The “Day Sheet” is an element of touring life that you folks may not be familiar with. It is, I’ve come to learn though, the most vital document of the day. The day sheet is written by tour manager Marguerite and outlines every key piece of information for the upcoming day: the times that everything is happening, flight details, additional press and promo – just generally any and all vital information to get everyone through the next 24 hours.
Across the entire touring industry, the Tour Manager’s refrain, to almost all questions, is of course “read your day sheet”. Marguerite has had a gentle dig at me of late for never reading all the way to the bottom. (I mean really, once you know what time you’ve got to be up and out of the hotel, you can just follow everyone else after that…)
I generally do read the day sheet fully (honest – I do, I really do!). I think I just like asking stupid questions. I’ve been trying to be a good tour-citizen lately though, by reading it thoroughly and not asking about things I already know the answers to.
The day sheet for our second St Paul show comes through with a strong warning about the flight over there from our Chicago base. “Mr Barack Obama is coming to town this weekend, so there are some restrictions in place for his visit that affect us. We’ll have actual TSA Agents do our screening planeside + will be more strict than usual. So if possible, limit your carry ons”.
I make it this far through the day sheet and look down at my day to day rucksack. My rucksack contains at least one of virtually every gadget known to man, plus a telephone exchange of cables, chargers, adapters and all the other security-worrying crap that might ever be required to make them work. On a regular day, it can take them only slightly less time to go through all my stuff than the flight itself takes. On a fine-tooth-comb day, I could be holding up the entire travel party by bringing all this along.
I resolve to prove my reading-of-the-day-sheet by heeding the warning and reducing my hand luggage to the absolute minimum. What do I actually *need* to get a day done? I pull out my laptop, my power supply and my headphones and put them in a plastic Walgreens bag, leaving my rucksack full of crap on my hotel room desk. As we arrive at the terminal, band assistant EJ and soundman Dan Green begin to lightly rib me about my new luggage. “Nice laptop bag – have you been to the Apple Store today?”
Nope, I read the day sheet - laugh it up, but I’m gonna be through security in 30 seconds flat.
We’re ushered into a side room for screening and sure enough, the elite squad are in full effect. With Airforce One bringing the President to town just across the tarmac, these folks aren’t messing around. They have black uniforms on, with the TSA logo on each sleeve. They also do not smile. At all. Most worryingly though, each of them snaps on a pair of rubber gloves as we enter.
I proudly place my “extreme minimalist” hand luggage on the inspection table – and then it happens.
Dan Green, ahead of me in the line, produces his passport for the man with the clipboard. It’s the classic blood-runs-cold moment from the dream where you find yourself completely naked in front of the whole school.
My passport. My passport – that lives in my rucksack. My rucksack that is at the hotel. The hotel that is a good 45 minutes away.
“Without identification, you will not be flying today, Sir”.
This is not good. In fact, we’re so far from good that you can’t even *see* good from here.
The pilot is summoned and there’s a brief conversation conducted almost entirely in very official acronyms. Apparently there is a way that we might be able to resolve this.
I’m told that I’ll be taken to a small side office where someone on the telephone will give me a 20 questions quiz about where my passport and I have been in the last few months. If my answers match their records, I’m allowed on the plane. Given that I’ve done entire days on tour thinking we’re in Italy – only to discover that we’re actually in Switzerland, my confidence is not spectacularly high.
As I get past the first few questions, tour manager Marguerite arrives with the band. She clocks the situation and gives me a questioning look through the door.
“I’ve really fucked up, Mags”, I begin. “I’ve come without my passport. I am so, so sorry”.
Mags calmly produces her laptop with scans of my passport and proceeds to know the answer to every question about which city we flew in and out of on what date in the past three months. I’m playing the dopey apologetic Englishman and Mags is doing the supremely organised, polite and efficient California tour manager. Well, I say we’re playing roles…
The TSA fellas seem to have thawed. They genuinely seem to be on our side now and doing everything they can to try to help us.
Kelly, Chris’s security chief, walks past the door with a smile slightly wider than his actual face.
“Thanks for the day sheet Mags. Good job you put on it ‘you MUST have ID to board the plane’ otherwise anything could have happened”.
“I’m not finding this funny just yet, Kelly” I plead.
Kelly is still cross with me from the Hollywood Bowl. I put a luminous green sign on his back just before he ran through the crowd to the C-stage. I’d tell you what it said, but then he’d be cross with me all over again. For now, he’s happy that karma has payed me a visit on his behalf.
Just as this takes place, a man holding a motorbike helmet rounds the corner. Mags has contacted the hotel manager, who has fished out my passport from the rucksack and had it couriered over with insane speed.
The TSA fellas are impressed and the relevant boxes are ticked. I am no longer any kind of threat to the President, or national security in general. An idiot, yes…
Mags and I walk across the tarmac, me apologising profusely, carrying my laptop-in-a-plastic-bag at my side. My passport, I’m not allowed to touch again until I’m safely checked in on the flight back home tomorrow.
I reach the top of the plane steps and take a deep breath before facing the travel party. Predictably and quite deservedly, there’s a sarcastic round of applause as I make my way up the aisle with my head held low.
“The walk of *shame*” comments Chris, shaking his head as I pass his seat.
Safety belts fastened. Secure doors and cross-check. Sink into your seat and feel like you could crawl up your own arse with embarrassment? Check.