How to hitch a ride on a coast guard boat

Cmdr. Louis Renault*, an assistant to the Commandant.

Explain to Renault the story you're trying to write (after all, you're a journalist, writing a story about the Coast Guard). Renault will write down this information, then tell you he's calling Cmdr. Bill Kelso in Washington. Renault will explain the project to Kelso and have him call you.

Which Kelso won't do. So you call Kelso. He'll vaguely recall your name but nothing else. Explain to Kelso the story you're trying to write. Kelso will agree with what Renault said: "Great story idea!" But your man is Lt. Dan Taylor in the Boston office. Not to worry, Kelso writes everything down and he'll contact Taylor, explain the project to Taylor and tell Taylor to call you.

Which Taylor won't do. So you call Taylor. He'll vaguely recall your name and the publication, but nothing else. Explain to Taylor the story you're trying to write. Taylor will absolutely love the idea. He'll take his notes and hand them off to Petty Officer Patty Pyle. Pyle, Taylor says, will call you in the next day or two.

After three days, Pyle won't have called. So you call Petty Officer Patty Pyle. Say who you are and why you're calling, and Petty Officer Pyle will say: "Yeah?"

A long silence will follow--until you realize it's actually a question. Breathe deeply and ask for an update. Petty Officer Patty Pyle will vaguely recall nothing about you or the project. Explain the story you're trying to write. Petty Officer Pyle won't write any of this down and will seem indifferent to the idea, but she will say, "Let me see what I can do. I'll call you tomorrow."

Nobody calls. So you dial the Coast Guard's Boston headquarters. Petty Officer Walter O'Reilly will answer. Sternly declare yourself and demand Petty Officer Pyle's extension. O'Reilly will offhandedly mention that he's the point man on this now. "Remind me, what kind of story are you working on?" Scream. No, don't do that. Explain the story you're trying to write. O'Reilly will write all of this down and say, "Sounds like a good story. I think I can get this done by early next week. I'll call you on Friday."

Friday comes. Friday goes.

E-mail Petty Officer O'Reilly on Monday. Ask for an update. Within minutes you will receive a reply.

From Lt. Ben Willard.

Willard writes, "Just trying to get a better feel for what you are interested in to ensure the right folks are available when you come and visit." Have an apoplectic fit. No, don't really. Explain the story you're trying to write. Willard will reply that he loves the story idea and the folks there will have it set up soon.

And they will.

Petty Officer O'Reilly will call two days later with a day for you to visit.

Rejoice. Petty Officer Walter O'Reilly--via Lt. Ben Willard, via Petty Officer Walter O'Reilly, via Petty Officer Patty Pyle, via Lt. Dan Taylor, via Cmdr. Bill Kelso, via Cmdr. Louis Renault, an assistant to the Commandant--has gotten you a ride on a Coast Guard boat.

After confirming, O'Reilly will say, "Just to be clear, though, can you give me a sense of what you're looking for in your story?"

(*True story, fake names.)

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