Sky Ops Surprise: That one time I was an under-cover agent

The goddamned rivets blew my cover.

For nine months, I ran a quiet operation. I blended in, asked around a little, mostly kept to myself, just watching. I was on assignment with, well, let’s just say a loosely affiliated group of big brains who wanted answers. 

It was an information seeking mission. It was never supposed to get dangerous. So when I found myself mid-mayday on a plane plummeting toward the earth, I got to thinking how life isn’t exactly fair.

Little did I know that was just the beginning… 

(to keep reading, click here.)


Inside Southwest 812.

Extraordinary experiences call for extraordinary stories. I learned that four years ago after I lived through an April Fool’s Day emergency landing on Southwest Flight 812

I was in grad school at the time, studying airport security, among other things. I’d planned a course paper for my narrative theory class that would translate my research about emotions in airport security lines (see here) into creative nonfiction. After I learned what it feels like to plummet 26,000 feet in four minutes, I knew my paper would have to change. 

On a lark–partly to impress my professor who had a strong penchant for spy stories and detective novels, and partly because wacky ideas sound reasonable to the sleep deprived–I retooled my story as if I were an under cover agent. The premise is that the emergency landing blows my “cover” and I recount surveillance techniques, what it’s like to be tormented by the “Inquisition Squad,” and how I eventually got out of hot water and back to work.

Using performative writing and autoethnographic techniques, I wrote an essay that feels more like a blog post than a scholarly article. (Although rest assured, there’s plenty of nerd work toward the end.) I’m thrilled to report the piece, entitled “Sky Ops Surprise: When Near-Death Experience Exposes Undercover Ethnography” was just published today in the journal Departures in Critical Qualitative Research.

My 48 hours in Germany a few years ago included reenacting the events of Southwest 812. That was something.

I’m proud of the piece, not only because it shares one of my most interesting life experiences, but because it was so damn fun to write. Even the scholarly bits where I talk about the ethics of speaking for others and co-opting narratives after having my story re-envisioned by a German filmmaker (yes, seriously).

Please read it (click here) and let me know what you think!


NaBloPoMo May 2015
May 1– To selfie or not to selfie
May 2- Helping things grow
May 3- All the feels
May 4- When your imagination wears you out
May 5- ‘How Porcupines Make Love’: Because, why not?
May 6- A man who makes me laugh
May 7- That elusive quality of nature

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