(Not) Getting a Cab in Austin: Part 1

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So I just got back from SXSW, which it’s actually difficult for me to type without a hashtag, and I had like, an 85% great time.

Only 85%? But SXSW (#) is supposed to be, like, Geek Mecca! Nirvana for the nerd set! Hipster heaven!

And it was all that – and more! It was awesome like a music festival, minus the sleeping outside and the mud, and it was inspiring like church (if you’re into that sort of thing). Late nights, early mornings, and a wealth of information it’ll take me weeks to sort through. But I can break that other 15% down for you in four simple words: The cabs there? SUCK.

The first day was fine, actually. Totally cool. I went online and ordered a cab for 8:45am, and, at about 9am one showed up. Perfect! That night, I booked a cab for 8:30, just to be safe, and drifted to sleep thinking how convenient the whole thing had been.

At 9:15 the following morning, I was not finding it so very convenient. My friend’s husband, roused from bed by his groggy wife for the purpose of driving me to the convention, was not finding it very convenient either.

I’d called the cab company at 8:45 to inquire as to the status of my cab, and was told, in a slow Texas drawl, that there were no cabs avaliable.

“But I booked online!” I said, my heart rate accelerating. “You HAVE to have a cab for me!” I’d been so nervous about this very thing – the cab just never coming, being late to my first session – and here it was, happening! The power of negative thinking? SHUT UP.

“Ma’am, I don’t know what you want me to do,” answered the dispatcher.

“What do I want you to do? What do I want you to DO?” Practically shrieking, for sure: “I WANT YOU TO GET ME A CAB IS WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO!”

“I am doing my best, ma’am, but there are no cabs available.”

And that’s about when my head exploded. By the time got to the 9:30 session “The State of Social Marketing“, there was a full house and a line out the door for seats. But, bonus, the session I wound up going to instead had mimosas. That didn’t really make up for it, though. I’d really been looking forward to the social marketing session.

TBC dudes –


Some people are just douchebags.

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“Hi,” I told my cousin’s photographer, as I held open the door to the church. “I’ll be shooting video for the ceremony.” He just stared at me. And not in a good way. “My name’s Erin.”

“You’re setting up THERE, hm?” My camera was wedged into the second row of seats, close enough so I could still get good sound but far enough away so that I wouldn’t interfere with things.

“Does that not work for you? I can move. I don’t want to wreck your shot.”

“Well, it’s not MY shot,” he huffed, busying himself with a remote flash unit. “they’re THEIR pictures. You’ll just be IN all of them.”

I could see that this would not be the same harmonious working environment I’d had with Studio Noir or Erica Ferrone – both wonderful photographers who are as kind as they are talented. This gentleman was obviously not of their ilk. I smiled, nodded, and complied.

“All the videographers I’VE worked with do handheld for the procession, then set up in the back and just zoom in,” he opined, as I reset the tripod.

“I shoot the whole thing on sticks,” I replied. “Seems safer that way.”

“Maybe you should set up back there, by the tree,” he suggested, ignoring my comment. “You’ll lose the backlight.” It was possibly the least helpful suggestion anyone has ever given me, but I pretended to consider.

“True,” I agreed, “But the I’ll miss the rings.” Vendor lingo. I’ve kind of got it down by now.

He asked if I did this professionally, I answered that it was a side business. He told me he’d shot over three thousand weddings, I told him I was a documentary filmmaker. I pretended that I was impressed with him, he looked at me like I was a fire hydrant ripe for the pissing. I don’t like to hate people on sight, but this guy was kind of toeing that line.

As the night progressed, things became more acrimonious. We didn’t speak as we shot details, and the room was so dim I didn’t think I’d be able to get much without my LitePanels, a super-bright LED which my cousin had asked me not to use. “My camera hates this room,” I confided. “I don’t know how much I’ll be able to get.”

“If you’re going to shoot weddings, you should really have a unit that can handle low light.” (I kind of DO, dude, I just can’t implement my low light solution)

“You shoot on the tripod for the FIRST DANCE? EVERYONE I’ve worked with does it handheld.” (I leave the first dance as one long piece, I don’t want it to look shaky)

“You’re shooting HD? SD needs less light. You ought to shoot SD.” (This, technically, is not even a true statement. It’s a gross oversimplification of a complex nexus of factors)

Over the course of the evening, I never saw him smile once. I only saw him take about 100 pictures. Total. And you know, I still don’t know what the hell his name was. For all his other sage offerings of unwanted assvice, the man never even told me his first name. I really hope he did a better job with my cousin’s pictures than he did at not being rude.


My big mouth finally gets me somewhere.

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Date: July 4, 2010
Time: 5am
Place: Logan International Airport, Terminal C

I’m standing in the bag drop line, ostensibly, having checked in online, to do nothing more than drop my bag. There’s a family in front of me and another family at the ticketing counter. It’s really taking awhile, for just dropping off bags.

“NEXT IN LINE,” shouts the baggage man. “EVERYBODY ALL SET? JUST NEED TO CHECK BAGS? ALREADY PAID FOR YOUR TICKETS?” This last part seems directed at the family in front of me, who are making their bedraggled way in his general direction.

“Oh, checked in? No, we’re not checked in,” says the matriarch.

“THEN YOU’RE IN THE WRONG LINE” barks the baggage man. “CAN’T YOU READ? THERE’S A SIGN RIGHT THERE.”

A scene ensues, the woman yelling at the man, and the man yelling right back at the woman. I am uncomfortable, and maintain a neutral countenance while I continue my iPhone scrabble game. It’s five in the morning, I keep thinking to myself. Who has the energy?

Verbal jousting finished, baggage man beckons to another family in a different line, and they saddle over to the ticketing counter. Not in a mood to be confrontational, I wait patiently as baggage man goes ahead and… yes… checks them in. For flights to Ft. Lauderdale. The family who used to be in front of me is able to self-check-in, drop their bags, and be on their merry way while I am still waiting, as instructed, in the bag drop line.

“NEXT” yells baggage man.

I yawn, heaving my bag lazily onto the scale. “I have a question,” I say. “What’s the point of checking in online if it takes this long just to drop my luggage?”

Baggage man stares at me blankly.

“I mean, I’ve seen people check in and move along in the time I’ve just been standing here waiting.”

Baggage man is not pleased with me.

“I mean, I saw you check those people in just now, after you told those other people you COULDN’T check them in, and meanwhile I’ve just been waiting here with my bag. It seems ludicrous. So if you’re just going to check people in at the bag drop line, what’s the point of having a bag drop line?”

Baggage man’s face turns dark with rage.

“NO POINT,” he snarls. “THERE’S NO POINT AT ALL.” He hurls my suitcase on the conveyor belt and fixes me with an awful stare.

“Ok,” I say. “That’s all I wanted to hear, I guess.”

As I’m walking away, I’m struck by how shitty baggage guy has made my morning. I mean, when you travel, you need to maintain a certain air of calm, a certain consideration for your fellow man. Baggage guy needs stiff drink and a xanax, I decide, and NOBODY needs this kind of bullshit before 6am. I circle back to the ticket counter to lodge a complaint.

Baggage guy sees me hovering near business class check-in and storms down the counter towards me. “CAN I HELP YOU, MA’AM?” he shouts, one arm raised in a Nazi salute. “YOU NEED SOMETHING?” His approach is menacing, almost threatening, and I feel a rush of adrenaline pump up from my Irish core. I take one step forward.

“What’s your name, sir?” except it doesn’t come out as a question. The words drop from my lips like steel marbles.

“DAVID” he spits.

“You’ll be hearing from me.”

I turn on my heel and walk away with cool, measured paces.

So yesterday, first thing, I put in a call to Air Tran Airways. I tell my story, not forgetting to mention that it was FIVE IN THE MORNING for God’s sake, and they thank me for my time and give me an upgrade to business class for my redeye flight home.

Moral of the story? Don’t take no shit from no one. Especially not angry baggage men at Logan.


I’m not a good traveller, apparently.

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My day started off early – like 6am early – which is truly a very early hour for me to be starting off at. I said goodbye to my darling sister, hooked up her new BluRay player, and headed out the door. I was a little groggy, not having had very much coffee, and also a little nauseous for reasons I still can’t ascertain. Luckily, there was a shuttle available to take me from her apartment complex to the Metro, saving me a one-mile walk with my rolly bag, but, even with this small luxury at my disposal, things quickly started to flag southward.

Things about the shuttle that annoyed me:
– it was freezing. FUCKING freezing. Like, I don’t know how the driver was getting by without a parka
– everybody was wearing massive amounts of perfume, which didn’t help my nausea one bit
– nobody wanted to let me get OFF the shuttle, because I had my rolly bag and I would have taken an extra five seconds to arrange myself and move on.

But I soldiered through and onto the Metro, where I was packed like a sad little sardine between a woman reading the Wall Street Journal out loud to her husband and a very unimpressed girl scout.

Things about the Metro that annoyed me:
– the color. Orange? Anyone? Who decided this?
– the smell.
– the heat.
– every single person on the goddamn train, especially the ones who touched me and/or gave me and my rolly bag dirty looks. I’m being as small as I can, you know? It’s not MY fault I’m going to the airport!

Finally, two train lines and one particularly pungent elevator later, I arrived at Union Station, where I was to take the MARC train to BWI.

Things about Union Station that annoyed me:
– total lack of signage re: the MARC system.
– shitty internet (FREE Wifi, Amtrak? I think NOT.)
– the line at Starbucks, which was a mile long,
– and the people that thought it was actually WORTHWHILE to wait in a line a mile long for Starbucks.
– the guy behind me who wouldn’t stop sucking his teeth.

The ride to BWI was easy enough – I got my own seat and did some editing – but then I had to take a shuttle bus from the train station to the airport.

Things about the shuttle ride that annoyed me:
– the fact that no shuttle arrived for a good ten minutes
– the well-meaning woman from the midwest who kept on pressing her denim-clad thigh into mine
– the well-meaning man from the midwest who didn’t hold on and crumpled like a house of cards when the shuttle finally stopped
– the girl with the spoon bag who kept on STARING at me
– the driver, whom I couldn’t understand. Air Tran? American? They’re two different words, MAKE THEM SOUND THAT WAY

It’s no surprise, then, that as soon as I got through security (also annoying, but that goes without saying) I found myself a seat barside and dove headfirst into a Corona. By this time it was noon, and therefore somewhat acceptable. Corona makes everything better.


“Noxious” is the word I was looking for.

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B! loves Mai Tais. Like, Loooves mai tais. Like, he’s had mai tais in at least seven states, he goes hunting for them. I don’t particularly care for mai tais – I’m really not a rum girl, except for the occasional mojito – but, things being as they are, I often drink mai tais when I’m with him and often feel compelled to order them when we’re apart. it’s not something that I’m proud of, but it’s something that happens.

Flying to Charlotte last Friday, I opened up my tray table and was greeted with an ad for Stirrings mixers, the Venerable Mai Tai as the featured cocktail. I thought of B!, thought how funny he’d find it if I drank one at 30,000 feet, and sheepishly placed my drink order. It was 8:30 in the morning, give or take. The stewardess didn’t bat an eyelash, instead taking the opportunity to slip me an extra on the sly.  I imagine she thought that I needed it. I felt weird about that.

What made me feel weirder, though, was the smell that emanated from the Stirrings bottle when I cracked the seal. Limey and sweet, with an unctuous chemical undertone, it was actually even WORSE than opening the nip of Bacardi. My seatmate politely ignored my apparent debauchery and undisguised disgust as I daintily poured first the rum then the mai tai into my extra-large glass. I opened up my laptop and started working, trying hard to maintain a patina of normalcy while taking the first gentle sip of my cocktail. And,

OH

MY

GOD.

Was it disgusting. Absolutely unspeakable! It was the oral equivalent of the BP oil explosion, a slithering slick on the skin of my throat. I restrained myself from gagging and tried again. Maybe it’s just the early hour, I thought, because NOTHING could be this bad – not even breakfast rum.

Oop.

I was wrong.

It was worse.

It seemed to me like giving me that extra mai tai was like giving me mono, starting as innocent as a handshake or a kiss but ending in tears. And what do we want when we’re in tears? For other people to feel our pain, of course! I happily presented my dearest B! with my remaining cocktail upon our check in to the hotel, and absolutely lost my shit laughing when he drank down that first brave gulp. I thought he might die.

Moral of the story? Play to your enemy’s strength. Don’t order mai tais on airplanes, and don’t order martinis in dive bars. Free advice, from me to you. Cheers!


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