ONE of my junior colleagues was bemoaning the difficulty of getting straight answers out of people at Hong Kong press conferences these days. 'They've all had media training from public relations consultants, and they dodge all the sensitive questions,' he lamented. This is a tough problem, but it is not insurmountable, this wizened old hack advised him. You see, it doesn't matter what an interviewee says. It's how they say it that is revealing. Are they defensive, open, aggressive, scared, happy, sad, or all of the above? Is the answer sharp or stupid? Do they cross their fingers behind their backs when replying? The simplest way to demonstrate this principle is to ask the same question to a large number of the people who regularly appear in the pages of this newspaper. Now why exactly did that chicken cross the road? Albert Chan Wai-yip: Because it had a Canadian passport but forgot until it was too late, because we are all human, including chickens. Yaqub Khan: Because of racist evil sinners colonial scum. Tung Chee-hwa: I am perfectly willing to answer that question, but let me answer it in this way. We should all be proud to be Chinese. Especially those of us who are Chinese, but to an equal extent, those lesser persons who are not. Bill Clinton: Hillary and I have agreed that I should not answer any questions about chicks. Hong Kong Association of Disgruntled Expatriate Civil Servants: It had to leave, because, although it could operate perfectly well monolingually, as it had done for years, it was forced by a blatantly racist policy to learn a small minority language known as Cantonese, thus completely violating its human, I mean chicken, rights. President Suharto: I cannot tell you immediately but I want all Indonesians to be assured that I have set aside several billion dollars of taxpayers' money to a commission staffed by some of my finest children to find the answer. John Grisham: On a grey Chicago morning, a shivering fowl scuttled across Main Street. The terrified creature knew that if a major corporation was really out to get him, he would have to find help. As the chicken reached the other kerb, a bus arrived and out stepped Mitch Johnson, a young Yale law student. George Bush: I've got this chicken thing just like any red-blooded American. Believe you me, if it happened, you know I've told Babs we should have chicken more often. American thing. And roads. Lots of 'em. I'm all for 'em. So that's my feeling about it. Wei Jingsheng: The crossing is good but this does not mean that we should forget the thousands of other chickens who have yet to cross any road. Scully and Mulder: The chicken wanted to be out there. La La of the Teletubbies: Tinky huggy-bug chick-chick. Bird-flu expert Kenneth Shortridge: It was probably trying to get away from another chicken who was sneezing. Douglas Adams: The chicken had unfortunately chosen the precise moment when a Venusian garbage collector, drunk on power and pan-galactic gargle-blasters, sped through a time warp and knocked it into a seventh-dimension massage parlour. Macau Tourist Board: We just want people to know that it is in no way a safety issue, as the gangsters have specifically agreed not to target visiting poultry. Spice Girl Mel C: That's a hard one, I'll have to write it down. I got a pen in my boob tube somewhere, although there's not much spare room in there, know-what-a-mean, tee-hee!? Woody Allen: I think the important thing to note is this: would anyone criticise the chicken if it took one of its own chicks with it when it went? Jack Kevorkian: He was going to the slaughterhouse. Willingly. By his own choice. In his right mind. And, God willing, I would be there waiting for him with my little box of equipment, to release his soul to eternity. Hong Kong Hospital Authority: It was upset because medical staff put congee into its IV drip, mouthwash into its cough medicine and sand into its seed tray. We have full confidence that no more mistakes will happen in our hospitals, as we said the last six times. James Cameron: You just have to believe. And if that means spending US$200 million to cross a road, you just do it. Chancellor Helmut Kohl: Who cares? After this joke, can I eat the chicken, ja?