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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Death by Tripod


Can someone please site to me or point me in the direction where a tripod was used as a weapon on an airplane to beat someone to death! I recently flew to Italy with my tripod as a piece of my carry-on equipment, with a plane change in Paris (CDG) and with absolutely no problem whatsoever. Coming home, became an entirely different story. Leaving from Naples (NAP) I checked in and checked one piece of luggage, and informed the airline rep that I was carrying on my camera gear as I would need it immediately when I arrived in Amsterdam (AMS). Typically someone would measure my tripod to make sure it did not exceed a certain length, and then I would be on my way. NOT THIS TIME. These 3 security personnel instead surrounded me and said I could not bring a tripod on an airplane. I asked why not, my tripod is within the required length restriction? They informed me that a tripod was considered a deadly weapon on airplanes. YIKES. I thought I had smuggled an IED on board! I looked down at my shoes and thought "is this a joke?", I explained that I would be needing the tripod in Amsterdam for some night photography and I have never ran into a situation like this ever while traveling with my tripod. The agents informed me that I would have to check the tripod in as checked baggage. With my plane boarding in 10 minutes, I complied and took my tripod back down to the same rep who had just checked my baggage and explained the situation to her. She looked me straight in the eyes and said "To check your tripod will be 250 euros please"... That is about $300 U.S. I laughed to myself, then I laughed out loud, then I smiled at her and said, excuse me do you not recognize that I just checked a bag with you, and you looked at my carryon and said nothing about a tripod could not fly on the plane, now you are asking me for 250 euro? Can I please just put this inside my checked bag so I won't miss my plane? I asked. And she said again looking me straight in the eyes, that there is no way of retrieving your checked bag, it is already loaded. Now I was furious because i was not paying this airline 250 additional euro. So I marched back to the screening area, and explained this exuberent fee to the agents and they debated in their native tongue for about 5 minutes as one of them inspected and eyed my manfroto head and legs, nodding in approval of the tripod. He then looked me straight in the eye, and said "You will have to abandon it here if you do not want to pay the 250 euro". They were announcing final boarding for my plane, followed by my name to report to the gate. I could not believe this!!! Frustrated and calculating how much this is starting to cost me, I walked off and left my tripod in the hands of this agent who I am quite sure is a photographer as well by the way he was inspecting my manfroto tripod. I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest. Not only will I not have my tripod when I land in Amsterdam, but I won't have it when I land at home. It was gone. ABANDONED!!! As I started to walk through the gateway toward the awaiting bus, I suddenly froze in my step, and turned around and told the rep at the gate, what had just happened, and how furious I was feeling right about now. The rep beckoned over another rep,and they begin to speak in their native tongue, and then she looked at me and said, come with me. The other rep walked out to the awaiting bus and made some sort of announcement. As we walked back toward security we then took a sharp left and the rep told me to wait here. She made a couple of phone calls, and aftera few minutes a man appeared through the doorway carrying my tripod. I imagine 15 minutes had gone by.The rep then took possession of my tripod and went through the doorway with me in tow. Inside she spoke in italian and the man behind the desk followed her instructions. She placed my tripod inside of one of their airline bags and then sealed it inside of another one. Gave it a tag number and told me that the tripod will be moving on this tag, handing me the receipt portion of the tag. She then said something in Italian to the man and he stood up and came around the counter took her cell phone and she snuggled up closely to me and SNAP; a photo of the two of us hugging and smiling. I in turn, handed her my business card and she smiled from ear to ear, so I smiled from ear to ear.... Then she said I hate to do this but I have to put you on that bus right now. I arrived in Amsterdam like only Bluestill can (see photo), and I did get to tour the infamous Amsterdam Red Light District. I just didn't get to use my tripod in Amsterdam as planned, but at least I knew it wouldn't be living out its days in Naples abandoned before flight bin. But this is where it gets weird. The airline in Naples made arrangements for me to take possession of  the tripod when I landed in Rome (ROM) and I can carry it on as a carry-on piece from for the rest of my trip. I just can't carry it on board in Naples. Go figure??? When I arrived in Rome, the agents there told me that the tripod had continued on to my final destination to Seattle (SEA).
Meanwhile upon arriving in Seattle, I have yet to see that tripod, and they have no idea where it is right now, but I do have a claim number for it, and if it doesn't appear, I'll be able to replace it on their dime and not mine. How do we as photographers do our job without our equipment? And before someone say it, I would rather have it move on its own ticket because when I flew in from another overseas flight, and got my checked baggage, packages of gift wrapped cookies had been removed from my luggage which I never got back. Flying is certainly becoming a damned if you do, damned if you don't means of transportation.

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