When things go Incredibly Wrong (part 1)

I’ve been running photo events for more than a decade.  And, while I hate to admit it, not everything goes right all the time.

The key is to never appear rattled.  That doesn’t mean you AREN’T about to throw up, but you just can’t LOOK like it.  You have to seem smooth, controlled, in charge.  Especially with a meet and greet; especially in a high-profile environment.
But, you know, shit happens.  Planes are late.  Equipment malfunctions.  Your brain decides to take a vacation that day.  Or, you just have the wrong information.  On a bad day?  On a bad day everything goes wrong.
It was a very snowy February evening, the ice and snow pelting the glass doors of the old “House of Zen” as I watched the results edition of Tuesday evening’s American Idol.  The next day, I was scheduled to leave for Las Vegas, with David, the special needs adult we take care of, and Matthew, my partner.  They were tagging along with me because I had three shoots spaced apart over two weeks in Las Vegas.  It was a weird schedule, not worth the trip home between shoots, so —
VACATION!  During the down time, we were all staying at the Golden Nugget.  If you’re not familiar with Vegas, the Golden Nugget is off strip, in the old section of Las Vegas, but is still HOT.  They have a huge swimming pool right in the middle, with a glass sliding board/tube thing that goes right through a shark tank.  We were all looking forward to the trip.
But, as I was curled up on the couch, waiting breathlessly the results of how America voted, I said to Matthew….
“Oh, thank GOD we are not leaving tonight!  It is MISERABLE out.  I think I would slit my wrists if we had to get to the airport this evening….”
Ring.  Ring.  Ring.
“This is Mike Gatty the Photographer.”
“…blah blah blah we look forward to seeing you tomorrow for the meet and greet shoot….blah blah blah.”
I hung up the phone.  “Wait a second,” I thought, “they said ‘see you tomorrow’.  That shoot’s Thursday.”  With that, I got up from my warm nest on the couch to check my schedule.  
No, it’s Thursday.  I pulled the contract.  Thursday.  I pulled every email ever sent by the client.  Thursday.  But the date was wrong.  The day said Thursday.  The date said Wednesday.  
And with that I started checking airline schedules.  I live in Lewes, DE, about 2.5 hour drive from both Baltimore and Philadelphia airports.  And nothing was flying out to Las Vegas until 6 am the next morning.  The shoot was at 10:30 am.  With time change, I’d land at 9, on the earliest flight.  Very tight, but doable.  Cost?  About $900 for the one way, last minute ticket: for just me.
I booked the flight.  
I booked a room at BWI’s Sheraton Hotel.
I threw all the equipment and luggage into the car — final packing hurried, it would have to do.
Matthew and David (who were staying on the original Southwest flight), jumped in the car. (David doesn’t really jump, but we made him.)
We drove 100 mph to the airport.  No, not really.  Remember: ice, snow?   We drove 25 mph to the airport.  We arrived at the Sheraton about 2 am.  A 2.5 hour drive had turned into a 7 hour drive.  Matthew and David collapsed into bed — I laid on top, staring at the ceiling, wide awake — waiting to catch the airport shuttle in two hours.
I get to the airport.  THE FLIGHT’S ON TIME?  How can that be?  It wasn’t snowing any more, but, GOD, it was icy.  Wet, nasty.  I head up to the gate agent.  No, it’s on time, Sir.  I guess you are in luck.  Hmmmmm….
I get on the plane.  I sit at my window seat.  The window is completely covered with ice.  Hmmmm…..
We depart the gate.  We head to de-icing.  They start spraying the plane down.  ONE AND A HALF HOURS TICK BY.  Hmmmmm……
We finally take off.  I fret the entire 6 hours to Vegas, convinced I am not going to make the shoot, I just don’t see how timing can work.   
We land at 9:50 am, Las Vegas time.  I call my client, tell them the good news — and the bad.  They are not happy.
“Get here,” was all the client said, through very clenched teeth.
I went into baggage.  AND, LUCK!  There was the huge ass printer box (containing my Shinko printer, (a story for another day — I hate those things, they have been replaced.) the very first thing off the luggage belt!  And, there was my suitcase!  The second thing!  That never, ever, ever, EVER happens to me — EVER.
I grabbed up both bags.  Threw them onto a luggage cart, rolled out to the Taxis….NO LINE!
I jump in a cab… RED ROCK CASINO.  Red Rock is about 30 minutes from the airport.  It was now 10 am.  (Yes, incredibly, I got off the plane and through luggage in 10 minutes!) I had about 15 minutes to get to the venue if I was to have ANY setup time.  “I’ll give you $100 extra if you get me there by 10:15.”
I look over.  We are on the highway.  We are going fast.  Really fast.  The cab’s speedometer is maxed out, and cars are flying by the window.
Red Rock approaches.  It is 10:20.  I throw money at the cabbie, including the $100.  The client is waiting at the door.  We pile all the equipment onto a cart and whisk up to the convention area — not too far from the hotel’s entrance.  I shove the printer on a table, hook up the computer, camera, turn everything on, fire one test shot.  It works.  It prints.  It’s not bad.
In walks Lou Ferrigno, the Incredible Hulk.
“Hello, Mr. Ferrigno, nice of you to do this, I’m Mike Gatty, your photographer….”
The event ends.  The client is clearly relieved.  Everything was fine.  They shook my hand and said it was their error.  I said, no — it was mine.  There would be no charge for this shoot.  I smiled, what I hoped looked like a gracious smile, and turned away, ready to pack up.
I felt miserable.
I went into the bathroom and hurled.
And, now?  Now, on every shoot, every contract, I double and triple check the basic info with the client one week out.  I’m sure some clients think I’m crazy, obsessive compulsive.  But I will never, ever, ever have to tip a cabbie $100 again.