Its the glamour!
Not specifically an IT issue, but a tale from Broadcast TV news, and lugging equipment around the world...
Cast your mind back to 1986, and the Shultz - Shevardnadze peace conference in Vienna. At the time I was a video editor for a UK news organisation, dispatched to Vienna to cover the conference for our network.
As usual, all the arrangements were left until the last minute, resulting in a panic to get the camera crew, reporter, producer, myself and all our equipment on a flight from Heathrow to Vienna. This was compounded by the fact that we would be sharing some resources with the American ABC network, so in addition to the editing equipment, I also had to lug along a standards converter (NTSC to PAL and vice versa – very big and heavy back then!) along with some extra NTSC and PAL video recorders to record local feeds and record and playback to the standards converter. This was a very big pile of equipment!
The company hired a truck with a tail-lift to get me to Heathrow. When it arrived, it looked so beat up that the camera crew refused to risk their equipment in it, and took a black cab (at vast expense!) instead. I had no choice but to go in the truck!
In addition to being beat up, it didn't have enough fuel to get from central London to Heathrow, and by the time we had re-fuelled, time was getting tight for my flight. The camera crew were great, and lent a helping hand to get everything off and into the check-in. It appeared to me that every broadcaster in the world was trying to get onto this flight, and each crew was also checking in a mountain of equipment! We all slapped our company cards down to pay the excess baggage, but I was starting to wonder nervously if the 'plane would ever get off the ground with all this equipment on board!
Next stop was customs and carnet checking time. Just my luck to get a tiny and very officious customs officer, who clearly had an inferiority complex! He picked the one item of equipment in this mountain that did not have the serial number on the outside and insisted that I couldn't leave until he had verified it! One of the camera crew started unpacking a toolkit to start dismantling the sound mixer while I continued to argue with the customs official, with the last call for our flight sounding over the tannoy.
At that moment, inspiration struck! Seeing a roll of duct tape in the toolbox, I tore a strip off, wrote the number on the tape and stuck it on the front!
"Will that do?", I asked!
"Yes!", he said, finally stamping the carnet!
We made the flight by the skin of our teeth!
But it doesn't end there!
Arriving in Vienna at nearly midnight, I went to the car rental desk to enquire about the tail lift truck that was supposed to meet me. The woman behind the desk eventually put her knitting down and deigned to recognise my presence, but denied all knowledge of the booking! I spent the next half-an-hour traipsing around the airport desperately trying to hire a vehicle - of any sort - that would carry my cargo. I ended up hiring a 40 seater bus! For cash!
The actual job itself went pretty smoothly, once the usual technical hiccups were sorted. A few days later, I found myself back at Vienna airport for the journey home. As I went from one desk to another, with a train of porters and equipment behind me, like a mother duck and her ducklings, I spotted a very harassed looking fixer from ABC crossing my path. She also had a train of porters and equipment behind her. She looked at me and said "That's what I love about this job! Its the glamour of it, the sheer glamour!" I laughed and gave her a wave!
The ones I really felt for were the ABC camera crew. They were Polish, and as we were walking across to our shiny, new British Airways 767, they were forlornly heading towards a LOT Ilyushin of some description. That plane was standing in pools of kerosene and hydraulic fluid, and didn't look fit to taxy to a scrapyard, never mind fly back to Warsaw!
Arriving back at Heathrow, I had to go through customs again to get the carnet stamped. As I approached the desk, who do I see, but the same officious little customs man! He took one look at me, and the mountain of equipment and bolted into the back room! One of his colleagues came out to deal with me, and it all went smoothly!
This time there was a tail-lift truck waiting for me! The camera crew got into their limo and departed, leaving me to load up and follow. Having got all the gear stowed, I went to the cab to climb in, only to find the driver's girl-friend sat in the passenger seat. No-one had told him he had to fetch me as well!
I spent the return trip from Heathrow sitting aside the transmission tunnel hanging on for dear life!
Its the glamour, you know! The glamour!