My Life Flashed Before My Eyes

taxi.jpgDid you ever have your life flash before your eyes? No, not in an actual life threatening sort of way. But in the "everything I've created, written, thought about, and produced, and the records I've kept, over the past 10 years" is gone, kinda way. Yes, that's right, something almost as scary. So, I just returned from the PPE tradeshow and convention in NYC. I was scheduled to speak at 9am on Friday. Our taxi driver, nearly oblivious to the fact that he actually had passengers in his cab, dodged through traffic, one hand on the wheel, the other on the horn for quick and repeated access. He, fortunately for his pal on the other end of the phone, used a wireless headset as he never missed a beat of his conversation through pickup, navigation, and ultimately drop-off and run. Why bother with saying, "Hello" anyway, it's much too personal.

As we exited the car at 8:05am in front of the convention center, he grabbed his fare from my hand, (still on the phone) and hit the gas – taking my MacBook pro and all related accessories – hostage in the trunk. I immediately felt a panic through me like I've never felt and with a giant, "Oh SH*T!", sprinted after him at full tilt....in new dress shoes. My wife, Clare, who had also just exited the cab, knew what happened instantly and jumped into the next cab to follow him. We collided with each other a couple blocks later, but the taxi with my life in it was nowhere to be seen.

Deep breath. Recover. Think. I had fortunately remembered to ask for a receipt, as an afterthought  – although I didn't know if I even put it in my pocket in my panic stricken chase. It was there. Clare jumped on the phone to the cab company as I struggled to catch my breath. With tears in her voice, I heard her side of the conversation, "Pleeeeeze, please help me get in touch with the driver, everything is in that trunk and we have a big presentation to make in 49 minutes!....what, my home address?....but, ok it's 2006...but can't you just radio him, I have the cab number.....what? are you kidding? The Police? 7 days!!!?? are you kidding? Please, can you just....ok, it's 20063....it's a black computer rolling case...."

I couldn't even listen to the rest. I had a presentation to do in 44 minutes and nothing to present it with. I had all my work, my creations, my writing, my actions, my book project, my personal and business records, everything – taken from me in a split second. Wait, but I had it fully backed up to a portable hard drive! Which....was also in the black computer rolling case.

Funny thing was, this morning, as I was leaving my hotel room I had a little voice – a slight notion – to put my presentation on a USB thumb drive and stuff it in my pocket. I've never done that before – having done maybe a hundred other presentations in the past. It was there. All I needed now was a MacBook with Photoshop, Lightroom, Keynote, my actions, my Lightroom Presets, my images to work on, a video adapter, and a healthy dose of calm.

With 44 minutes to go, I called my staff and friends together and shared the situation. My friend, Dan, at OnOne software pulled out his laptop and immediately knew what had to be done. My other friend, Doug Gorgon, grabbed his camera and found a model and began to shoot a handful of RAW images for me to demonstrate with. I put one of my best friends, Millie, to the task of trying to bribe any passing taxi driver to help us contact the culprit driver. She is one of the most sweetly tenacious persons I've ever known and I knew if anyone could do it, she could. I went to Apple's booth and asked them to loan me a copy of Keynote, which they quickly did.

Now, I had 24 minutes before my presentation was to start. Normally I am in the room, all connected, testing equipment, microphone, projector, software, etc. at least one hour before show time. With a borrowed laptop in arms I headed for...oh, I didn't even know where my presentation room was yet! As I stood in the middle of a giant hall looking around in all directions, a voice behind me said, "Kevin, are you looking for your room? I'm on my way to your program, follow me." A good sign.

7 minutes to go and I had the computer hooked up and projector working. The A/V guy says, "your wireless mic is on the table." The wireless mic had a thick black 4 ft. cable attached to it. Wireless must mean something different in New York." Tracy, from my team of friendly photographers, noticed the confused look on my face and said, "What do you need?" "MY wireless mic from the tradeshow booth." I told her. She took off in a sprint to the other side of the convention center. 3 minutes later she returned, sweating and out of breath.... with half the parts. "Where's the power adapter?" I asked. "Never mind, no time, I'll use the wired mic and not move". I had to go on in 4 minutes. "I can get it!" she said as she bolted out the door again. 3 minutes later she returned again and we hooked it up. Amazingly, it all worked.

With 1 minute to go, Doug Gordon runs into the room and hands me a CF card with the RAW images on it he just shot. "They're huge files," he says, "I hope they work!"

We download, and at 2 minutes after 9am, I am ready to start. Phew. Clare comes up to the stage, gives me a hug, and whispers in my ear, "You'll do great, honey, you always work best under pressure anyway."

Thanks to all my wonderful friends and associates, I manage to pull off the 3 hour presentation with a borrowed computer, software, and images – without a hitch. Experience really pays off this time! As I'm giving my closing quotation, Clare runs in from the back doors of the room and yells, "We got it back!!" The whole room cheers with me.

It seems Tenacious Millie called the cab company incessantly. After rejection she hung up and called again and again until they finally broke down and connected her to the driver. She then talked him in to driving it back to us at the convention center. I told Millie she could pick out anything she wanted at the convention center and I would buy it for her. I owed her "my life". She's still window shopping, I believe.

What's the moral of my story? Well, obviously don't leave anything in a cab. But I also learned a couple other things: A full backup of your computer does you no good if it's lost with the computer. I now keep a full backup in my wife's bag, or with whomever I'm traveling with. Do you keep your used CF cards in your camera bag after a shoot? I always keep mine in my pants pocket, where they cannot be separated from me.

I learned the value of friends and how amazing things can happen when we pull together. If I were alone, I don't think I could have done it. They made it happen with me. What else could we achieve by pulling together like that with single minded focus and intention? What if we all had the persistence of Millie?

Finally, I continued to be amazed at the magic of intuition. Had I not listened to that little voice in my head as I left my hotel room, saying to me, "Put the presentation on a thumb drive." I would have had nothing to present. The hours of work would have been for naught. Of course, I wish the voice had said to me, "Your taxi driver will drive off with your laptop, don't let him." But, then I don't think I would have learned the valuable lessons.

I will now also put my entire collection of important files on a secured thumb drive and carry it in my pocket – attached to my belt with a lanyard – as I did for the rest of the tradeshow. It sure felt reassuring to bump it when I put my hand in there to grab a piece of gum – freshening my breath for the next presentation.