Every profession has its basic tenets. In journalism, they are: Never go on vacation; No whistling in the newsroom, and – perhaps most important – never, ever say “Boy, it sure is quiet out there...”
We received the latter comment from a reader early Sunday morning. Our reaction, driven home by far too many years of practice in the Scribbling Arts, was visceral – jaw clenching, finger-flexing, rapid-fire sotto vocce recitation of “No, no, no, NO… don’t say that.”
But it was too late. Pandora had opened her box.
We apprised our correspondent of their violation of our superstition and, of course, we were met with a healthy dose of skepticism. “C’mon,” they wrote, “what can happen?”
We listed the possibilities in order, as they came to mind: “Earthquake – 4.5;” “Arrival of Coronavirus in California;” and, Heaven help us – “Helicopter crash.”
To that point the weekend quiet had been marred only by a series of automotive assaults on unsuspecting fire hydrants, the New Normal of house and car burglaries in some areas, and some random police actions.
But then, boom, our visions were fulfilled in the most horrific of ways. That our prediction of a localized temblor went unrealized came as no consolation – you just never, ever say things are quiet out there.
Lafayette’s former city manager, Steven Falk, tweeted this casual observation as the bad news crested on what up to that point had been an inoffensive day: “Sunday is supposed to be a slow news day,” he wrote. “but this is the not-slow-newsiest-Sunday I can remember.”
Anyone who has not worked in a Cynicism Factory – aka an American Newsroom – could not be expected to know or appreciate the maxims those of us who have have gradually come to regard as truth. Hopefully, now you do – and next time instead of remarking on how quiet things seem, we can just talk about the weather.