It was a red eye… normally I LOVE flying red eyes because I can sleep through anything. Last night was not the case, and could be the reason I will NEVER fly a red eye again.
If you’ve been following my tweets or emailed me, you know that I’ve been at WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) in Vegas this week. I took a limited number of classes because I wanted to socialize and get to know people, so that means that the classes I did take were of utmost importance and I took my time selecting them.
My focus this year was on my business… there are things I need to improve upon, and places where I would like to advance my work, but have felt “stuck” for the last 6 months or so. The experience of WPPI is amazing and life changing; but when you leave all you have are memories, friendships and the notes from those oh so important classes. I know at least personally I have to absorb so much information in such a short amount of time that my brain usually hits “tilt” about the middle of the second day, and I have to rely on the notes I take when I get home… so all of this backstory to say…
I had a screaming child sitting in front of me on my 1am flight out of Vegas. I had to sleep… I had been up till 2am every night and up between 6:30 and 7 to go to class. I had to sleep… just for a little bit. So right before the plane took off I motioned to the flight attendant, and she found a seat near the front of the plane for me. As I began to drift off into sleep I realized that I didn’t have my padfolio with me, “Eh, it’s okay” I thought… “I’ll get it when the seatbelt sign goes off.” So as soon as the pilot turned off the sign I ran back, grabbed my folio and drifted off to sleep. 2 hours later the pilot makes the arrival announcement. I go to open my padfolio to get my boarding information for my next flight…. and I gasped… It had been 100% cleaned out. In the 15 minutes that it was alone someone thought they could claim my (albeit amazing purple crocodile) padfolio as their own. I had a bride’s timeline in there, receipts from WPPI and ALL OF MY NOTES… they were gone. GONE! I wondered if the folio was even mine! I had to feel if the worn spot was still there from taking my pen in and out so many times… it was there… but EVERYTHING else was gone. I panicked (uh, hello! Wouldn’t YOU!?). Out of the 100’s of classes WPPI offers I chose 7 to attend… 3 of them I PAID for… gone. I ran back to my previous seat and started asking the passengers… “No, we didn’t see anything!” “I was asleep the whole time…” I wanted to cuss, and scream and cry… oh, how I wanted to just burst into tears. “Like I could possibly remember all of that valuable information without those notes” was all I could think. But in the middle of tragedy something amazing happened.
I waited until the plane emptied and explained through my tears what happened to the attendants. The flight attendants then offered to sift through the trash they collected during the flight with me. The gate attendant not only reprinted my boarding pass, but she got me on an earlier flight… the attendants spoke to the cleaning crew… and I collapsed on the floor outside the gate and finally just let it all out… I couldn’t stop crying. All of that time… gone. At that point I just prayed… it’s all I could think to do. I started composing a tweet to see if someone… anyone… could send me notes. And while I was looking up @names the head cleaning lady emerged from the gate… with a stack of papers… and my hope rose… Could it be? Really? Could someone have just left all of it in the back of a seat? All of my receipts, the timeline… and my notes… my notes… my notes? I jumped up, ran to the counter and yes… my notes… they were there. Everything was there. And then I started crying again (holy crap, I cry about everything!).
I could go off about my feelings on stealing property and not confessing… because whoever it was obviously saw my search and panic. But I’m not… instead I have to focus on the Continental flight staff.
You hear so many times of flight attendants not being human, luggage getting lost or destroyed… but you never hear about the times when they actually care. And it dawned on me… I don’t want to be just another photographer… Those attendants didn’t have to sift through wet, nasty, disgusting trash with me, but they did. They didn’t have to pass on the information to the cleaning crew, but they did. They didn’t have to reassign me to a better flight, but they did.
I don’t have to go the extra mile for my clients… but I want to. I don’t have to be friends with all of my clients… but I want to. I don’t have to see my job as an opportunity to reach the world… but I want to. Because people are worth it. YOU are worth it. And that’s something my notes would never have taught me.