You get a lot of stupid assignments in journalism, mainly because a lot of editors have no imagination. They also have a herd mentality, i.e. if others are doing it they have to do it, too. Even if their resources would be better spent doing something original.
Thus I wound up sitting and sleeping in a cold car during much of the February to April ’93 Branch Davidian standoff, in a long line of similar cars on a two-lane back road occupied by similarly bored journalists similarly assigned to be part of the totally similar herd. The only break in the scrum blockaded front and rear by the state police was to leave the car now and then and go hang out with the TV guys in their heated satellite vans.
Fortunately we were too far away from the BD compound to have to listen to Billy Ray Cyrus sing Achy Breaky Heart, which the FBI insisted on loudspeakering into the compound hour after hour in a weird attempt to break the religious fanatics from their biblical fanaticism. Fat chance. We also were too far away even to see the ball of fire and the boiling black smoke when the compound finally went up and killed all those kids who were supposedly the whole point of the federal siege.
Reading this old Larry McMurtry piece brought it all back. The waste of time. The cold. The boredom. The impossibility of learning anything that everyone else didn’t already know. It’s one reason I consider myself a recovering journalist. And gratefully at that.