Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wheelman - Part II - "Fears Allayed"

Top 'o the Marnin', to ye, Gentle Readers!

Well, my first evening volunteering as a driver for the Atlantic Film Festival kicked off  "trial by fire" style but now I'd mastered the van's controls and I was blazing out to the airport at warp factor two.

But when I got there I was confronted by another challenge: where to park?  I'd been told to drive up in front of the airport past where the taxis and limos wait and park in the same place where the tour buses stop.

Well, when I got up in front of the airport the right lane reserved for cabs was completely blocked off and the only other apparent route was to turn left into what appeared to be oncoming traffic. I'd been to the airport a slew of times before but never in my own vehicle so I was totally confused.

I turned back and went through the parking garage but ended up in the car rental drop off area. Nope, that's not right.

I looped back and ended up with a paid parking ticket.  Nuh-uh, wrong again.

By now I couldn't help but feel that security was flagging me as a possible terror suspect.  To allay their hypothetical fears I made for the payment booth by the exit and asked the super-helpful woman manning the desk there exactly where I was supposed to park.  She called up to the office and directed me back to the front of the airport.

"But, the right lane is blocked off," I protested.

"The right lane is just for registered cabs and limos," she replied with saintly patience.  "Take the left lane, it's one-way.  Then drive a bit further along and look for the designated bus parking. can see it by the shelter up there!"

She pointed off in the distance towards a large plasticy-looking lean-to.  Despite it's size, from where I'd been before I wouldn't have seen it.   

The attendant nullified the ticket and let me through.  I thanked her profusely and then darted back around to the front again.  This time I edged my way out into the left lane, cleared the phalanx of taxis and limousines and saw the bus parking lot appear before me as I rounded the turn.  To me it looked like Canaan must have first appeared in the eyes of the Israelites.

I grabbed my clipboard with passenger list, "Pick Up" sign, keys and cell phone and boogied on in to the terminal.  Once inside I checked the arrivals board and made note of the flight's assigned baggage carousel.  That accomplished, I proceeded to ensconce myself next to the domestic arrivals gate, held up my sign, and looked hopeful.  In retrospect, I probably resembled an urchin-like Oliver Twist holding up a "Please, sir, I want some more" placard.  Whatever I worked.

At exactly 7:30 a strikingly pretty woman emerged from the arrivals gate, instantly saw the sign, approached me and warmly introduced herself as Karen Lam.  I directed her down to the baggage carousel and we chatted amicably while we waited for the first shy pieces of luggage to appear.

Karen originally studied and practiced law but a passion for film lured her into the industry.  She'd worked as a production manager on the television program Edgemont (featuring a pre-Smallville Kristin Kreuk), served as co-executive producer for the British/Canadian horror flick The Bone Snatcher, and filled co-producer duties on the generational parallel drama Eighteen.

Despite having traveled all the way from Vancouver, Karen was bright, cordial and boundlessly effervescent. The last time I flew out west I had a headache for two days so she was clearly made of sterner stuff than I am.
If Karen seemed mildly irked by anything at all it was the fact that her in-flight viewing of Iron Man II had been truncated.  She seemed to take some solace when I told her that it paled in comparison to the original.   

Our conversation was boundless, to the point that we eventually noticed that we were the only people still standing by the baggage carousel.  Yep, you guessed it, folks, her checked bag had gone AWOL.  this was a  real shame since she was quick to tell me it contained some tasty-sounding preserves she'd brought with her as comfort food.  Amazed by the crummy misfortune, I led her over to the baggage services office and waited for her to file a report.

Now, I don't want to publicly call out the airline that lost Karen's suitcase (and who are also guilty of losing by my bags in the past as well) but their name rhymes with "Nair Banada".

If losing her suitcase had a negative impact on her mood, Karen didn't let on.  I led her out to the van and we continued to yammer on about movies and the like.  Just as I approached the vehicle I realized to my dismay that no-one bothered to put any official Atlantic Film Festival Transportation stickers on the van.  I prayed that Karen spider-sense didn't anticipate a possible abduction and start screaming running back to security as I unlocked the van and hopped in.

As we drove back to the hotel Karen began talking about an exciting new phase in her career as a horror-film director.  She'd met considerable success a few years back with a short film called The Cabinet and was just putting the finishing touches on her first feature-length film as a director with Stained.

This got us into a deep discussion about what we consider "scary" in movies.  Since both of us had obviously seen a lot of horror films, it became clear that we'd progressed way beyond the typical "maniac on the loose" flicks and had moved on to more subtle, atmospheric and creepy-type scares.  We professed our mutual admiration for Asian horror like Ringu, A Tale of Two Sisters, Dark Water, and The Eye.  She even managed to trump me by name dropping Takaski Miike's Audition, which up to now I've been too chicken to watch.

I guess for my annual October Horror Film marathon I'm gonna hafta nut up or shut up and watch this thing.

It was also a bit sad listening to her talk about the trials and tribulations of selling her first feature film.  It would seem that certain closed-minded distributors were having a hard time promoting Stained.  "It's too arty to be commercial, and too commercial to be arty," she'd been told.

I'm still amazed by people who are obsessed with trying to quantify and package every film that comes down the pike.  It's as if they fly into panic mode if they can't gift-wrap and sell the film to the masses with a pitch like: "Well, it's like a cross between The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pant and Dead/Alive."

What amazed me about Karen (and so many of the other guests I shuttled around) was just how interested they were in my story: why I was volunteering, what my favorite films are and what I did for a living.  After I spoke a bit about my recent liberation from cubicle purgatory we somehow got on the topic of The Office. 

Karen confessed that it was one of her favorite shows but I told her that I just couldn't bring myself to watch it while I worked at my last job because it reminded me too much of the place.

"Let me tell ya, that place was chock-a-block with Michaels and Dwights!" I chuckled.

She laughed and we both launched into some of our favorite quotes from the show.  At one point in time she said:

"You know, sometimes in my own circle of friends, they consider me to be the 'Dwight Schrute' of the bunch."

Well, Karen, I'm here to tell ya right now: you bear as much similarity to Dwight Schrute as "Larry The Cable Guy" does to a funny stand up comedian.  

As I dropped Karen off at the front of the hotel we bid farewell to each other and expressed a faint hope that we'd see each other again during the Festival.  But even as the words left my lips I was reminded of the irony of volunteering:  I'd likely have even less of an opportunity to catch movies than in prior years.  As it turns out I did get to see more films than normal but regrettably didn't bump into Karen again.

I hope she had a good Fest and her salmon preserves turned up intact.

I promptly maneuvered the van back up to the first landing in the parking garage and flew up to the Transportation office.  I was amazed to find it darkened and deserted.

I glanced at my passenger manifest and noticed another pick up at 9:10 PM.  Between Karen's lost luggage, filing the missing bag report and the travel time back to the hotel it was now a 8:47 PM.  Was anyone else picking the next group up?

I used my assigned cell to call my patron, explained what had happened and asked if anyone else was headed out there.    

"Ah, lemme check...mmmm, nope, no-one else is going out there tonight.  It's all yours, buddy!"

"Wow," I muttered.  "I'm really gonna hafta haul ass."

"No!" he said adamantly. "Do you best, but don't go speeding out there!"

I was kinda relieved to hear him say that.  It was obvious to me that safety and security was paramount in this guy's mind and that was encouraging.

"No, I won't," I assured him.  "But I gotta let you go if I'm gonna get out there on time."

I hung out and bombed back to the van like Adam West scrambling for the Batmobile.  Would I make it? 

I'd have do some pretty creative driving to get back out there on time and make sure my passengers weren't put out. 

But that, Dear Readers, is a story for another time.






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