Monday, April 02, 2007

War Stories: A Tripod's Tale

If I'm out on a paid shoot I'll be toting three tripods in a case, along with a mini-tripod that fits in my backpack, but when I'm on a personal vacation (still shooting) I'll travel considerably lighter... one body, a few lenses, a few flash cards (all in a day pack) and a tripod.

Among my collection of pods I have a Tiltall that I used once in about two feet of salt water on a beach in Washington in 1992, the legs are still a little sticky, and I took it on vacation with me a year ago when my family and I flew down to Mexico for a week. Needless to say(?), I left the mini at home.

Took the vacation on frequent-flier miles so it was one of those where we had to change planes rather than fly non-stop. The plan was EWR to DFW to CUN but the airline overbooked the flight, it was Christmas day, we arrived one hour before departure instead of two and missed it by that much (as Maxwell Smart used to say) and ended-up having everything changed.

US Airways paid for our taxi to Philadelphia and we flew from there to DFW to Cancun. There was some kind of sick-out in Philly that day so everything was really screwed-up as they cobbled together a crew for our flight. We were only about six hours behind schedule but luckily the boys amused themselves with the pay phones in the nearly empty terminal (most passengers in Philadelphia that day never made it past the ticket counter, there was a riot out there, maybe you saw it on the news?) and came away with a few pockets full of coins, but I digress. Anyway, we made it to Mexico okay, just late, and had a great week on the beach in Akumal... and looked forward to a normal flying day on the return trip.


The return flights, even though we arrived at the airport in plenty of time, saw us flying the exact reverse route, except that we flew from Philadelphia back to Newark (CUN > DFW > PHL > EWR) and... post-9/11/01... went through security again at each stop. I'm carrying my salt-water Tiltall on each flight with no problem and when we change planes in Philadelphia on the last leg of a seven flight journey, the TSA Supervisor tells me (post-X-ray) I can't take the tripod on the plane, I'll have to check it, claimed it was a "blunt instrument."

Every photographer knows that if you check your tripod, even a salt-water damaged tripod with sticky legs, you're gonna lose it. I tried to make that clear to the Supervisor and we had a few (ultimately-heated) words about it whereby I offered to demonstrate his worst fears blunt instrument-wise ;-) but the upshot of our discussion was that I either, "check it or forfeit it." And to check the tripod I had to go to the ticket counter which is at Terminal A..... but we were at Terminal C!

Downstairs to the bus, bus to Terminal A, arrive at the ticket counter to the l_o_n_g_e_s_t l_i_n_e I've ever seen and thinking I'm gonna miss my plane yet again I decided to end-run the first TSA guy by attempting to go through security there. Mr. Nonchalant (that's me!) arrives at the check-point and puts the backpack, jacket and tripod on the X-ray belt, it goes through the machine, the Terminal A guard looks at me and asks, "Tripod, eh? You a professional?"

"Yeah," I replied without even a trace of a hint of my previous angst, "but I'm on vacation today, travelling light."

"Have a good flight," he said.

"Thanks," I said, and I tucked the tripod under my arm and kept on truckin.


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