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Posted at 5:31 PM ET, 01/27/2011

The story behind the ice cream cone man

By Eric Athas

UPDATE: 1/28/11 at 1 p.m.

Zach Burroughs stopped by The Washington Post where he took readers' questions and snacked on some pistachio ice cream. Watch the video.

ORIGINAL POST: 1/27/11 at 5:31 p.m.

The man racing across 15th Street NW is in mid-stride, his striped dress shirt is untucked and splattered by sleet and snow. His left fist is clenched and his hair is speckled with snow. The look on his face says it all: focus, determination, pain.

Like a super-hero carrying a child from a burning building, Zach Burroughs clutches an ice cream cone from a pizza shop.

Ice cream cone guy

Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post

The snowstorm that swept through the Washington region Wednesday evening produced dozens of remarkable images of stranded commuters and downed trees. But the shot of Burroughs and his treat, captured by Washington Post photographer Ricky Carioti, was different from anything else.

Now Burroughs's quest for cream has gone viral. So, what's the story behind the photo?

It started at about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday when Carioti was editing pictures on his laptop at The Post. Two editors asked him if he could snap some weather shots. They needed photos for the Web and the front page of the paper.

“I was like, ‘it’s not going to be great right now, it’s not even snowing yet,’” Carioti told me. As he left The Post building at 15th and L streets NW, a sleet-snow mix began to intensify.

“I see this guy running down the street, no jacket, and he has something in his hand,” Carioti says. “So I just focused my camera on him and I just kept shooting him as he was running right toward me. Then I realized, holy cow, he’s got an ice cream cone in his hand.”

Carioti took a quick look at the pictures on his camera and then chased after Burroughs to get his name. Minutes later, the photo was on the washingtonpost.com home page and eventually ended up above the fold on the front page of the newspaper.

Ice cream cone guy

In the newsroom, my colleagues and I had many questions for Zach Burroughs of Arlington, as I’m sure many readers did.

Why was he buying ice cream in the middle of a snowstorm? Where was he running with it? Why wasn't he wearing a coat?

It turns out, we weren't the only ones. Burroughs is all over the Web. There's even a meme on BuzzFeed.com with people dropping his photo onto such backgrounds as Antoine Dodson and the movie Jurassic Park.

The page asks: "Why Is This Dude Running Through A Snowstorm Holding An Ice Cream Cone?"

“I don’t even like ice cream that much,” said Burroughs, an attorney who works on 15th Street NW. He says his coworkers had been eating ice cream earlier in the day and he just couldn’t resist.

Besides, he thought, Pizza Autentica is right across the street and they serve pistachio-flavored gelato – his favorite. And the last time he looked out the window, he had seen only light snow falling, so he assumed there would be no need for a coat.

Once he arrived at street level, a sleet and snow mix was falling heavily, quickly and horizontally. But Burroughs was determined.

“They have pistachio ice cream and I love pistachio. So whether it was snowing or not, I was going to go get it,” says 25-year-old Burroughs. “As you can see from my face in the picture, I wasn’t much enjoying the snow smacking me in the face.”

Later that night, Burroughs’s roommate spotted him on washingtonpost.com and woke him up. And when Burroughs walked into work on Thursday, a coworker informed him of his front page fame.

I asked what he thought of his photo going viral.

"I didn't expect it to catch on," he says. "It's kind of funny, I'm amused."

Burroughs received text messages from friends who saw the image.

But I still wondered one more thing. Was the trudge worth it?

“I’ll tell you what, after I got warmed up, it actually was really good."

MORE:

-The Going Out Guide has a list of best bets for ice cream during a snowstorm.

-Reaction on Twitter:

By Eric Athas  | January 27, 2011; 5:31 PM ET
Categories:  More on the story  
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Comments

I noticed this photo, laughed heartily, and immediately posted it on my Facebook page, where a bunch of other people shared in the enjoyment of this absurd scene. Thanks to Ricky Carioti for his quick eye, and to Eric Athas for decoding what I'd been wondering for two days. And--of course--to Zach Burroughs for following his ice cream dream!

Posted by: anastasia2 | January 28, 2011 1:18 AM | Report abuse

I noticed this photo, laughed heartily, and immediately posted it on my Facebook page, where a bunch of other people shared in the enjoyment of this absurd scene. Thanks to Ricky Carioti for his quick eye, and to Eric Athas for decoding what I'd been wondering for two days. And--of course--to Zach Burroughs for following his ice cream dream

Posted by: anastasia2 | January 28, 2011 1:19 AM | Report abuse

I noticed this photo, laughed heartily, and immediately posted it on my Facebook page, where a bunch of other people shared in the enjoyment of this absurd scene. Thanks to Ricky Carioti for his quick eye, and to Eric Athas for decoding what I'd been wondering for two days. And--of course--to Zach Burroughs for following his ice cream dream

Posted by: anastasia2 | January 28, 2011 1:19 AM | Report abuse

I saw this photo and showed it to my wife commenting on how one picture says a thousand words about what a moron is.

Posted by: BrRandall | January 28, 2011 6:27 AM | Report abuse

Guess its better than a dude running through a fire with a gas can.

Posted by: UnknownHenson | January 28, 2011 8:04 AM | Report abuse

For some reason, the fact that he is an attorney is completely unsurprising.

During next August's heat wave, I hope to see a picture of Mr. Burroughs, sweating profusely, sprinting across a street holding a steaming bowl of chili.

Posted by: mr_bill_10 | January 28, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I loved this photo and I hope Mr. Burroughs' 15 minutes of fame is all good!

Posted by: conchfc | January 28, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

This is the way ice cream should be. Single scoop, single flavor on a sugar cone. Hooray for Mr. Burroughs!

Posted by: FrankIBC | January 28, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

And none of those weird brown sludges from Ben & Jerry's, either.

Posted by: FrankIBC | January 28, 2011 10:38 AM | Report abuse

In the movie, Mr. Burroughs will be played by Matt Damon.

Posted by: FrankIBC | January 28, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

the photo link and the story link on the home page link to Carolyn Hax's chat, please fix!

Posted by: jessdes | January 28, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

BrRandall said, "I saw this photo and showed it to my wife commenting on how one picture says a thousand words about what a moron is."

And then I bet your wife said, "But that isn't a picture of you!"

Posted by: nuzuw | January 28, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to point out that Mr. Burroughs is not licensed as an attorney in DC.

http://www.dcbar.org/find_a_member/results.cfm

Posted by: LawDancer | January 28, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

If I had the time, I'd merge Ice-Cream-Guy with Sad Keanu, and then have Sad Keanu morph into Happy Keanu. But I'm really too busy. Working.

Posted by: kbockl | January 28, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

@LawDancer:

Mr. Burroughs is only 25, which means he probably went straight into law school from undergrad and graduated last spring. If that's the case, he probably took his bar exam for another state (no one really takes DC), and then got his results a few months ago and has gotten sworn in for another state bar or is awaiting the swearing-in ceremony. After that, if he decides to waive into the DC bar, it takes about 8 to 12 months and aroung $800. If he works for the federal government, there's no need to waive into DC; might as well wait until he decides to go to a different employer who will pay for him to waive into DC.

The only reason I know this is I had the same situation as he did coming out of law school.

Posted by: pathfinder8 | January 28, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

@LawDancer:

I forgot to say that he probably took his bar exam for another state in July 2010 and the reason no one takes the DC Bar Exam is that DC allows for reciprocity from almost every other state in the US, if not all of them.

Posted by: pathfinder8 | January 28, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

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