It’s about 11pm when I’m finished talking with David. The interview started at 7pm, with me unpacking all the equipment and setting up the shot the best I could, and then interviewing on and off for about an hour. Then I packed and we talked about text adventures and future ideas and the production, and as it got to be later, he was worried about the oncoming snow and the time I had before me to drive.
I never like to leave if there’s still stuff to talk about; some people I may never see in person again, and there’s nothing better than rushing headlong into subjects and ideas with someone you have no preconceptions about, no knowledge of what they know or don’t know, no limits. It’s great, and I never walk away from that if I can help it. But that time had come.
The next interview was Scott Adams. Scott Adams co-founded Adventure International, the first company dedicated to selling games. There’s a few guys selling games here and there before AI, but not with a full-time staff like Adams and not with the lasting, permanent effect on the genre of adventure games as his company had. Scott was 169 miles away, and it was starting to snow.
I’d thought ahead, having heard the weather reports, and rented a SUV with all-wheel drive. It guzzled gas a bit but it also had less chance of ending upside down in a snowbank.
169 miles, due west, into Wisconsin, and then 169 miles back towards my flight out of Chicago. 348 miles, give or take, to do one interview. To some that’s a lot. To others, not so much. But it’s nothing new to me.
I found my limits during the BBS Documentary: after about 300 miles in a single day, I start to get goofy. I try and keep it below 200. This was much less than 200, so I was in good shape.
I’d been up since about 8am, after having going to bed at around 3am. 5 hours of sleep, not so hot. Dave was my second interview of the day; I try to pack these trips up with 2-3 interviews a day, to get the full value out of the airline and hotel costs.
I got off to a wrong start, missing my turn off and driving through the Illinois countryside for a while. I got a hold of Interstate 88, which wasn’t exactly the interstate I wanted, but it went west, which I definitely wanted to do. By midnight, I’d found a rest stop which had a map that could set me in the right direction. 169 miles was starting to become closer to 200.
I got sleepy somewhere, and pulled into some sort of parking lot full of construction equipment, next to a 100% automatic/non-manned gas station. Kind of weird, that was; no place to buy soda or snacks, or a sad looking person sitting behind a cash register: just the pumps, bright lights, and the infinite darkness in all directions. Street lights get a little rare out there.
I slept fitfully for about an hour, my little tank of a truck nestled near a landmover, then shook myself awake and refilled my gas, just to be sure in case I never saw a station before my destination. You can never be too sure, and the fate of James Kim was too fresh in my mind; I had water and 5 cell phone batteries with me, not to mention extra food and clothes.
The snow got worse as I moved from an Interstate to 80 miles of Route 20; it started doing that thing where the flakes come at you in hypnotic, shifting patterns, where putting your beams to high give you slightly more view in the distance but also bring more of those dancing hypno-flakes. I had to start slowing down. 40mph, then 30. My 3 hour trip estimate started to seem slightly off.
The snow gathered on the road, and nobody else was driving around at 2am. The edges of the road were now gone, with a faint yellow line appearing below the white. I started driving on it like a Hot Wheels car, using that yellow line to guide me. Curves and hills started happening.
I tested the brakes each time, and each time the SUV slid a bit. Nothing crazy, no imitation of Curling, but definitely a sign that abruptness would not be a watchword.
I found that out when I finally drove through a populated town, that is, one that would be populated if it were daylight. It had actual streetlights, a number of hotels, and a lot of landscaping. Coming over a hill, I saw several things I didn’t like: a steep grade, a long distance down, and another car slowly going down both. I hit my brakes, and as expected, I started sliding.
I was now dangerously approaching the back of this car. I swerved into the oncoming traffic lane, which was luckily not living up to its name at the moment. I was no longer applying any gas. I was braking. But I wasn’t braking, I was a sled. So was the other car.
The two of us slid down the hill together, at 3am, in a silent ballet.
I gained control somewhere towards the bottom, and gassed it slightly, getting back into the intended lane. Another lucky shot, another disaster averted.
I landed in Scott Adams’ tiny town at 4am, found a hotel, and decided to avoid finding Scott’s farmhouse that night. I rented a room for the 6 hours I’d need it, and got all my stuff up the stairs somehow. Plugs awaited me for my camera, my laptop, my cell phone, my storage drives. I set the technology in motion, ready for the next day’s interview.
Scott Adams ended up having to drive into town to pick me up and haul me to his farmhouse; the roads were simply too impassible for someone doing a first-time drive into the area, and Scott was kind enough to make the effort to take me and all my equipment for the interview.
The interview was wonderful. I forgot how I got there, what had gone on. I concentrated on getting the story. Scott is not into interviews all that much, but he opened up a lot to me, gave me answers clearly, and helped me brainstorm some more. He was a perfect interviewee. Total footage: about an hour and 15 minutes.
The trip back, made in daylight and sans falling snow, was much less harrowing, and merely the 3 hours it should have been on the way out. Total driving time: roughly 8 hours. Total miles: roughly 390. Total for the weekend: roughly 500.
This is the secret part, the part you won’t see on the final GET LAMP movie. You don’t see these hours spent, these risks, these distances. You’ll just see Scott Adams say something, give some nice insight, and then off to the next shot, the next interview, the huge distances compressed to seconds, the hours of conversation compressed to a few lines.
The result, of course, is all worth it, every second, every slide.
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