The fat man in the brown suit stormed down the stairs. Everyone could hear the footsteps and the swearing. The studio door swung open, but was prevented from slamming against the wall by the man’s crushing grip on the door knob. His furious eyes reflected the glow of the unfortunate cigar he was gnawing, slurping, mutilating—everything but smoking. Every face in the room tried to avoid his glare.
His sleek leather shoes dodged the cables spreading like veins across the pale floor, as he stomped with practiced silence over to the young man in the green tie. A bead of sweat rolled down the young man’s cheek, beneath his headset microphone, before diving from his chin onto the thin clipboard he held with trembling hands. The fat man leaned in, almost touching the young man’s face, tore the cigar from his teeth and growled in a whisper, “What the f*** is he doing?”
The young man removed his headset and tied to come up with an answer.
“Did you put him up to this?” asked the fat man.
“No! No, I didn’t know anything about it,” said the young man.
The fat man scrutinised him with a long glare. “Humph.”
The fat man’s rage reddened his round, stubbly cheeks, making him seem not entirely unlike Elmo, especially if Elmo smelled of soy sauce and had a scar on his forehead where an Atlantic City pimp had struck him with a cane. He turned to the board with the big map, where one camera, two lights and a boom microphone focused on a supremely confident man in a neat blue suit, who was explaining how recent local snowfall was due to a low pressure system. The fat man crushed his cigar between his chubby fingers.
“What did he just say?” he said in a stifled roar.
The young man looked down at his clipboard. “Hectopascals.”
The young man cleared his throat. Another bead of sweat descended his cheek. “He uh… he said ‘hectopascals’.”
“What the f*** are hectopascals?”
“Well, uh, I think they have to do with—”
“I don’t care what they are,” snarled the fat man. “Why the f*** is he talking about them?” He shoved the cigar into his mouth. “The second he’s off air, I want to see him in my office.”
The young man nodded, shaking another droplet of sweat onto his clipboard. The fat man reached beneath his ample belly and wrenched his belt, as though it were the belt’s fault his shirt kept coming loose, and then turned and marched silently from the studio.
“You smug prick! Your job is to smile, point to the map, and tell people either to wear a hat or carry an umbrella—that’s it! No one wants to know why it’s snowing. If I ever hear you use the word hectopank… hecto…whatever the hell it is, you’re fired! Got it?”
He wasn’t fired.
Weathermen were on the way out. Uninteresting. Untrustworthy. Redundant. With one magical word—hectopascals—faith was restored. Not only did weathermen keep their jobs, but they became wizards, keepers of sacred knowledge, gods descended to enlighten every poor soul subject to the rain and wind and snow.
Financial reporters took their own shot at glory by incorporating terms like “moving average”, “index” and “volatility” into their segments. It didn’t have the same effect.
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