How I Write

By Dave Fox
Still Somewhere Over the Atlantic Ocean

When I blog, I type. Why? Because I can backspace. If I write in ink, all the Whiteout messes up my monitor.

Save your notepads! You might find yourself referring back to them for inspiration years after you’ve filled them with ideas.

But when I am traveling, I blog on paper. I carry small notebooks with me everywhere. If I’m at a café somewhere, I might write an entire blog entry, verbatim, to be retyped later. If I’m out on the street, I just scribble brief notes to jog my memory.

I recommend this to people in my travel journaling classes: Always carry a small notebook with you when traveling. What I neglect to say sometimes, however, is also carry a pen.

Yes, that’s common sense – which is probably why I forgot to do so myself.

So here I am, in hour six of an eight-and-a-half hour United Airlines flight from Chicago to Paris, seized by inspiration, when all of a sudden, panic washes over me. I have no pen. What is a travel writer to do?

I make my way back to the galley. I ask the flight attendant if she has a pen I could borrow. I honestly do mean “borrow.” I have every intention of returning it. I can steal one from my hotel in a few hours.

Noticing me standing there patiently, waiting for her to finish what she’s doing, she looks up with an annoyed expression. “Can I get you something?” she asks.

“Would you happen t have a pen I could borrow?”


She answers definitively, mere milliseconds after the question has left my mouth. She does not check the area around her. She does not look in her pocket. No.



“Okay,” I say. “Sorry.”

Yes. I really do say, “Sorry.” Why do I apologize for my question? I have no clue. But I do – as if I have just asked her for a kidney.

“Doesn’t anyone around you have a pen?” she asks.

It’s 11 p.m. Chicago time. It’s 6 a.m. Paris time. The people around me are sleeping fitfully. She wants me to wake them up. It is easier than her spending seven seconds to see if there might be a pen somewhere in the galley.

I sulk my way back up the aisle, back to my seat, and fire up my laptop. The glow of the screen wakes up the guy next to me. Sorry dude. (And, hey, stop reading over my shoulder.)

I tried to use frequent flier miles to upgrade to business class, but business class was full.

I bet if I were in business class, the flight attendants there would have spent seven seconds trying to locate a pen for me.

Published on Friday, May 11, 2007

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