“I can’t believe you left me alone last night.” The Passer says when he arrives at the Shoot. “I thought you were joking when you said ‘See ya tomorrow.’”
“Really.” I say as I look at the 6 foot 5 inch tall Passer who has the build of an offensive lineman. “I see you made it out alive.”
“We’re supposed to leave at the same time.” He says with just a hint of a pout in his voice. “You’re not leaving me here tonight.”
I like working with other Old Timers. When one of us is packed and ready to go, we go. If we happen to be in a really bad neighborhood, we might all leave at once so the mugger can rob all of us at the same time, but otherwise, not so much.
By the time the end of a day rolls around, I am usually tired and not too interested in hanging around any longer than I have to pack up my stuff. Waiting around for someone else to pack up their stuff is not high on my list of things to do.
On One Day Shoots the Company gets about three hours of my time for free anyway, as I am setting up and tearing down. If I have a Passer that can’t wrap up the last Sit of the night, I might have to hang around another hour or so, and if that same Passer thinks I am going to sit around for another half hour while they pack up-well, they can think again. And when the Passer is a grown man, I am not too concerned that he will be taken by aliens once I head for home.
In the fifteen and half years that I have taken Assembly Line Portraits I have never been robbed, nor have I heard tales of anyone else being robbed. Though I have heard tales of Photographers and Passers who were greatly afraid at one shoot or another. Stepping out into an urban area at ten o’clock or later at night can be a tad on the scary side. Places like Washington, DC, New Orléans, and Atlanta have plenty of bad elements that roam the darkness. Dallas and Fort Worth used to be neck and neck in the most violent crime group, and may still be. Most large cities have gangs and shootings and all manner of unpleasant things going on.
Any place can be dangerous, but for the most part, the places I have worked have not been all that bad. Most of my Shoots have taken place in Schools, Churches, and Masonic Lodges-not exactly hotbeds of violence-though the kids in the poor schools do tend do their best to look like death row inmates.
The real dangers of working for The Company come from the endless hours of driving, often while near or past the point of exhaustion. Two Passers were recently in auto accidents after leaving a Shoot, one of them ran into an over-sized bale of hay in the middle of the freeway and the other ran into a cow. The last accident I was involved in happened while I was driving home from a Shoot that was almost fifty miles away-the cutoff point for being reimbursed for a motel room-but not quite fifty miles away. So I was driving an extra couple of hours a day and someone ran a red light and plowed into me. The two Passers were OK, as was I, but all three cars were totaled by our work related auto accidents. The Company, of course, didn’t offer any kind of reimbursement for accidents that would not have happened if we were not working for them.
Another reason for the Let’s All Leave Together rule is that one of our cars might not start, and the other person could give us a ride or help change a flat or whatever. That has happened once in a while, but not very often. And what with everyone on Earth, except me, having a cellphone-even this seems to be a bit of overkill. I might need to borrow someone’s cellphone, but they can’t borrow one from me. And what with frequent car wrecks, we all tend to drive newer cars anyway.
Being The Photographer means that it usually takes me longer to tear-down than it does the Passer, unless it is busy and they are still showing portraits while I am packing up the odds and ends I don’t really need. I still have to leave the bare essentials in place in case someone wants a re-take, but most of the Old Timers aren’t going to want re-takes on the last sits. They don’t want to sit around any longer than they have to either. The Newbies all think they are going pull out that $2,000 sale on the last sit and Save The Day. Uh, yeah, right. Just shut up and get them out your room.
By the time the last few sits roll around you pretty know how it has gone for the day. And while it’s possible to get a few good sales at the end of the day, most of the time they won’t make much difference one way or the other to our paychecks. With a Good Passer, it’s a positive sign if they stay in the room a while. With a Bad Passer, it just means they are they spinning their wheels and have no idea when to wrap it up and move on.
In the Good Old Days, we had Photographers that would get four or five sits ahead of the Passer-then close down and leave. Most of those guys are gone now, and I was never that crazy about the idea of leaving without knowing what the finial numbers were. The Company was not too fond of complaints from people who wanted re-takes after the Photographer had already left for the day.
I am often alone at the Shoot at the end of the day. The Passer leaves and I still have stuff to take out to the car. This happens all the time. Never once has it occurred to me that I should be unhappy with the Passers for leaving. And it certainly never occurred to me that a grown man would be unhappy about my leaving him to pack up alone.
Maybe he was just a bit concerned that something odd might happen-after all, he did drive into a bale of hay not too long ago.