Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Adventures in Transportation

(It wouldn’t hurt to refresh yourself with the concept of “The Big Guy Irritation Index” from Athens 2004. Find it here.)

Skip a bit if you don't want to read the tale of our night with The Captain.

Sunday started as a continuation of Saturday night.
Midnight found Mark and I at the Queen's Lounge, about a block from our hotel.
Now... For those of you who are trying to get a jump on things, we are in Italy, not Key West or San Francisco. The Queens Lounge is an English pub (and nothing else) conveniently located by the closest ATM to the hotel.
We were on a quest to find a place to watch the Superbowl and were systematically checking all the bars and pubs within crawling distance to the hotel.
The usual response from the local pubkeepers: "Wot? American football? Why doncha watch a real man's sport- rugby!"
So - Midnight rolls around and we're in the Queen's.
Drinking. (Duh.)
Drinking a lot. (Again, Duh.)
One of the other qualifications for the bar-of-choice is that they have a decent selection of Tequila and/or Rum... Capt. Morgan’s, specifically.
And, God save 'er, the Queen has several bottles.
So our friendly bar wench, Nicky, from Wales no less, was giving us a very generous pour.
She started to fill the glass with rum, looking at Mark for a nod when to stop.
Mark signaled her to keep pouring...and pouring...3 ice cubes, 4 to 5 ounces of Captain and a half ounce of Coca Cola. That was her version of Captain and Coke. After 3 of those, and the one we had at Paddy McGinty's during the cocktail hour, and the half bottle of red wine (La LePre) for dinner...
Well, let's just say we were feeling mighty fine.

Last order rolled around about quarter of one, then the manager from Queen's dragged us over to Schuss, a completely dead disco even closer to the hotel. We were sociable and had another Captains with him there, along with the eight or ten rugby snowboarders that had tagged along also...
The joint was pretty dead so we decided to split and we trudged, or better yet, staggered up the hill back to Paddy's.
Part of our plan was based on the concept of "If you can't beat them, join them." The first couple night’s sleep in Sauze D'Oulx were interrupted when Paddy's would close about 2 in the morning... All the patrons would stand outside (on the road in front of our hotel) and sing, discuss the events of the day, giggle, tell jokes, etc. Needless to say, it was a bit disturbing for us... We figured that instead of trying to sleep through it, we'd just join in.
So... 'Round about 2AM we were back drinking with The Captain at Paddy’s...
Amy, the bar wench at Paddy's had an interesting methodology for her mixing; She'd fill the glass with The Captain, then wave a bottle of Coke over the glasses.
She handed one to Mark who sampled the mix, smiled and gave a "thumbs up" sign.
"As a matter of fact," he said, "If I had three hands, I'd give it two thumbs up."
The total for the evening was something like 8 very generous Captain & Cokes each...

The 7 AM wake-up call came only moments after my head hit the pillow...

This is where things get interesting...

We ordered a car from NBC Transportation for 9AM. In the morning. (Ouch)

Want to see a map of where we are talking about?

Click on map for full-sized PDF. Enjoy.

The plan:
1. 9:00 Pick up in Sauze D'Oulx.
2. Drive to Colle in Sestriere. (one hour)
3. Pick up our equipment at Alpine venue.
(2 x 5' 100 lb equipment cases)
4. Drive back to Sauze D'Oulx (one hour)
5. Drop off Mark and his equipment at Freestyle.
6. Yours Truly would continue to Bardonecchia (30 Minutes)
7. Drop YT and my equipment at Snowboarding.

Now, in order to make sure that the transportation order is correct and they understand what I want to do I go, in person, to the transportation office in Sestriere the evening before. I explain that I want a van, big enough for Mark and YT, all our equipment, and with the right passes, credentials, stickers, tickets, etc, to get in to the venues at Colle, Sauze D'Oulx, and Bardonecchia.
"No problem. We have the right passes- everything."
I even get a follow up call from the Big Guy at Transportation, John, assuring me that all will be as ordered.

Ok... Mark and I are dutifully, if a bit hung over, waiting outside the hotel at 8:50...
(BGII – 0 - Cold but in good spirits. I'm ready to really get some work accomplished today.)
I get a call from PDP (Transportation).
"He's on the way. Car M93."
9:00- No car.
9:15- No car.
We start to notice people putting up balloons and banners around town...
A crowd starts gathering down the street in the square. My spider sense starts tingling.
I call NBC Transportation.
"The driver was held up by the torch relay in Cesana... He will be there in moments."
9:30- No sign of the car. More people. It becomes obvious that the torch is coming through the middle of Sauze D'Oulx.
Not a good thing.

- We have retreated to the lobby of the hotel to ward off frostbite.
10:00- No car. Another call to transportation is made.
"He is almost there." they tell me.
10:30- Our car arrives in Sauze D'Oulx. With the Olympic torch. Hundreds of people are lining the streets in Sauze D’Oulx.
Transportation calls me...
"The driver is waiting for you at the town square."
"Ok... we'll head that way." I tell her.
I grab my bags...
This is a good time to tell you about my tool kit.
It is a 15"x24" hard plastic black Pelican case... Weighs about 50 pounds.
Has all my tools and sundry items that make events run smoother.
So... I want you to visualize Mark and Yours Truly hastening to the square down the hill from the hotel- Mark with his backpack and a no-nonsense attitude... Me, with my backpack and my tool kit. Walking with haste and purpose. Black jeans, boots, black jacket- looking for all the world like a terrorist rushing through the crowd looking for the optimal place to set off my explosives.

We couldn't find the car down in the square, so I called transportation back...
"Oh... He is in the town square uphill from the hotel... I'm sorry."
Lovely. Two town squares.
(BGII – 2)
We wade back into the crowd, huffing and puffing up the road to the OTHER town square.
Did I mention it was UPHILL? Yeah.
There are even more people up here, and we're moving through the crowd like we're on a mission from God.
We finally made it to the vehicle, threaded our way through the crowd and headed out to Colle... We were even ahead of the torch as it was making it's way downhill.
It was an uneventful trip on the way to Colle- I actually got to enjoy the trip and get a look at the scenery during the journey.
Mark, the sly bastard, got shotgun, so I was sitting in the jump seat in the back of the Lancia.
So... In Colle- we went through vehicle search fast and easy...
Vehicle search is the automotive version of Mag & Bag. The use mirrors to look under the car, they search the engine compartment (the bonnet), the trunk (the boot), and any other nooks and crannies they can find. The occupants are subjected to basic mag & bag procedures, or a pat down, or even a wanding (my personal favorite). Once the vehicle is searched it is allowed to enter the venue or compound.
We got all the way to the NBC Broadcast compound in Colle, loaded out our cases and were back on the road in record time.

Local Yokels
Heading back to Sauze D'Oulx... The driver decided to take the "low road" that goes back along the floor of the valley, rather than along the high road that we had taken from Oulx to Colle. Big mistake.
Just as we were getting into Cesana there was a police roadblock... Not the Carabinieri, the national police, but the local yokels. You know... Morons.
Needless to say, I started doing a quick mental inventory of all the stuff in my bag, toolkit and equipment case...The worst thing I could think of was the flask of Captain Morgan in my jacket pocket.
(Hair of the Dog, you know.)
Anyway- we get pulled over and the local police commence to putting the driver through the wringer.
In the end the issue wound up being that he (the driver) didn't have the original registration for the rental car. Now, I don't know about you, but if I ever get an original registration for a rental vehicle, it will be on Autotrader.com about 30 minutes after I leave the rental lot...
I don't think I've ever even seen a original registration in any kind of rental vehicle.
Anyway, we waste 30 minutes with the Polizia Locale Cesana and we are finally on our way again...
(BGII – 3)
We arrive in Sauze D'Oulx at Freestyle skiing...Mark’s venue.
Actually we arrive at the VSA at Freestyle... We start the process. We know that want to search the car. No Problem.
The 19 or so Carabinieri start to converge on us and one of the Olympic security guys comes to the driver and they have a short but spirited discussion in Italian...
At the end of the chat our status is as follows:
Mark is allowed in. His credential is good.
YT is permitted to enter the site. My creds pass muster.
The vehicle is OK to go in, it has the right sticker.
(...After it is checked for explosives, smallpox, anthrax, and whooping cough, of course.)
BUT... the driver is not allowed to go in the site- his creds don't permit him access.
Easy solution: I'll drive the car. Driver can wait outside the venue.
OK, but he has to check it out with his supervisor first.
A quick phone call is made- the answer is No. His supervisor had another solution...
The driver trudges up the road and goes to the Accreditation Office to get a day pass.
We wait...
15 minutes later, he's back. No pass. He cannot come in. (Why not? Who knows.)
Ok... Now Olympic Security Guy comes back and says that the car is not allowed in either.
(BGII – 5)
It wouldn't be a big deal, but the equipment cases are a bitch to roll, and the road to the NBC compound is unpaved and is currently a muddy mess. Let's go into resolution mode...
Mark places a call the tech manager to see if he can send a car out to pick him up out at the security checkpoint (Mag and Bag).
"No problem- sit tight and we'll get a car to you."
Ok... part one solved.
We leave Mark at Mag & Bag for FreeStyle.
(The last time I saw him, they (site security) were removing each piece of equipment from his equipment case and running it through the x-ray machine.
Thye funny part? The x-rayed everything EXCEPT the packing case which had 4" padding all around the equipment. They never checked the case, just the laptops and equipment inside. Definitely rocket surgeons workin' the Mag & Bag at Freestyle.)

One last thing on Mark- I had been sitting in the back seat of this Lancia, in a nice (hard, cold) vinyl seat. By the time we arrived back in Sauze D'Oulx, my ass had a terminal case of frostbite and knees were permanantly locked in a Z-formation.
After dropping off Mark I took shotgun and found that the front seat was a soft, luxurious HEATED Lay-Z-Boy recliner... Mark had been up in the front luxuriating in warmth and comfort... Revenge will be mine, Mark-old-buddy-old-pal...

Ok... On to Bardonecchia.
Well... Almost.

We went from Sauze D'Oulx to Oulx, basically just to the bottom of the hill, and pulled into a parking lot.
The driver explains:
"I can no longer drive."
Apparently there is an issue on how many hours you are allowed to drive, or some such other nonsense.
"It is not a problem, though... The are sending another driver from Sestriere."
"How long is that going to take?"
"He is already on his way. He will be here soon."
(BGII – 6 and I'm getting close to losing every bit of my oh-so-copious charm.)
We wasted another 40 minutes waiting for the new driver to arrive...
Finally the new driver, Matteo, shows up... We do a quick swap of keys, radios and paperwork and we are all off again.
Over the river and through the woods, up to Bardonecchia and then to Melezet.
(Melezet is the actual event location, Bardoneccia is nearest town to the venue.)

Finally- the light at the end of the tunnel...

We arrived at VSA to get into Snowboarding, and guess what? We weren't allowed in.
(BGII – 7)
Who's surprised? A show of hands... No one? Good. You're catching on.
Well... I was allowed in, but Matteo was not. My case was another story. Having seen they shenanigans they put Mark through, I was not going to go through that. No way.
I called the Tech Manager (Bruce Middleton, a gentleman and a scholar I knew from our days with the NBA on NBC together) to ask if they had a vehicle to pick me up.
He said he'd send it down in just a few minutes, and by golly, 4 minutes had elapsed and Simone (NBC's Runner) had arrived with the car and he helped me transfer equipment.
He took the car through VSA and I went through the regular M&B.
Then they dragged me back to the VSA because they wanted to look inside all my cases...
"No problem," says I, and we dragged them back out of the car and opened everything up. The asked the same questions I always hear-
“Who are you, Why do you need this, Who do you work for?”
I can see the finish line in sight now, so I answer all the questions, politely and with a smile...but the BGII was rapidly closing on 8...
Yes sir, no sir, yes sir...
They pass us on and we are rolling into the Broadcast compound...
Finish time: 3:05 PM, for a job that should have been through at 11:00 if the credentials were right, and there was no torch relay...
Really- it was a comedy of errors- none the fault of the Transportation department, or the drivers...I do fault the cops, and the clueless VSA goobers and their inability to stick to the long-ago agreed-upon procedures.

One last goodie:
When it was finally time for Mark to leave his venue, he called transportation for a vehicle. They said “No problem, 20 minutes.”
Twenty minutes passes and he gets a call from PDP.
“Your car has arrived.”
Excellent, he thinks- it will be down the road where they hold all the non-accredited vehicles that come to pick up staff.
He walks out of the graphics truck and the car is waiting at the foot of the stairs.
Inside the venue.
In the broadcast compound.
Without correct credentials for the driver or the car.
She just drove right in, no muss no fuss.

BGII Level 9.

I'm wondering if the roof of the hotel will do instead of a clock tower...

One final thing, the webcam is up when I'm in my hovel.

No, it doesn't refresh on its own... The pic changes every 60 seconds.
Hit F5 for a refresh.

TBG out...

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