer orders an ice cream cone at a fast-food drive-thru. Unsuspecting fast food employee attempts to hand the cone to the customer. Customer grabs only the cold ice cream, jams it in his mouth and drives off, leaving the drive-thru employing holding the cone.
Told you it was stupid. Real frat boy stuff.
Where it turns into borderline performance art is in the variations. In one You Tube video, a driver takes out a spoon, drizzles some chocolate and starts dining on the ice cream at the window as the worker holds the cone. In another, he hands a cone purchased at another restaurant to the employee and takes the new one before driving off. My favorite: the driver takes two fingers, dips them in the ice cream, smears them on his cheek like war paint, leaves the cone behind.
The You Tube years have been rough on the drive-thru industry. Four years ago, a video went viral of a kid in a knit cap rapping his order at McDonald's as his friend beat-boxed in the background:
I need a double cheeseburger, hold the lettuce.
Don't be frontin' son, no seeds on the bun.
We be up in this drive thru, ordering for two.
I've got a craving for a No. 9, like my shoe.
I need some chicken up in here in this hizzle,
For rizzle my mizzle I need some salt on my frizzles.
After that clip, it was open season for anyone with a camera to goof on workers at fast-food windows.
Which brings me around to my son's question.
Yes, I have now heard of coning. And coning is funny. Unless you are the person serving ice cream at the window. For them, ice cream stunts become just another reminder of working at a hard job with too much stress for too little pay.
Stick to the cutlery, kid. Everyone loves to fork around.