It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I had just spent the past 10 days traveling solo driving from Miami to sunny Key West and then back again along the Overseas Highway. I know, rough life – but I swear it was a working trip and I had to apply sunscreen at least twice a day. Anyway, I’d dropped off the rental, checked some luggage and had made my way through security with my rolling camera bag.

With a few hours to kill before my flight home, I decided a dose of espresso was in order. Sadly, there was zero chance of finding any of the excellent, intensely sugar-fied, Cuban Coffee I’d favored (and become addicted to) while in the Keys.

No mom-and-pop coffee shops in Miami’s airport, so I would have to settle for a chain. I know, first world problems. As such, I found a Starbucks near my gate and waited in the long line. After my order was taken by a middle-aged cheerful barista with a contagious smile, she asked for my name so she could mark the cup.

Without hesitation, I answered, “Lebron James” and shot her a smile.

She did a double take, chuckled, then gave me a huge knowing grin and said, “We’ll call your name when your drink is ready, Mr. James. Good luck this season.”

Funny photo of a Lebron James Starbucks cup while commercial photographer Paul Heckel was traveling through Florida's Miami International airport.
The barista at Miami International and I used this Lebron James cup to enterain ourselves.

For good measure, I stood back and watched while she shouted, “Lebron James, your drink is ready. Lebron James!?”. It was entertaining to watch other travelers double take as a scruffy, 5 foot 6, photographer made his way up to the pick-up counter and grabbed the drink.

When I’m behind the camera, I’m a very serious guy. But, when the pressure is off, I tend to be a little bit of a prankster. Well, maybe a lot bit.

Repaying The Favor

One of the most enjoyable parts of traveling for me is the connections I make with the people that cross my path. Even when those connections may seem insignificant.

This women obviously got stuck working on what was perhaps the busiest travel day of the year. And yet, she greeted me with a smile that made my day. I’m glad, that in a some small way, I was able to return the favor.