Wednesday, January 28, 2004

AS I WATCHED yet another irate passenger yell at a Southwest Airlines baggage-claim staffer on A&E's "Airline," yet another reality TV show that has me hooked, I thought (a) I used to be that passenger, and (b) I'm currently that baggage-claim staffer.

You know you're in trouble when you're identifying with the enemy, and when you're pursuing strained analogies. But a copy chief, if you'll forgive the on-topic digression, is in a similar position. The customer/reporter/assignment editor is usually right, the customer sometimes yells, and it's understandable that the customer just doesn't understand how something so seemingly easy can get screwed up so often. How hard is it to move a suitcase from one ramp to another one? How hard is it to type "Vermont," and not "New Hampshire," when you know damn well you mean Vermont? Not very, but, well, you wouldn't understand. The sum is more than its parts.

Strained analogy No. 2: Doing a copy-chief job is like having 1,000 baseballs simultaneously dropped on you -- and then being asked why in the world you didn't knock ball No. 778 (which, after all, was right in your strike zone) out of the park.

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