Recently I took a workshop in Santa Fe.The fallowing accounts are the highlights from my return trip.
The roads were icey Saturday morning when we went to leave Santa Fe but not impassable. Myself and Debra had hitched a ride with Tom to the airport. Due to the record breaking accumulation of snow over night the highways were apparently closed and all airport shuttles were stuck in the service yard... Or so I was told. Arriving 6 hours early at the check in counter I was informed by the gentleman behind the ticket booth that I wouldn't be allowed to check my bags sooner than 4hrs prior to my flight. With all the charisma I could muster I tried diligently to persuade this rather somber fellow to take my bag. Unwaiverd by my plea he monocromaticly (with a touch of skin tone) explained to me that his computer would not allow him to check my bag a minute before said time. ( He must have a PC!) With a defeated nod that resonated my understanding I reluctantly picked up the 38lbs of backpack currently home to 6 pocket wizards, 4 small flashes, 2 Honel grids, 38 spare batteries, an assortment of glass ranging from 16 to 200mm, 2 flash defusers, 1 small soft box, an assortment of colored gels and temperature gels, several miscellameous brass parts, a 5D and every piece of lighting literature that was in the hall way of our school. I then heaved over my shoulder the 62lb hockey bag that contained 2 winter sweaters I didn't need, a pair of Levis I never wore, 6 shirts I bought in Seattle and had to make look like I wore, a pair of cargo pants that were the only thing I wore, 5 identical black T shirts, a 6 year old laptop with CS2 (That wouldn't run CS4 or CS3 due to some kind of Service Packaging issue... ), two Justin Clamps (the only thing that did work all week), a tri pod I didn't need to bring, a couple pairs of underwear that got absolutely torched, and 4 pairs of socks that should have been thrown in one of those metal waste baskets and lit on fire.
Looking back over my shoulder at him I took a deep breath, exhaled, and said, " 4o'clock...... 'eh'!"
Leaning into the straps that are attached to the rather large foreign object protruding from my back, I found my friends. They had somehow, miraculously enough, managed to get their items checked in without any hassle at all. (weird?) We proceed through the airport in serch of a restaurant where we could all sit, have a coffee, and reflect on the weeks events. Unfortunately I was stopped by security before we were able to see our plan come to fruition. "Sir! You can not proceed past this point with that bag. It's carry on only past this point Sir!" my initial thought to myself was it would have been nice if one of you guys had been at the other end of the airport to tell me that. But being a photographer from Canada and having delt with a wide variaty of law enforcement scenarios, well..... I just assumed that the law enforcement officers down here don't take criticism well either.
We sat by the escatators and enjoyed a coffee with each other until it was time for Tom and Debrha to leave. It was 11am. I waited until 2pm to check my bag and then proceeded past the security guards who were still diligently gaurding the magical stair case, to the upper mezinine where I would enjoy the next 4 hours of quiet time.
Now, I'm not one to purchase trinkets in airport gift shops, but with 4hrs to kill it's hard not to drift in and out of conciousness. As my eyes glazed over and the flight annoucments faded to background noise, I found myself in a state of mild hypnosis. I began walking from store to store, rubbing my visa card as if it were Aladin's Lamp, searching of the perfect memorabilia. Suddenly it appeared, high upon the wall the most beautiful garment dawned by a female maniquine. It's beautiful. I have to have it. It will be the first gift I've ever given my girlfriend Kelli. She will love it. She will wear it everywhere she'll love it so much. How much is it? I fumble with the sleeves until I find the tag.... 89 BUCKS! ... PLUS TAX!!! Do you know how much that is in Canadian! Hesitantly, I ask the girl at the counter to bring the garment down for me. ( I know what you're thinking.... I'm not cheap, but lets keep in mind that I am a photographer.)
For myself, I picked out a hat and a couple Tee's and a book that seemed interesting. The grand total
came to just under 200 bucks. I am officially one of those people who got rooked by airport nastalga!
Feeling confident about my purchase the lady placed everything in one nice Big Red bag for me and I proudly marched off to the security check with a smile on my face (at least it felt like a smile to me) and the words "I AM A TOURIST" ringing in my head.
Not much happened over the next few hours. I found a nice little section to myself, broke out some of the lighting literature Santa Fe Workshops had provided me with, and took off the boots I had been wearing for the last 10hrs. I then sat back to relax until my plane borded. Curiously, I notice that when the section I was sitting in started to fill up with people headed for Portland, no one sat within an 8 foot radius of me....odd!
"Flight 836 from Santa Fe to Denver now boarding." Yes! That's me! I'm outta here! I laced up my boots, strapped on my pack and..... remembered to pick up my Big Red gift bag with all the goodies in it.
Arriving in Denver I got a text from Debrha. "Hey, I'm at gate A54. I've got time for a beer. You In?" BEER! I'm in. I'm at D46. Be right there! Now for those of you who haven't been to Denver International Airport you probably won't be able to comprehend the spacial distortion that takes place between gate A54 and D46. For me to say they're at opposite ends of the airport may be a bit missleading without offering you some kind of mental stimuli to visually assist you in comprehending the sheer vastness of such distance. Denver has a train in it's airport! Thats right, a train. I don't mean a golf cart with a couple passenger carts pulled behind it like at Disneyland either. They have a full on transit system that runs underground to the various wings of the airport. This place is Frickin' Huge.
I made my way over to "D" Block to find Debrha. Of course, there's a game on, (There's always a game on) so there's no room in the pub for us. I have a quick bite and we tossed round a few ideas for the PPQ and it's time to part again. We gave each other a hug and I made my way back to the other end of the airport. (Why is it everytime I'm in an airport I always manage to visit it's two furthest outer walls?) Making my way back to where my ticket SAID I should be, I found a seat, planted myself, and mentally prepared myself for the 3hr layover. It was at this point that my "Spidy Senses" began to tingle. I observed that the sign at my gate said "Sanfrancisco." Now I never WUZ a very good speLer... but I'm pretty sure there's no "F" in Seattle! It's this type of highly developed observational skill that makes me such a sought after photographer...or so I tell myself. Low and behold my gate had been moved. Where to? Half a mile back in Debrha's direction.
I can't mention which airline I was flying with but I can tell you it started with an "F". When I asked the lady at the counter from "F" Airline which gate I need to be at to get to Seattle, I know for a fact she said, "Gate C23."
However, when I got in line at Gate C23 to board "An" aircraft, what did I I hear from behind me but ..... wait for it...... "Flight 1134 for Seattle now boarding at Gate C15." Now I know I followed the ladies directions and I didn't get lost but, much like photography, I just didn't get the result I was expecting. So as I walked to the 3rd and finial departure gate I couldn't help but think to myself, just once when they call for the preboard I would like to hear this.... "At this time we'd like to invite all passengers traveling with small children to board the aircraft, anyone in need of special assistance, and those of you who may be Canadian out there!"
The finial 2 hour hop to Seattle left me reflecting on the week with Joe and the others in my class, the friends I had made, and what I was going to do next when I got home. I envisioned how excited Kelli would be with her gift and how excited my precious Zoe would be to see me. (Zoe's my dog). Arriving in Seattle I disembarked the plane, walked out into the concourse, put my bag's down, dawned my coat, strapped on my pack and high tail for the baggage check. Blazing past the last security check point I observe an ominous sign saying "Point of No Return" and marched directly outside for a smoke. I met a polite young fellow there... David, who served on the USS Enterprise. Excitedly, I thought it worth mentioning that I too was a Trekkie!
"Your Canadian aint you?" was his responce. (All kidding aside... He was a nice kid) I strolled back inside to grab my bag, hoisted the additional 62lbs on my sholder, and marched for the shuttle. Up 2 flights of magical stairs, across the parking lot, down another magical stair case and out into the designated shuttle area where I dropped my gear, dialed the number for a shuttle and sat back to wait. Here's where I had my epiphany! Staring at my bags as though they were out of focus, something wasn't right. It was like an episode of Sesame Street and I was the Cookie Monster, 1...2... ummm, me try dat again... 1... 2..... hummmm ......sumTing not right here...... humm.. what comes after two? 1 bag ... 2 bag... 3!! 3 comes after 2! Where's my 3rd bag??? The mysitical red bag containing Kelli's FIRST gift from me and the $110 of assorted other trinkets was missing! (It's strange the situations you find yourself in when panic kicks in isnt it!) She's going to kill me I thought to myself as I geared up to go back in and retrieve my 3rd bag. Talking to David must have triggered something in me casue suddenly I'm a Navy Seal and No Bag Gets Left Behind! I storm the bagage carosels looking for that Big Red dunce cap of the airport with that Santa Fe Souveniers Salute on the side of it. "Clear!" I yell out so that my teammates Bauer and LowPro can hear me.
"Nothing back hear Sir!", they yell back. It's a big airport, stick together boys. " We got yur back sir."
I marched back to the sign that said Point of No Return to consult with my Brother in Arms. Turns out they're not very brotherly. I marched up two levels and down the departure terminals to the check in counters of "F" airline in search of a representative. There was no one to represent. I gave up marching in exchange for trudging and trudged back to the baggage claim. Stopping briefly to gasp for air and wipe the sweat from my eyes, I consulted with another airline who sughested lost and found. I took off my heavy winter coat and marched back up 2 flights of stairs down to the departures section, past "F" Airline again, to where I asked for assistance because I was now lost. (Do Navy Seals really get lost?) Taking direcions to the lost and found for a 3rd time, I spotted a baggage cart. Bauer.. LowPro.. get on! I'm driving! My teammates bailed onto the cart. Now able to stand erect a sign that had previously been obscured from my vision came into view overhead. Lost and Found! I pushed the cart the 10 feet to the doorway and saddled up the boys again. I stormed up 3 more flights of stairs. With cammando force parallel to that of Rambo I boot heal the door open only to trip over my own toe. Sprawling my bags out onto the floor and sliding across the highly polished surface on my back I came to rest against the far wall of the hallway. At this point I had accepted that my efforts to retrieve Big Red were probably in vein. But one of life's lessons that I'd recently been reminded of this week had to do with never giving up! So out of sheer tenacity I picked myself up and dragged my fallen commerad Bauer the next 100 yards to the Lost &Found. It was closed but would reopen on Monday between 9am and 4pm. Like I said, I knew Big Red was gone for good the moment I realized he was no longer in my posession, however, that wasn't the point of this mission. I had to see it through. As I filled out the Discription of Lost Property I thought to myself....If you have 48hrs to find a missing person, how much time do you have to find a missing souvenier bag with your girlfriends gifts in it?
Exhausted, I put on my pack and looked down at Bauer. Come on buddy, lets go home. I grabbed his straps and drug him back the 100 yards over the highly polished floor in the direction from which we came. Opening the door that we had come through from the lower level, I squeezed his hulking torso through the door frame and paused for a moment in the stairwell... I then pushed him down the stairs. I caught a shuttle to where I'd parked my truck the week before, loaded up my gear, and texted Kelli. I told her of the beautiful gift I had bought her and how she wouldn't be recieving it, how awful I felt, that It was 1:30am and I was now leaving Seattle, that I missed her, and that I'd be home in 2 days.
I drove for the next Two and a half hours until I reached the boarder.
When it was my turn I pulled up to the Customs booth and was greated by a lady. The conversation went like this:
Where are you headed?
Were you here on business?
No, I took a photography workshop in Santa Fe
How Long were you away?
Did you purchase anything?
Yes. I bought a gift for my girlfriend
Can I see your reciepts?
$200 dollars! Thats quite a gift!
I know. She's very special to me
Here's your reciept Mr. Moffat. Welcome Home!