TAMPA, Fla. -- After trekking up and down yet another stairwell at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with my photo gear, I prayed I had finally reached my goal: a floor photo pass.
"Oh no, honey, I'm sorry. I have no idea what you're talking about," said an older, blue-eyed woman in a blue shirt whose cop-like demeanor and cold expression belied her words. I doubt I'm being uncharitable if I doubted her concern.
Credentials are color-coded at the RNC: Red is the most restrictive pass - level four and above only - while gray is an all-access pass. Mine is in the middle: green. This allows me in the press area stands on the third level, but not on the floor with the delegates.
However, when I received my credentials, I was told there was a magical thing called a "temporary floor pass" that would allow me to get some photos and quotes on the floor. Though they do clearly exist, no one at the forum seems to know where, exactly, to get one.
I was first told to go to section 106. While I did find the floor pass line, those were for those with reporter credentials. As mine is a photo pass, I didn't qualify. Fortunately, a group of photographers were nearby, so I asked them.
Though they also didn't know, one said he remembered a sign outside the digital darkroom - a computer area for the photographers - at Section 110. Indeed, a sign there said to go down the stairs by Section 104.
Alas, I was again met with blank looks, but was told I might try a stairwell between sections 126 and 128. Unfortunately, there is no stairwell there, only a partially hidden elevator lobby.
"You may not want to take that," said yet another guard outside the elevator. "It's slow."
As I felt I had no choice, I waited an excruciating 10 minutes to get to the floor level. No dice, but there was a way to wander around the outside of the floor area. I did…and ran into my nemesis from before. Sigh.
Defeated, I found a stairwell up, found a concession stand and ordered a water. At least I could take some photos from my press seat.
"Hey, hey you!" shouted yet another blue-clad guard. "You can't take drinks in the press area."