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Reporters on the Job

A WOMAN'S PLACE: In Saudi Arabia, a woman who is not related to a man is not supposed to sit next to him in the front seat of a car. While reporting on the Saudi political reform movement (page 1), Catherine Taylor was offered a ride to a meeting. "One of the reformists came by to pick me up, but before I got into the car, I asked him where I should sit," says Catherine.

"For me, to sit in the back seat seemed rude, as if I was treating him like a taxi driver. But I didn't want to commit a cultural faux pas. He became very animated and gestured wildly, assuring me it was fine to sit in the front seat and that the rule was silly. He added that he didn't care if the police pulled him over, that he was ready to face the consequences. I settled into the front feeling like a law-breaking rebel. That doesn't take much in Saudi Arabia."

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On another occasion, Catherine was desperate to get on the Internet and didn't have a connection in her hotel room. "I scoured the streets for an Internet cafe that accepted women and couldn't find one, so I breathed deeply and entered a men-only Internet cafe. I asked if it was possible to quickly check my e-mail. The cafe owner looked around him quite anxiously and then agreed that as he had no other customers it would be OK, but I must be quick. I had just logged in when he rushed up, red faced, and asked me to leave: 'I'm sorry, Miss,' he said, 'but the police are coming.' "

GUNS AND ROMANCE: Reporter Ken Ernhofer went to a shooting range to interview gun owners for today's story about Canada's gun registry (page 7). He met a couple there on a date. "It seemed like a strange date to me but the woman said she really enjoyed the feeling of power." Ken later asked his wife if she'd consider such a date. "She said, 'No!' " he says.

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot