Part 22 of 50: Billy Crashes the Model Taxi

This is part twenty-two in a series of blogs on my photography adventures at ZoeFest X, in Todos Santos, Mexico.

You’ll recall that my decision to rent a car for the duration of ZoeFest X was turning out to be a fine choice. Before leaving Chicago, I had imagined that I might have only used it for driving the two hours from the airport at Los Cabos up Federal Highway 19 to our temporary home in Todos Santos, and then back again at the end of the trip.

Billy at Playa las Palmas, before crashing the Model Taxi.
Photo by Tara

However, it was really handy to be able to explore Todos Santos when scouting locations and picking up and driving models to our shoots. The added bonus was that no matter where I was headed, there was usually a model or two or five who needed a lift to the same place. Sometimes we just ran errands. For someone experiencing his first ZoeFest, it was also the perfect way to get to know everyone in the short time we were together.

I really do find that my photos of anyone are usually better the more I know them as a person. I always try to find something interesting about anyone I’m photographing beyond their obvious physical beauty. That little added connection really does make all the difference when capturing the essence of someone.

One day, near the end of our ZoeFest adventure, I was relaxing between shoots at the Hotelito when Rebecca, Ella Rose and Candace Nirvana (whose blog entry is coming very soon – promise!), asked me if I wanted to explore a little vintage shop up the dusty road between the Hotelito and Casa Dracula. It sounded like fun so we piled into my rental car and set out to find it.

Rebecca said she was pretty sure she knew where it was. And soon enough we spotted a little unmarked driveway that was near to where she thought it might be. We had found it, although you’d really have to know it was there to find it. I had driven past it nearly a hundred times during the week and never noticed it. If there was a sign, it was very bashful.

We parked and walked into the slightly organized main room piled high with used clothing and discarded flea market fair as only a shop like this can accomplish. The trio set about rummaging though racks and racks of clothing looking for those finds that can only be uncovered by picking through everything. One by one they brought out armfuls of potential finds to where I happened to be standing, near the only semi-full length mirror in the place. And of course, the mirror was for sale as well.

The parade of first holding up the potential find in front of the mirror and then quickly trying it on if it made the first cut proceeded as I stood by, offering my best honest opinion to the, “What do you think,” stream of questioning.

I have a long history of rather enjoying clothes shopping with women. I’d have to admit I’d rather find myself in a small upscale boutique than a sports bar. It’s one of the few quirks in my man wiring that makes me more comfortable in the Chanel store on rue Cambon in Paris over the ESPN Zone. I know. I don’t know why either, except I’d rather be looking at a pair of strappy Guiseppe Zanottis than looking under the hood of… well… any car, I guess. I’ve stopped asking myself.

I have a good reputation for actually helping with my point of view when asked. I remember a few years ago when a friend of mine was in the very early stages of a new relationship and it had escalated to a weekend getaway that required swimwear. She was panicking. After a desperate phone call, I found myself in the women’s dressing room of Marshall Field’s as my friend auditioned many swimwear options.

When she walked out in a particularly flattering deep blue one piece, my natural reaction of, “Wow!”, resulted in several heads popping out of the doors of other nearby changing rooms. The women all wanted to see what would hereafter be referred to as “The Wow Suit.”

Back in Todos Santos it was more miss than hit. Sometimes the find you’re hoping is in this rack somewhere, simply isn’t.

I took a short break from being mirror attendant to take a phone call from a friend of mine who was inviting me to dinner without realizing I was 2,500 miles away until we were a few minutes into our conversation. When I gave him a brief report on my photographic adventure in Baja, he laughed. “Of course you are!”

My friends are hard to surprise anymore.

After about 20 more minutes, Rebecca, Ella and Candace felt satisfied they had not overlooked the find of the century. They had found a few things. Worth the trip, but not quite the treasure trove we were perhaps hoping for. We piled back into the car for the short drive back to the Hotelito.

I’m sure I looked. I would never back up without looking first. Perhaps I was distracted. All I know is that I hadn’t moved the car ten feet before I heard a sickening crunch.

Fuck.

I pulled forward and got out of the car, angry with myself for not being more careful.

Wow. I really had crushed my back bumper. The trunk was also pushed up an inch or two.

Luckily, the van… yes, it was a great big giant blue van I backed into, was pretty much undamaged. Although my relief only lasted a few moments before the owner of the vintage shop, having heard the crunch, ran out to the parking lot waving her hands above her head in great distress. Her level of upset was a little out of proportion to the actual damage to her van, but I find it’s best to let people get it out at full volume before we can bring it down a few notches to calm and reasonable.

Eventually she realized my car was in much worse shape than hers was and the little mishap was relegated to just being one of those things. She walked back inside the shop and we drove away, a bit more cautiously this time.

Our car ride was a little on the quiet side for a minute, until I revealed my philosophy on things like my little accident.

“Whenever something like that happens, something involving a thing, be it a car or a camera or a some other thing, I always imagine, what if it hadn’t been a thing? What if it hadn’t been a stationary van I backed into? What if it had been a child playing behind the car? Or one of them? I would be so wishing it was just a fender bender. I would be wishing I could give anything to turn back time. A thing can be fixed. Replaced.”

Billy at Playa las Palmas, after crashing the Model Taxi.
(See? Still happy.) Photo by Tara

I’ve had a few camera mishaps in the course of my career. My beautiful Hasselblad dropped into 12 feet of water during a pool shoot. (It lived after a trip to Hasselblad repair.)

A $3,500 lens slipping out of the backpack of one of my assistants on location and crashing four feet to the ground onto the pavement. (It also lived but the protective UV filter did it’s job and was sacrificed.)

I’ve always reacted the same way. I imagine that it always could have been much worse. Something living and irreplaceable. We agree to have learned a lesson and to be more careful next time. And we move on.

Besides. I had purchased the maximum amount of insurance the rental car company offered.

Always buy the insurance. Always.

Then you simply hand the rental car agent your keys, apologize and take the airport shuttle to your gate.

Next time: Models with Cameras and why that’s perfectly okay with me.

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