At 02.37AM sat on the floor of Terminal Three at Boston Logan Airport, waiting for my bed, seat 16F on the AA 1057 to Dallas, life seemed quite good.
My coverage of Shrewsbury Town pre-season training had been well worth it. I was rusty as hell with my timing all over the place. My pre-season training had been worthwhile.
The last football I had covered was at the UEFA Champions League Final, almost a month ago.
It had probably been one of the longest gaps when not working ever and it showed, my reaction time was shocking!
Waiting for the flight in Boston, I had just completed my fourth game in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Goals were being captured without even thinking. My training was done and I was ready for an epic weekend of soccer ball that meant something to the UK audience.
I had not covered the FIFA World Cup of 1990 when all I heard of were tales from traveling photographers covering games on one side of the country, taking night flights and waking up in a new city for another day.
My 3-4 hours sleep on my first leg to Dallas was well underway. It could have been 1990.
I was one of the first on the plane. I was asleep within minutes. The chap next to me was fast asleep too. How did I know? His eyes of anger greeted me when were were both woken up by a young mother appearing in the before empty aisle seat holding a grumpy screaming child.
I was now wide awake. I somehow could get the wifi from the terminal whilst sitting in the plane waiting for my fellow passengers to board. I didn’t need to write or read any emails. I didn’t need to check the weather. Unlike some, my life is OK without Facebook. Tomorrow was Saturday – football was back.
I went Googling in search of the New York City Soccer Club. Frank Lampard’s new club. Although I was flying to LA to cover Gerrard’s debut, Lampard’s debut at the Yankee Stadium on Sunday somewhat excited me more.
That is until I read the immortal words, “The medical team have decided to rest Lampard after suffering a muscle injury.” I swore big time. Since when did the Cee You Next Tuesday ever get a muscle injury at Chelsea? I would not see him next Tuesday either as his debut was now pencilled in on the 26th – the day of the Gold Cup Final in Philadelphia.
I was faced with either going crazy mad or philosophising about the past few days. I did the latter. On my way to the airport in England, the Mercedes developed a fault in the fuel fuel gauge. 160KM of fuel left it said. That was until it decided to switch on all the warning lights and grind to a halt on the M40, 110 minutes before my final check in at Heathrow some 40 miles away. The man from Mercedes was utterly brilliant. My Guardian Angel topped up my car, didn’t charge me anything and I made the flight.
I got lucky in Chicago. The injured Javier Hernandez decided to make an appearance before the Mexico v Cuba game.
Lucky because all the other US photographers did not know who he was and understand the significance of the injured Manchester United players appearance to the European football picture market. Equally it reminded me on how amazing Manchester Untied are at signing global superstars. Quite easily 75% of the Mexicans had his name on the back of his shirt.
My final sleep in a bed for two nights had run as smooth as clockwork.
Although the hotel shuttle bus was on time, checking in was a breeze and as I had been to Boston Airport many times, I understood the Blue Line Bus Route which transported passengers from terminal to terminal and to the car rental depot. To top it off American Airlines had delivered me about 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
The bus was rammed. I got the last place, balancing on the step having to get on and off every time it stopped as I was blocking the doors. Then it was my stop, at the car rental. I got off, went to my line at the rental company smiling as I only had one person in front of me – no 2 hours wait like before…
….only to realise I had left my bloody camera bag on board the damn bus – well words to that effect!
I ran out as quick as my legs would take me with my red wheeled case whizzing by my side and my small rucksack holding my big long telephone lens and one camera. I was greeted with the sigh of now four Blue Line Busses.
“I left a bag on board!” I shouted at a driver. He said try the bus behind, I did. Then a supervisor appeared as though he had come from the sky. “Black roller bag Sir?” he asked. I guess that described by ThinkTank Airport International special leather edition purchased only 5 days previous due to my old one having the zip broken and another wheel falling off.
“Yes…” I replied with huge anticipation.
“The State Troopers have it.” I was puzzled. He went on to say that they were not allowed to take the bags themselves and the State Troopers took them for inspection and a dog sniff for bombs.
With my mind racing thinking, perhaps someone snuck up and had stolen it whilst I was in line at the Rental Company. Actually when WAS the last time I had it?
I was awake after a great four hour sleep but not that great.
As directed I went back on the bus to Terminal C and went in to the information desk trying to find Lost and Found. I was greeted by a big man. A very big man. It reminded me of being 6 years old when all adults were giants. With his blue shirt, State Trooper badges, fancy black hat and guns and pepper spray on his belt he said the immortal words, “You the guy who lost his bag?” I nodded and smiled, as he pointed to a black bag on wheels standing next to a couple looking like they were Eastern European.
“That’s not mine. I fits the description but its not mine.” The girl in the couple who looked like she had been crying, cried some more. It was evident they had taken the wrong bag from the baggage collection.
I felt like crying like a lost child when I went to speak but words would not come out of my mouth as the State Trooper walked off back outside of the Terminal. I was calm but my head was buzzing thinking about my two Canon Eos X cameras, my lap top, my car keys – my everything inside that bag.
If it had of been my clothes bag, I am someone who certainly does not mind wearing the same clothes for a week. It’s what I normally do anyway!
Then, from like the final scene of a film, out of the bright outside the automatic doors automatically opened with the 7 foot Storm Trooper giant holding a ThinkTank bag in his hand as though it was a woman carrying a purse – my ThinkTank bag is quite heavy to lift!
He removed my business card and promptly said.. NAME.. I replied – he looked at the card and lowered the ThinkTank bag to my feet and presented the business card into my hand. He was too big to hug. He was too scary to kiss. The only words that could come out of my mouth were “Thank You”.
He just did a U-turn and walked off.
I made the game OK. The game was rubbish. USA winning 1-0 – the goal down the other end.
But being positive, all my requirements had been achieved – USA boss Jurgen Klinsmann being astonishingly not photographed by the US photographers leaving me with an almost exclusive portrait session with a back drop of NFL LED advertising screens.
Editorially I had got everything – arguments, fights, nice tackles, and a bit of creative stuff too.
…I shut my eyes on the aeroplane thinking I was lucky that I had got all my belongings as that mostly things had been going well. Flying from LA to New York was the most expensive flight by 3 times compared to the other 19 flights I had booked, even though I rewarded myself with a nice comfy bed after two nights of sleeping on American Airlines aircraft in a strategically positioned airport hotel so I that I could get the NY Subway to the Yankee Stadium, there would be no Frank Lampard. His little muscle pull had cost me 20% of my budget for a three week trip covering Soccer Ball in the USA.
What else can go wrong? I have only been out for four days!