These Days, Even Photos Described In Words Are Funny.

Cooped up and craving distraction, this pandemic has tweaked the old adage that a ‘photo is worth a thousand laughs.’

So sheltered in place am I that I long for the days of travel — battered about by flight delays, luggage lost and berated by surly customs officers. On those trying days of an uncertain trip, the only source of laughter is your passport photo.  My passport photo looks like it should come with a the warning:  “Do not approach or attempt to apprehend.” Last time I renewed I got the ten-year passport because by the time it expires, I might actually look like that old man in the photo.

Irma Bombeck said it best:  “When you look like your passport photo, it’s time to go home.”

You’re probably wondering why newspapers insist on including the columnist’s headshot at the top of his 850-word opinion piece.  Because it gives the reader a target to spit on when he doesn’t like what you have to say.

Editors love a columnist’s photo.  Several use mine as the 50-point centre on the dart board in the lunch room. A few enjoy slowly, painfully cutting my head off, one little crop at a time.  I’m not kidding. Clip my photo today and compare it to the one they’ll be running a year from now and all you’ll see will be two flaring nostrils and a quivering upper lip.

I have had my own column photo mailed back to me by readers with a black eye inked in with a magic marker, a missing front tooth, a Salvador Dali moustache and an unhappy face with the edges of my mouth turned down.  Strangely, this stopped after my mother passed away.

Simply put, photos can be funny as hell. A friend emailed me a photo of a spanking new electric car charging station… being operated by and attached to a hulking, diesel generator spewing black soot into the air. Priceless. Much like that photo of a freshly-painted solid white line that divides the road into two lanes going right over a dead possum. Somebody captioned it: “Not My Job.”

There’s a photo of a kids playground in an Ontario park wrapped in crime-scene yellow tape and posted: “COVID CLOSED.” There’s a sign board outside a New Orleans’ bar that reads: “Due to COVID 19 Sweet Caroline is BANNED! There will be no: Touching Hands, Reaching Out, Touching Me, Touching You! Thank You!”

There’s a photo a bottle of Corona beer in a fridge and all the bottles of Heineken next to it are wearing masks. I can still see that photo of the little, old lady in her front window holding a sign that says: “NEED MORE BEER!”  as volunteers at her door are holding boxes of food and toilet paper.

I have a small collection of photos on my wall that are funny but not meant to be. There’s President George W. Bush, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Military in his spiffy air cadet uniform prematurely declaring ‘an end to all major combat in Iraq.’  Two thousand body bags later, those medals on his flight jacket now looked a little tarnished.

There are photos of both Presidents Bush and Clinton looking through binoculars that still have the lens caps on.  (Make up your own metaphor here.)

There’s a photo of North Korean President Kim Jong-un using binoculars to track an ICBM missile travelling at a speed of 15,000 MPH!

There’s also a great ‘photoshop’ pic of a mischievous, little black cat sitting on Kim Jong-un’s desk and about to pounce on the big red button that will send an ICBM to mainland American in about 30 minutes.

My favourite political photo was taken in the 50s on Cuba’s only golf course at the time near Varadero Beach.   President Fidel Castro and the great revolutionary Che Guevara are putting out on the 18th green. They’re both quite focused on Che stroking the ball;  they’re both wearing army fatigues and military berets and they’re both holding putters where their automatic rifles would normally be.  I can’t help thinking how history would have been altered if both of them had received golf scholarships to an American university.

My favourite photo story is still the one about the elderly lady in a San Diego camera shop which I heard on Paul Harvey News.  The photographer behind the counter was getting a little exasperated as the woman poured out her life story and that of her much loved, long dead husband.  She had come in to have a very old photo of him touched up during the shop’s “Restoration Special” offer.

Finally she got around to discussing how she wanted the photo fixed.  The mole on his cheek had to go. Okay.  And that moustache, he looked so much more handsome without it. No problem.

She gushed over his good looks.  “He had such a thick, black head of hair which is covered up by that damn hat.” The hat would be removed.

“Do you have another photo of him?” asked the photographer.

“No, this is the only one I have” she replied.

“Then how will I know on which side to part his hair?” he asked.

“Oh, it’s been so long I forget,” she said, staring at the photo.

“But that shouldn’t matter,” she added, smiling and pleased that she had solved the problem.  “Because once you get his hat off, you’ll be able to see where the part is.” Some pictures are worth a thousand words and just as many laughs.


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