This is part four of a series. Parts 1-3 are below. I suggest reading this series from the start.
Being a reporter for The Anchorage Times turned out to be the way an airline pilot once explained his profession to me — hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer panic. Most of the work was dreary small-city stuff: a new ice cream shop opening, a speech by a visiting Danish dignitary, school board…. For a place supposedly as wild and wooly as Anchorage, Alaska, the reality was pretty tame.
The “seconds of sheer panic” that punctuated the boredom were more like days of genuine adventure. My editors insisted I accept an Arco-funded junket to the North Slope, to write a story about what life aboard an Arctic offshore oil rig was like. (The Times was the oil-industry shill, remember. We wrote the stories Big Oil wanted us to write.) Life aboard an arctic rig was amazingly deluxe, with a heated swimming pool and both steak and lobster on the menu every night.) The best part of that trip was suiting up for the helicopter ride out to the rig. They put me in a gigantic red neoprene suit made me look and feel like a Teletubby but that they said would keep me afloat, warm, and visible in the ice-punctuated sea for a few hours in case the chopper had to ditch en route. Finally, I was having some fun as a reporter in Alaska. But I kept sending those red envelopes Hong Kong. Every Friday, into one went my stories of the week with the same note: “I remain eager to be a reporter on your staff should an opening occur.” As it turned out, I could have been stuffing those red envelopes with toilet paper for all it mattered.