Aug 15, 2006

HACKING ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
COPENHAGEN, Denmark: "What a lousy flight," I remark to a colleague.

"I was terrified," she replies.

Nervous fliers don't make it long in this trade, let alone 20 years. "What gives?" I ask.

"A man jumped off the plane," the former USA Today reporter tells me. "Just before takeoff, he popped out of his seat and raced back into the terminal. He had no carryon ... and no checked luggage."

"On an international flight?"

"Exactly. The stuff of terrorism. Security chased him down and questioned him. He checked out OK, but the attendants matched every bag with a passenger down the left aisle. That's why we sat on the ground so long."

"How did you find this out?"

"I saw the pilot run down the aisle. So I followed. An old reporter trick."

I blush. I too started as a news cub, ducking under police tape and bulling into closed meetings. But Jim McClure of The Oxford Times wisely steered me towards features. "Your strength is storytelling, not pounding the pavement," he announced, ten years ago. "Plus, you don't know shorthand or parliamentary procedure or thing one about British politics."

Oh, how I scowled. Yet the old bear was right.

Case in point: this very trip. I edited a French phrasebook, watched Ice Age: The Meltdown and exercised my fabled transport-sleeping skills. My colleague sat wide-eyed and braced for the bomb.

I'm not proud, but I am rested.

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