22 September 2011

Connecting Flights

I drop my car off at Phil Seneker's house because Phil has a pretty big driveway where a car can hide for a couple of weeks easily. He's got something he's got to shoot in Seattle, so he drops me off and I take a series of buses to SEA-TAC airport, so that I can catch my 3pm flight to London.

Simple, right?

I get to the airport around 1pm and when I go to check in, the monitor on the kiosk says I can't check in for another 2 hours. But my flight is in 2 hours.

That can't be good.

I pull out my computer and pull up my email, only to discover that the flight is tomorrow at 3pm, not today. Fuck.

How the hell does this happen?

Well, first of all: I really have no sense of time and space anymore. I'll often forget what city I'm in, even what time zone, and I don't even travel all that much. Well, I do, but it's not like when someone's on a book tour and they spend 20 days a month in airports. But I've never been good at days of the month and stuff like that, and in a project like A Year Without Rent you start to exist in your own little world, and that world doesn't have traditional days of the week.

So you don't know what day of the month Tuesday is, and when the person picking you up at the airport sends you a tweet to the effect of, "Have a safe flight", you pretty much assume that today is your flight.

And when it isn't?

Well, you find a place to crash for the night. Somewhere closer than Phil Seneker's house, which is pretty far from the airport. So I call my friend Joe Shapiro, who worked on FAT KID RULES THE WORLD. I've stayed at his place before and he lives really close to the light rail that takes people from downtown to the airport.

Only by now it's 2pm and Joe is on set. Wrap will be something like midnight. My car is far away. I have luggage. It's a lot of time to kill on a tight budget.

I take the light rail back. I have my ticket for the way out and in Seattle they kind of operate on the honor system where if they check and you don't have your ticket, you're kind of fucked. I sit by the doors and three quarters of the way there, I see one of the guys who checks the tickets get on, so I jump off. That puts me in what appears to be Chinatown. I'm a couple of miles away from where I need to be, so I start walking. With luggage.

Basically, here's the situation: I'm on a really tight budget with AYWR, like pennies on the dollar of what you'd normally spend. I have blog posts and articles to write (like this one), photos to edit, videos to edit, a feature film to edit. All sorts of stuff. More than you think there is. There's no reason for me to not be busy. So a perfect situation is to find a coffee shop with free wifi where I can buy a coffee for $1 and stay there for hours. The longer the better. So I pull out my phone and figure out which direction I need to go.

It being Seattle, I find a Starbucks pretty quickly, so I sit down. Only, it's only open until 5pm. Still, that's pretty good. I get a little bit done and move on.

Joe tells me I should check out the Seattle Library, but that's only open to 8pm. Still, it helps. It gets me closer and kills time. After that, I find a Barnes & Noble that's open until 10pm. There's a guard at the door who gives me a really weird look when I walk in with my suitcase and my backpack, but I tell him my flight got delayed. I'm not sure why. He doesn't really care.

After Barnes & Noble, I'm pretty much starving. I haven't eaten anything all day, so I start looking around for some cheap food.

A lot of bars will have a small plates special late at night where you can get food pretty cheaply. But it's a kind of tricky thing to figure out. Some of it is filling and some of it is really just going to make you more hungry. Sports bars are best for this sort of thing. They tend to be open until 2am and their clientele doesn't have much patience for ridiculously small portions. So then it's just a question of walking around, looking at the menus and figuring out which one works. I find one. They have a burger option. Problem solved.

Then, figuring Joe is nearly home, I walk the couple of blocks to where he lives, sit down on the sidewalk, my back against his building, and hijack some wifi from somewhere.

I imagine I'm an odd sight--this guy with a suitcase and a MacBook Pro sitting cross-legged in downtown Seattle, but there I am. Some people stumble out of the bar across the street and I watch a guy around my age looking through the garbage for food.

It's a sobering bit of perspective. As much as I like to complain about things, at least I'm not that guy.

The next day, I get on a plane for the UK.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.