The first humbling is the airport. Salt Lake City International, around 11 a.m. Baggage claim has been repurposed into a holding pen — L.A. blondes in fur-cuffed ski jackets, men wearing big puffy coats with strange, sun-like logos on the sleeves. Cowboy hats, bright pink vests, Burberry bags. All the women’s boots are huge and excessive and trimmed with what seem like entire menageries of tiny, hirsute animals. We're all going to the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, up in the mountains around Park City, Utah, and none of us looks like we belong here. On Tuesday, the Park City Medical Center announced that in response to a nationwide flu epidemic, it would be handing out more than 5,000 free bottles of hand sanitizer. “PCMC brass say the quaint mountain burg will become a giant Petri dish — with festival-goers shaking hands, riding public transportation and unknowingly spreading germs,” The Hollywood Reporter explained Tuesday. Here at the Salt Lake City International Airport, no one is shaking hands.
To get from here to there, you take a shuttle. You give a man at a desk money, he takes your name, then tells you to get into the holding pen and wait until you hear your name. This is really how it works. You stand there and they yell out names. (What’s up, Gawker film columnist Tim Grierson? We haven’t met, but I know you’re here.) This goes on for an hour: film acquisitions specialists, movie bloggers in branded swag knit caps, innocent bystander skiers alike, all ceremonially named for the entertainment of the waiting mob, then escorted outside onto a waiting flu-van with 11 other strangers. Up the mountain you go. This is the humbling. This is where it begins.