The Two Most Dreaded Words
March 2003

by James Colburn

ust when you think you're going to spend a quiet day at home, sitting in front of the fire, drinking some hot chocolate, you get a telephone call from your assignment editor and hear the two most dreaded words in the lexicon of photojournalism:


School's out, the Federal Government is closed, the subway system is kaput, there's three feet of snow on the ground and YOU have to shovel out the car just so that you can get your ass outside to take another stupid photograph of some dumb tourist from North Dakota that insists "This is nothing compared to the snow we get back home."

Look! There's the moron in his stupid knit cap doing his cross-country skiing routine back-and-forth in front of the US Capitol just so that he can get in tomorrow's paper that no one will see because the delivery man can't actually get the truck out of the
lot to get the paper started on its way to your front door so why the hell are you trudging around in snow up to your ass because the camera's batteries are going to fail anyway and even if you manage to get the picture of the cross-country skiing moron uploaded to the FTP site it'll only appear in the 4,000 copies of the paper that they'll be able to print because yesterday's delivery of newsprint was delayed by the snow storm that you're trying to photograph...

Look! There's the couple from the Florida Keys who swear that they've NEVER seen snow before in their lives and won't the kids be annoyed that they missed this trip and went to visit Grandma in San Diego where it's only 75 degrees and the kids were on the telephone last night complaining about who cold it was...

Look! There's Mr. Homeowner with his brand new Ford Expedition, stuck in the snow, blocking traffic at a major intersection because, as we all know, a 4x4 can easily plow it's way through a four foot drift...

Look! There's someone doing a silly live remote for the local TV station's Eyewitness News Weather Team Coverage Report standing in front of a eight foot tall wall of snow talking about how bad the weather is and how ill prepared the city was and how anyone with any sense stayed at home today in front of their fireplace drinking hot chocolate and don't for a moment think that a reporter is freezing her butt off standing in front of that eight foot wall of snow because the only person dumb enough to agree to do it is the intern that's been with the station for 5 weeks who'll be able to call her parents in Amarillo and tell them about her first REAL LIVE TV SPOT but even then it'll only be if she manages to survive until the 11 O'Clock News dressed in a wool coat and a fashion hat from Lord & Taylor...

Look! The cameraman for Channel Four has fallen over as stiff as a board because he's been up doing footage of cross country skiers skiing and Ford Expeditions blocking and fifth week interns standing in front of eight foot tall walls of snow and he's been doing it since one o'clock this morning starting at the county salt depot as they loaded up the trucks and why-oh-why did he forget those battery-powered electric socks today of all days...


Run if you hear those words. Make vomiting noises and insist that it's the flu. Do anything you can to STAY INSIDE!

© James Colburn
Contributing Writer


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