The reporters whose job it is to hang around the White House press room, waiting for the president to make a move, take a slightly less enthusiastic view of My Dinner With George.

"There's no doubt about it. You'd rather be home," said Chris Connell, White House correspondent for the Associated Press. "And for the most part, they're fruitless as far as news goes."

Connell and Reuter's Gene Gibbons are part of the traveling press pool that accompanies the president. Even a quick trip for dinner includes about 14 reporters -- from three wire services, television, radio, a newspaper, a newsmagazine and a television camera crew.

"Bush is quite aware of the hardship this creates for the people who have to trail after him," said Gibbons. "He has a hard time understanding why he has to have a passel of press people with him.

"We tried to diplomatically suggest that we were there in case something untoward happened. He made the point that he could choke on a chicken bone in the White House dining room and none of us would be there."

True enough. But they're there just in case. News of an evening travel pool -- although the destination is kept secret -- usually drifts down to the press room about 5 p.m. "That's when we start checking the theater listings or figure it's Peking Gourmet," said Connell.

On those nights, the president's motorcade usually travels without lights, sirens or flags on the cars. And "unlike some of the predecessors," said Gibbons, it "generally observes the traffic regulations -- stopping at stoplights, for example."

At Peking Gourmet Inn, the Tsuis always reserve a table for the press. At some restaurants, there are no tables available and they have to break into the Twinkie supply while waiting. And then there's the occupational hazards: Reporters have to jump up the second that Bush is ready to leave. "They were really scarfing down as fast as they could," said Rio Grande's Jerry Green.

"That's certainly not the worst pool duty," said Gibbons. "Having to trail behind him on a golf course is much worse."