Friday, July 08, 2005

Super Photo Pass

The 40 minute line up at Gate 9.

It all started about a week ago when I decided to pick up a ticket to the Molson Indy. As I'm a computer user the web seemed like a good place to start. Log in, purchase ticket, log out. Seemed simple enough. Surfing around I found a offical molson indy web site. It describes all the tickets, events, and even had a large map that you can download as a PDF file. If interested in buying tickets you click a button and get bumped off to ticketmaster to purchase them on line.

One ticket that caught my eye was the "Super Photo Pass". It was expensive. It figures. Priced at a whopping $250, it was a lot more than the standard entrance fee of $20.00 for a day. The SPP was good for all three days allowing access to the paddocks, track and even the pit (not during the champ car race but during the practice and time trials).

As my main purpose to go was to go to take a few pictures the super photo pass seemed like a good idea. What's the point of spending $50 - 60 if you can't see anything unobstructed by fences? In for a penny in for a pound and all that. I clicked over to the ticket master site. They only had gold seating. The SPP wasn't even listed. Maybe they were sold out. Gold tickets weren't too bad. I could see the cars cross the finish line and I'd have a place to sit (baking in the sun). With the super photo pass you don't actually get a seat as you're supposed to be wandering around the track taking pictures. Reluctantly I clicked on the gold ticket option.

Most web sites are fat by 1990 standards. That is to say that someone with a modem using dial up has to wait quite a long time to get a page to download with all the fancy graphics and java scripting. To be honest it's because most people do not know how to optimize a web site, instead they rely on programs to do it for them. The result being fat jpegs and redundant code and long download times.

Yes I'm a dinosaur with a modem. I don't really know why but I like the option of being able to switch the modem off with a hardware switch. I suppose I could jury rig my computer to switch off the ethernet port. But like the guys that design those fat web sites I'm just too lazy to bother.

When ordering tickets, Ticketmaster, thanks to their infinite wisdom has a small graphic that pops up with text. You have to read it (sometimes it's warped) and retype it into a text box below. It's so the site doesn't get bombarded by automated programs trying to purchase tickets. Added to this is a timeout feature. The "feature" releases the tickets that you are buying if you do not respond in the allocated time thus allowing another lucky user to buy them. Problem is the time out is only one and a half minutes. It takes about a minute and 10 seconds for me to download the page.

By the time I entered in all my billing information the web site reponds with a text window saying that my ticket has been released. After three attempts at speed entering I came to the conclusion that I would not be able to get my ticket this way. To speed up entry I even tried typing all my info into word pad so I could just copy and paste each line as the web page popped up. No such luck.

It then occured to me that ticketmaster has a phone line. After finding it on the Indy site I gave it a call. I was greeted by a cheerful operator who informed me that you could still buy SPP tickets. He then told me of the small service fee involved (just under $10). Since I made more progress over the phone in two minutes than on line I thought the service charge was pretty reasonable.

He told me I could get the tickets mailed to me but thought it would be better if I just picked them up at the track on the day. It seemed logical and a good idea at the time. After giving me a serial number he told me to just show up at the ticket booth with my photo ID and credit card.

Fast forward to today. Friday, July 8th, 2005. I woke up late. Originally I wanted to get up and get to the track at 7:30am. I could wander around, checking out the place to figure where to shoot at specific times of the day. My pillow would not let me wake up until 9:30. I dragged myself out of bed and headed out the door on autopilot towards the Canadian National Exhibition where the Indy was taking place.

Walking toward the ticket booth I noticed that there was no one in line. Fantastic. I guess I arrived earlier than I thought. The guy in the ticket booth, after realizing I was trying to get a SPP told me that I had to get my picture taken to be put on the ticket. He told me it would be a lot easier if I were to go to the Skydome to get my ticket and get my photo done in the same place. As I was a bit early and the guy told me it was only a ten minute walk and there really wasn't another choice in the matter I headed toward the Skydome and the Renassance Hotel.

Twenty five minutes later I arrived at the hotel. There wasn't any signage that made sense so I asked a girl working the front desk. She told me in order to pick up tickets I had to go to Gate 9 on the other side of the Skydome. Okay fine. When I got there there was a line up right out to the side walk. There were two guys working the ticket box and seemed to be taking their time.

Forty minutes later I finally got my ticket but was required to get my photo ID from the hotel. Arg! The guy at the track could have given me the same ticket. I went back into the hotel looking for signage for the "credentials" room. About half and hour went by and I bumped into another photographer looking for the same room. Finally we found a very small sign which was previously covered by a luggage wagon. It told us that it was on the second floor.

The elevators all had buttons to go down and none to go up. I asked a resturant employee for directions. They told me to head for the fire exit. Bob (the other photographer) and I finally got to the second floor where we followed a narrow hallway to an open room. It was sectioned off for photos, SPP, and media. There were a bunch of people with laptops and TV screens. It sure looked like we stepped into an official room of some sort. Bob went off to get his media pass. I went to the table label SPP.

The women got me to sign a bunch of papers. In case I got hit by a car or flying debris I wouldn't sue. I also had to sign a contract stating that I could not use any of my images for commercial use. Thanks for letting me know at this point and not earlier. The photos could still be used to fatten the ole portfolio I kept telling myself.

The pople in the room looked bored. But once I approached them they were cheery. I just a bit of it rubbed off. I didn't feel so bad being led around for the last few hours. I finally got my photo and headed back to the CNE. The process took three hours in total.

One of the good things that resulted from all this is that I bumped into Ashley who I haven't seen in a while. She was running of to work at the VIP room while I was waiting for a safety meeting to begin. If I got the track earlier I would have went to the earlier meeting and we would never have met. It's funny how things work out.

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