How to Give a Seminar in Your Underwear

Ever have that dream where you wake up, totally unprepared, and have to go to school to take a test in your underwear?

That's what pretty much happened to me this morning.


SWA Sends You an Extra Reservation, Just for Good Measure

If you'll indulge an OT rant, here's how not to start a trip off very smoothly.

Back story: I am heading to Bowling Green Kentucky this weekend, home of Western Kentucky University, possibly the most kickass photojournalism program in the country, to do an in-house lighting seminar.

Looking forward to catching up with my former colleagues Fran and Kurt, and eating on the university dime.

I throw all of my clothes in the wash.

My Friday flight leaves at 5:20 p.m., gets into Nashville an hour later, nonstop, no lost bags - easy stuff. I check in online on Friday at 10:00 a.m., because it is just an hour flight and I really do not care where I sit on SWA's first-come boarding service.

I pull the reservation for my 5:20 p.m. flight. Only, hey, look -- now says that I am on the 10:05 a.m. flight, which presumably is now climbing towards its cruising altitude.

Two seconds of silence. Followed by about a minute of

(The following paragraph has been edited by for content and language)

Motor BOATER?!?!? My motorboating reservation is for motorboating 10:00 a.m.???? Flock!



(Picture Hugh Grant in the opening scene of Four Weddings and a Funeral, only without the dashing good looks at the proclivities for cross-dressing hookers.)

Okayokayokay. Check flights between now and tomorrow morning. Everything full except a 12:40, which is close to full. Gear is packed. I think. Close enough -- just go with what is packed. Clothes are (MotorBOATER!) in the wash...

What's clean? two pair of shorts, some T's, some second-string underwear and a few pairs of mismatched socks. Doesn't matter. Gotta go. Now.

Susan drives me to the airport ASAP to save the short term parking expenses. Instead, all it costs me are helpful reminders from her that I maybe I should think about keeping a calendar.

(For the record, I do. It's just not written down. And thanks for lowering the stress level, hon...)

Get to BWI and to the check-in person to plead my case as a frequent flier of Southwest Airlines.

Only, hey, look, Mr. Hobby -- turns out you are still on the original 5:20 p.m. flight! Turns out we accidentally sent you two completely different reservations by mistake, just to keep you on your toes. No problem. You're all set.

Wait. You sent me a reservation for my flight, and an extra, "DoNotOpenUnlessYouWantAHeartAttack" reservation for a flight that leaves six hours earlier?

Yeah, oops, that happens sometimes. Sorry about that! Want some peanuts?

So, now I am at BWI, six hours early, where I am either gonna catch a stand-by on an earlier flight or do the $9.95 internet-for-a-day thing and try to get some work done.

And try to get my friggin' blood pressure down to pre-Southwest levels.

So, if you are coming to the weekend lighting gig at WKU, and I look a might disheveled and about 20 years older, now you know why.

And thanks for letting me vent. I feel better already.

UPDATE: Sorry For the Screwup. $66.00, Please!

This just keeps getting sillier.

When I arrives at the airport only to find out that I had been sent the "special" extra reservation, Southwest check-in lady apologizes profusely and offers to stick me on standby for the interim flights.

"The 12:40 is only oversold by 2 people," she says. "Should be no problem!"

Well, that's something, at least. Maybe I will not have to wait at BWI for six hours unnecessarily.

So I put my name on the list for the 12:40 flight -- first in line past the oversold folks. Which means I have to check my hard case (stands, umbrellas, ring flash adapter, all the other not-too-fragile stuff) on the 12:40 in case I get the earlier flight.


Hey, first good news of the day -- there is one seat available on the flight. (Gate agent man is cracking jokes at this point, asking if my last name happens to be "Hamilton," or perhaps at least "Jackson".)

It might be "Washington," I reply. At least someone still has their sense of humor today. Which is a good thing, I guess.

"That'll be $66.00 for the schedule change," gate agent lady says to me.

"No, you don't understand," I say. "I am trying to make the best of SWA's little mistaken surprise wake-up call today. Check-in lady suggested I do this so I will not have to wait at BWI all day."

"Sorry, she did not make a note on the file," gate lady says. "Nothing I can do."

(Baksheesh joking agent slips away at this point.)

"Surely you have some discretion here," I plead. "This all started when SWA mistakenly sent me a wrong reservation. And you clearly have a seat that will be going unused on the flight."

"Sorry!' she says. Nothing I can do..."

(Want some peanuts?)

Now I am sitting all afternoon at BWI, thinking about the catch-up work I was gonna do at home today. And wondering if my hard gear case will survive on the baggage belt long enough to make it to Unclaimed Baggage -- or quietly walk away all by itself.

We'll see tonight.

UPDATE #2: I got here, albeit with a few more grey hairs.

Bags were here, too, in unclaimed baggage. Or more accuately, sitting out in an open area near the office of unclaimed baggage. I grabbed the hard case and my backpack and the lady waived at me from inside the room. I guess I looked trustworthy enough to just come up and grab some bags without showing any form of ID whatsoever. Yikes.

But the weekend went great, otherwise. Great folks at the Western Kentucky Photojournalism Program, too. Now I just gotta get home...

UPDATE #3: If you are arriving here from Consumerist, we don't normally talk about traveling in dirty underwear. Strobist is about teaching photographers how to light.

UPDATE #4: Mystery solved!

There were apparently two concurrent reservations for my R/T trip to Nashville: One made by me, and one made by the people at Western Kentucky. They were each paid for by a separate party, neither of whom knew about the other reservation.

Southwest apparently has no way to know whether some is booked twice for the same trip, which prolonged the confusion a bit. And the fact that they would not let me fly standby without charging me a $66 upgrade was as a result of the fact that I had not yet begun the first leg of (either) of my two, concurrent trips in the system in the system at that point.

Long story short, SWA's computers are not wigging out. But neither can they tell when someone is double-booked for the same flight (which I was, on the return leg.) In retrospect, I am amazed that some kind of a flag was not set off by the double-book.

I am a SWA flyer, and will continue to be so, because I think they do things better than the other guys on the whole. But I did learn a lesson or two this time!


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