Natalee's Hometown

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As promised, more behind the scenes:

I am in Birmingham, Alabama on the Natalee Holloway (search) story. Getting here was the usual airline challenge since it required three different flights for me on Sunday. As always, it was not simple. The first flight was more than an hour late — the flight was missing a crewmember — which meant making the second flight an impossibility... or at least so I calculated. The second flight I had ticketed was on another airline in another terminal.

Switching planes is time consuming, but if you have to switch terminals, you need lots and lots of time. Switching terminals also means another security check and since we often buy one-way tickets, it is not unusual for us to get those "SSSS's."

I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that before I even boarded the first plane, I spent more than three hours on the phone and standing in line at the airport. Because of my time problems — since my first flight had a missing crewmember — I bought two tickets and got two boarding passes for two different airlines with two different security gates going to two different cities minutes apart as I debated which route to gamble on. I was even "lucky" and got the SSSS special security search on one boarding pass for one airline so that I got my bags completely emptied (and I ended up not going on that flight, so it turned out just to be practice. I am getting very good at just standing there while my bags are emptied.)

My departure for Birmingham was so frantic... and I confess my nerves got raw... but I reminded myself that I was in public and people recognize me so I could not reveal irritation. It would not look good. I had to pretend I was enjoying myself but I was frustrated trying to figure out what to do to get to Alabama. Which airline? Which flight? Which connection was I most likely to make? What if I got stuck in New York City? That personal reminder that I was in public had little effect on me — I figured people would understand that the airline's dysfunction "gets to" passengers from time to time. Plus, other passengers were also irritated — most figure if you pay for a ticket that the airline owes it to you to schedule a crew. Weather delays are a different situation.

What eventually did get me to relax and not be annoyed was the thought, "this airline irritation sure beats Beth Holloway's problem." Her pain and that of all of Natalee's family show my annoyance about flying delays for what it is: insignificant.

As an aside, I finally opted for a flight that took me through LaGuardia airport. I switched planes and had very little time, but I was starving after almost six hours of trying to complete the first leg of my journey and no food. I decided to gamble that I had five minutes before plane No. 2 took off and grabbed a hot dog on the tier near my gate. Standing in line in front of me at the hot dog stand was U. S. Senator Norm Coleman (search), R-Minn. We had a quick talk — including my jab that I hope the Packers beat his Vikings this fall. (Although I confess that I do root for the Vikings when Packers get eliminated... it's a Midwest thing.)

Incidentally, I like to see politicians doing "normal" things. Senator Coleman was alone (no entourage), standing in line waiting for a hot dog.

The reason for our show's trip to Alabama will be obvious during Monday night's show.

If you are reading this blog after 2 p.m. ET, we will already be back on a plane. We are going to do our show out of Atlanta bureau tonight. And tomorrow? Well, since we seem to like planes so much, we are doing what many of you have asked: Flying back to Aruba (search).

Finally, I have just added some pictures to the blog. Click on the links in the photo box above to check out my photo essays. The pics will tell you why we are in Alabama. In case you can't open them, here is why: Beth and Jug have left Aruba for three days and we met them in Alabama to interview them. Beth is leaving tomorrow to return to Aruba. We will air the interview Monday night... hope you watch.

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