It’s the day before Thanksgiving, which means that cable news channels are running a continuous loop of generally useless day-before-Thanksgiving travel reports, all of which can be summarized — as they can every year - pretty much as follows: Driving? You’re screwed. Flying? Also screwed. Train? Unless you already have your ticket — screwed.
And yet the cable networks have teams of reporters stationed at transportation hubs around the country, struggling to find new ways to tell us the same old, same old.
On CNN, reporter Allan Chertoff has been lurking at New York City’s Penn Station since dawn, accosting travelers and landing groundbreaking man-on-the-train-platform interviews such as this, with one Jack McNamara — maybe, seven years old.
Chertoff: We have passengers over here who are getting ready to get on board. John and Jack McNamara, heading to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Jack, looking to me like you’re pretty excited to get on the train?
Chertoff: Have you ridden the train before?
Chertoff: I see you’re a big Thomas (the Train) fan. I guess maybe you’re ready to work on the rail some day. Would you like to be an engineer?
And it only got more insightful from there, as Chertoff — suddenly morphing into an Amtrak spokesman — tried to convince young Jack’s dad to partake of Amtrak’s on-board turkey dinner option (which he also pushed on others passengers later in the day).
Chertoff: John, did you know you can actually have your turkey dinner on board?
John McNamara: I didn’t know that.
Chertoff: Amtrak is ready to serve 7.5 tons of turkey, 22,000 servings of cranberries. Stuck on a train? No problem. Have your Thanksgiving dinner on board.
Soledad O’Brien, chiming in from the CNN studio, sounded skeptical. “Boy, I’m very curious to taste that particular turkey. I wonder if that’s any good, you know.” Chertoff assured her, “I’m sure they do a good job. A lot of chefs hard at work.”
An hour later Chertoff cornered Cassandra Young preparing to hop an Amtrak to Potsburg, New York and informed her, “You can have Thanksgiving dinner also on board the train… there is the option for those who do want to eat on board…”
It was barely after 7 a.m. and CNN’s Miles O’Brien already seemed weary of the ceaseless travel talk, curtly summarizing the scene at America’s airports as follows: “The airports will be filled with barefoot people stuffing hair gel into baggies.”
With all of the dull repetition, who can blame cable news anchors for getting a little giddy? We noticed two bizarre exchanges this morning among the crew on Fox News’ Fox & Friends — both involving Steve Doocy offering an oddball anecdote and Brian Kilmeade responding with a questionable pop-culture reference. To wit:
Steve Doocy: “I was in the airport down in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. They had a sign thing in a case, saying do not bring these things on board. They showed a stick of dynamite. That makes sense but they also showed a chainsaw. How many people, you know, listen, if you are going to grandma’s house today, she can do her own tree work…”
Brian Kilmeade: “‘The Waltons,’ they lived off that mountain. They worked in lumber and would travel with a chainsaw, that John Boy.”
Ninety minutes later, Doocy shared this very special holiday remembrance, courtesy of a viewer e-mail.
Doocy: “We got an e-mail from somebody saying, in 1999 my husband deep fried a turkey in peanut oil in the backyard… Somehow the propane tank shut-off valve malfunctioned. The tank turned into a flame-thrower, shooting up three stories to the eaves of our roof and caught the house on fire. A fireman said that had Kevin, the husband, been standing there when it happened, would have taken his head off!”
Kilmeade: “Sounds like the European Vacation.”
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.
You like fire stories? Be sure to tune in to CNN tonight for Paula Zahn’s special report on “Turkey Fryer Dangers” — this, just five days after her special report on “Furniture Fires” — which she managed to tease between day-before-Thanksgiving-travel reports as follows: “Tonight at 8, deep-fried, delicious and dangerous? Before you cook your Thanksgiving turkey, don’t miss our eye-opening special report.”