Russ Ringsak

The Hiding Place

May 21, 2014

I flew back home for a week after delivering the rig curbside at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. An internet and cell phone search yielded up a local driver named Tillis to set it at the dock for the Friday morning load in and the Saturday night out. I wondered if he was related to Mel. Stage Boss said he turned out to be a good guy; brought his family to the show and enjoyed it. Said he thinks the guy maybe wants my job. I felt I was doing my job by finding him. In any case a good guy to know.

Flew home on a Sunday. Atlanta was the world's busiest airport last year, 94,430,785 passengers. Very efficient, smooth, modern; I registered my single bag at the curbside check in and immediately felt the holster of the new Leatherman on my hip and said to the guy:
"Wait a second -- can I get that bag back?"
"It's gone - it's on the way to the flight line already."
"I need to put something in there -- can we intercept it somehow?"
"No sir. You'll have to get it in Minneapolis. It's gone."
He pointed to the moving conveyor belt disappearing into the nether caverns beneath us.

Went to Lost and Found, thinking I might stash it there for a week, but no no no only can hold for one night. This had happened previously in Minnesota and they saved one for a week; put a tag on it. But these no no no people were not there to make me happy. A top-line Leatherman is about 75 bucks and is impossible to get past the TSA screening.

Must find hiding place. It looked hopeless, a giant busy atrium like that, franchises all around, different shifts, all hard surfaces, no doubt cleaned every day. Guards everywhere. But the phone kiosks by the luggage carousels have a stainless steel shelf to set the book upon. The edge has an inch of folded-back return beneath that shelf running the width of it; reached under a few and found in two of them a four-inch-wide shelf set crosswise under the main shelf. Front to back under there. A miracle. That inch was just high enough to cram in a holstered Leatherman. Invisible. You had to reach underneath and to one side to find it. I casually zeroed in, put the phone to my ear and fumbled around the shelf like I had lost a number; checked the nearby landmark retail fronts, looked the other way and jammed that case up in there. Went through TSA and got on the plane.

For the Sunday return trip I packed my old stainless Leatherman Super Tool -- same length, well broken in but with fewer blades and features than a new Surge -- in case some hired neat freak goes through that airport place once a week and reaches under all the phone kiosks and finds my new one, at least I wouldn't be clawless. (Maybe still clueless). Arriving back at the baggage claim I checked under that phone kiosk.

GONE. Maybe this isn't it. Try the next one. Empty. Oh well, nice try. Maybe buy a new one later. Wait. You put it in the side facing the other way; that security guy came by. Went back and checked the phones on the other side.

BINGO. I now have two Leathermen holstered. Beat the system. Feels good, too. Hid that thing within reach of a bazillion travelers for an entire week. Even from myself for a minute there.

Rescued Surge in Full Display Mode: looks like a tom turkey thinking he might get lucky.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Atlanta keeps growing. Skyline getting burly; aggressive tower tops getting higher and tougher. The nation's seventh largest population and sixth largest economy. Didn't spend much time there this trip but long enough to see the increased bulk over there across the freeway ravine that separates it from the sedate pace of the neighborhood around the gorgeous old Fox Theatre. One of the trucker's favorites. We all like it.

Talked to a local guy working at the Fox. He told me since he moved to Atlanta nine years ago the city had grown by five million people; five million, in just nine years. Seemed like a lot. I checked and what he meant to say was twenty-five thousand. Total citizenry is still just under half a million, which is this old guy's notion of just about right for a major league city. Any more, you don't really need that. Just brings more problems. Thus speaketh the drover of the half-thousand horses thundering.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Waiting now in a Virginia hotel for clearance to move the rig to the big shed at Wolf Trap in Washington, a guy gets to tracking through old photos. The digital age has made the giant photo album weightless; amazing to someone raised in the era of paper photographs. I carry fourteen thousand pictures weighing exactly the same as a daydream.

There are a lot of Montana biker vacations in there. One from 2006 has a series of a longhaired kid on a smalltown main street kicking a bean bag, keeping it in the air with his feet. I had left the Buckaroo Bar ahead of the others and stopped to watch and had time to get the camera out; he acted as if I wasn't there, his only audience on the quiet Sunday street. Mountains in the background. Eight years ago. He would be in his twenties now. He was wearing jeans and a black t-shirt with a sheet of paper taped to the front that read: "Gone To My Happy Place. Back Soon."

Mesmerized I fired off thirty-three shots of him. Here is a short gallery:



Probably not something you'd expect in a biker trip portfolio but I'd forgotten the episode. I kept shooting until the bag finally hit the ground. He never looked at me, as I recall. If he did he saw this; my one summer in a buzz cut:

Backward, turn backward, O time in thy flight...

Not only was the buzz cut new, it was the first year behind a windshield. Felt like a luxury, an easy chair sort of thing. Got used to it, too. August the first, 2006 ... doesn't seem that long ago ... and sometimes it feels a very long time ago.

© Russ Ringsak 2014

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