I am in a rental car outside Las Vegas heading toward the sand dunes they told me are popular with local dune buggy enthusiasts.
I find the arrow drawn on faded neon paper pointing off the road.
For a popular destination there sure aren't many people around. None in fact.
I pull off the road and follow an almost invisible trail through the brush.
Occasionally I spot a ribbon tied to a branch, discarded beer cans, tiny clues that I am heading in the right direction.
Still nobody in sight.
The reason is simple. Only a fool would go to the desert in August in the middle of the day. In this heat, out in the open, miles from anyone, well, that's suicide.
I realize this logic right around the moment when the sand gets deep enough to stop my car.
I get out. Wow it's hot. I try to dig my tires out. Not working.
I spot a piece of cardboard, wedge it under my tire, and I'm eventually able to dislodge the vehicle. I back up until my wheels are on more solid ground.
This is when I should turn around and head back to the air conditioning of Las Vegas. The problem is I am on a photo assignment.
Yesterday I was at an RV dealership staging a photo shoot with my client's toy hauler and a dune buggy. My plan was to photoshop out the parking lot filled with used RVs and replace it with a party scene where 4-wheelers kick up sand and motorcycles fly through the air above sunburned kids eating hotdogs and dripping ketchup on their parents who drink American beer from cans that sweat into koosies printed with jokes like, “I'd give up beer, but I'm no quitter.”
That's why I was in the desert in August, to commit visual fraud in order to sell RVs. My photo will be on the cover of brochures promoting RVs so poorly made that when you load toys into them, the ramp permanently bends and the door won't close behind them. Yes, I photoshopped the bent ramps back to straight, too. Did you not believe me when I said there's a special hell for designers like me?
So I am not leaving the desert without a photo. Clearly I wasn't going to get the “lifestyle” shot I imagined but at least I could get some scenic views of sand dunes to plop the RV and dune buggy on. So I left my rental car, grabbed my camera, and walked into the blazing heat towards the sand dune in the distance.
The scenery was the same in every direction. The wind was steady enough to slowly cover my tracks yet too weak to offer any relief from the heat. Getting lost could be deadly.
I thought I was so clever.
I didn't have a compass but I did have a camera! If I took a picture of where I came from, I could use the photos to guide me back to my car. With this comforting thought I pressed on towards the dune, turning around every so often to photograph my path.
Eventually, I got to the dune. The heat was getting to me by this point so I snapped some panoramas and started back to my car. I didn't have to use my camera navigation trick. I made it back to my vehicle without getting lost or dying.
But what happened next is something I still can't believe.
As I gulped Gatorade and wiped away sweat, I turned my camera on to review the photos I had taken. There was nothing there. I frantically arrowed through the menus trying to figure out why I couldn't see any pictures.
I popped open the door on the side of the camera. I had forgot to put the memory card in.
One question might be, “who designs a camera that lets you take pictures without a memory card.” The answer to that question is Canon. The other question is, “who risks their life to take photos for recreational vehicle ads?” The answer to that question is me.
I kick myself every time I tell that story. It hurts my pride but it's important to remind myself that despite my reality distortion field I am only one stupid decision away from dying alone in the desert, my body slowly being covered by sand. Hopefully when I am gone you remember me for more than misleading RV brochures.
Thanks for reading. I write stories like this every Saturday so follow me so you don't miss the next one. Stay creative.