It’s a strange time right now, but my hope is that we can all grab a little happiness and fun when we can. So with that in mind, I wanted to start out this blog with some of my funniest road stories.
Bassists are so, so lucky that we get to load our massive instrument in to an even more massive sarcophagus of a flight case and then beg and plead to be allowed the privilege of paying a months rent to get it loaded underneath the plane by people who probably wish they had skipped work that day.
Still, I do my best to make the experience as un- horror filled as possible. Of the multitude of things that happen when I’m ‘flying with the bass,’ my favorite is when, I am rolling the case through the terminal, and people stop dead in their tracks right in front of me to stare. They usually have a bemused smile on their face that in no way prepares them for the real and imminent possibility that they will be run over by a giant white object that I have very little control over. Driving a bass case through an airport is a bit like taking a snowmobile uphill through an unstable snowbank. In both cases (so sorry, I swear I hate puns…) if you do not have momentum on your side you run the very real risk of having to bail out and watch a large metal bass-shaped case fly ahead in front of you. People aren’t generally standing in front of me on snowbanks while sipping their Orange Julius, but folks in airports often are (sorry, man from Wichita, but I did yell, “please watch out!” as forcefully as I could).
Aside from dangerous pedestrian-case incidences, there are the super exciting times at the airport that I like to call “Fun in the TSA Gun Check Room.” Now, these are good times. For those of you who don’t know, if you bring a weapon or any other large object that can’t be sent through the baggage belt system you have to go to a place called the CTX room. CTX is ‘an automated explosives detection system’ that uses computed tomography to characterize materials in checked bags and automatically identify objects that could be improvised explosive devices’ (Funny aside, my colleague’s bass actually did explode on stage one morning during a children’s concert. A crucial piece broke loose on his instrument and the strings, bridge and whatnot went flying during a performance of Star Wars. No Joke. Weeks later we got a nice letter from one of the children saying that that was his favorite part of the concert).
So, since the bass in a flight case won’t fit in the normal machines, we go to the room that has the personnel and the hand-held machines. Fortunately, the folks at my home airport have gotten to know me, and we even chat about the last time I was there or the last person they saw come through with a bass (happens more than you think, kind of like basses exploding…). Anyway, at other airports I’ve gotten everything from a complete bass cavity check to a slight look in the direction of the instrument followed by the TSA approval flyer thrown on the inside of the case. Most folks are genuinely nice about it, and you can bet your last facemask that I behave like Alice Graceway Goody Two shoes the second I step foot in any airport. To do any differently could mean a long car ride in a rental car to get myself home.
Pro Tip: Bass flight cases can fit in an economy rental only if you are willing to drive with your head hanging out the window like Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.
Take care y’all, and when we all start flying again and you see me careening out of control at the airport, for God’s Sake get out of the way and hand me an Orange Julius as I scream by.