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Behind The Barriers Director’s Cut: Baggage claim

  • By Sam Smith
  • Published Nov. 4, 2013


Baggage claim

Airlines keeps losing my bags. I don’t have much experience checking bags, because I usually carry everything on. My entire travel setup fits into one backpack and one tote bag. Lately, though, these dummies who stuff two giant roller bags into the overhead have been ruining my travel days. The past three trips I’ve been on, they have forced me to gate check my backpack because the overheads were full. Last weekend was the second time in a row that my bag didn’t end up in the same city as me.

I was flying to Cincinnati for the Cincy3 cyclocross races. As I was boarding in Boston, the gate clerk came over and started fiddling with my backpack, while it was still on my back. Part of me wanted to tell him that I was going to report him for tampering with my baggage, but that would have been a little too smart-ass. He was putting a gate check tag on, and I prepared myself to do my normal gate check routine. I keep all my expensive and fragile camera equipment in my backpack. So I have the time between the ticket taker and the end of the jetway to remove all of that stuff, cram it into my tote bag and cram all of the displaced stuff from my tote bag into my backpack. I have to do all of this while the line gradually creeps down the jetway.

Upon arrival in Cincinnati, it was apparent that my bag was not there. The US Airways baggage attendant gave me the rundown: the guy in Boston had no idea what he was doing and he directed my bag to Asheville, North Carolina, rather than Cincinnati. It wouldn’t get to Cincinnati until midnight, and it would go out on a delivery truck “first thing in the morning.”

I immediately started doing damage control. I had everything I needed to make it through the next day, except for a few items that were still in the backpack. From the airport, we went directly to Guitar Center so I could get an XLR audio cable. From there, we went to Target so I could get electrical tape and freezer bags for rain protection. I grabbed a roll of toilet paper to create a makeshift wind screen for my microphone. Turns out several layers of toilet paper wrapped around a shotgun mic works almost as well as the finest foam windscreen.

The only thing I was worried about, at that point, was running out of battery power if my backpack didn’t show up. I had one fully charged battery, but my other two were MIA. The bag didn’t make it to our hotel before we left in the morning, so I called up the airport. Big surprise, they didn’t get it on the first truck out in the morning. I requested that they change the address to the park that the race was being held in. I explicitly explained, “It’s a park, so I’ll give you a street address, but it’s just a random spot on a street. When the driver gets there, have them call me, so I can run over and grab the bag.”

The day started flying by, and I wasn’t getting any calls. I started to worry when I called the airport and talked to a few different people and the same story multiple times: “I saw your bag earlier, but I don’t know where it is now.” Perfect. My one battery was starting to wear down and the men’s race was starting very soon. I was on at the start line, and my battery had 12 minutes left. Right when I thought I was screwed I got a phone call.

“Hello, is this Sam Smith?”

“Yea.”

“Did you have a lost US Airways bag?”

“Yea, where are you? I’ll come grab it.”

“I’m at my house. 1200 Burbank Road.”

“Wait, you’re not from the airline?”

“No, I live here. They dropped the bag off at my house.”

So as everybody was telling me they didn’t know where my bag was, it had been at this dude’s house the whole time. I ran down, thanked him, apologized, ripped the TP off my mic, put a new battery on, and ran back to shoot the race.

Sam Smith
Producer/Director Behind the Barriers

FILED UNDER: Cyclocross / Video TAGS: /

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