Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Glamorous Life of Business Travel

Mr. Cain Thaler's excellent blog of his clusterfuck trip on UAL reminded me of this piece I wrote several years ago, back when I labored under the delusion I would someday write comedy that people would laugh at and possibly pay to read

I'm a road warrior. Not like Mad Max, or the clowns that used the nickname in professional wrestling years ago. No, I'm a true road warrior. Funny thing is my wife, family and friends keep telling me just how “lucky” I am to live this glamorous lifestyle. Want to know just how glamorous it is? Well I’m just the guy to tell you.

You see, I'm the guy who has to book his own flights, hotel and rental car and takes an hour doing it so I can find the best deal to keep my expense account below the GNP of some third world nations. Of course I’m the guy who, once he finds the right price, has his internet explorer lock up and lose all the information I just entered. Later, I guarantee I’ll run into someone who will brag he bought his ticket at for 50% of what I paid.

I'm the guy who goes online the day before his flight to print my boarding pass in advance. This way I can at least miss one line at the airport. But god forbid if my flight’s on Southwest where I have to log on exactly 24 hours prior to departure or risk sitting in the center seat of row 30 between large, talky individuals headed to the national Beanie Babies convention. These are the same folks who simply must tell me about how they acquired “Stretch the Ostrich” at a garage sale for only five bucks after talking the owner down from seven.

I'm the guy that gets up at 4:00 AM, showers, dresses and drives an hour to the airport so I can wait in line to take off my shoes, belt, cell phone and glasses and cram them into a little rubber tote. I'm the guy who crams his toothpaste (which will explode), Visine (which will evaporate), hair gel (which will leak) and toothbrush (which will be covered by the aforementioned ingredients) into a little plastic bag for the scrutiny of highly trained security personnel making less than the greeter at my neighborhood Wal-Mart.

To be honest I’ll have to forgo the hair gel in a couple more years and hope hair in a can comes in a convenient 5 oz. travel size.

I’m the guy who won’t beep going through the metal detector because I do it 4 times a week But I’m also the guy who invariably will be right behind someone who hasn’t flown since 1988 and wonders why he can’t bring his pool cue, Zippo lighter and thermos of Jim Beam and coffee on board.

And even though I don’t beep, I’m the guy who gets the random security screening pat down (grope) and watches as a highly trained security agent rips through my neatly packed shirt, slacks and ties like the discount table at Old Navy.

I'm the guy who wonders around the terminal like it’s an Easter egg hunt searching for the open 110v outlet to plug my dying laptop and cell phone into. It’s because in addition to the 60 e-mails I received since I logged off at 6:00 PM the previous night, I need to finally get around to naming and categorizing the 300 or so digital photos I took of my kids and uploaded into a file called "my pictures".

Sometime between takeoff and landing I’ll also need to finish a PowerPoint that won’t induce a coma on my prospective audience. Of course that assumes my flight will actually depart on time and I won't sit on a tarmac for two hours while some strange circumstance prevents our departure to the friendly skies. You know the type. It’s the voice over the intercom just as we’re pulling away from the gate saying “This is your captain, we seem to have a small problem”.

I'm the guy that always, and I do mean always sits on the plane behind someone who absolutely must recline his seat. Yes, for the comfort he derives from tilting back three degrees, my five inches of leg room turns into three and the tray table holding my PC jams directly into my sternum, And I guarantee I'm the guy who will always be in front of, next to or directly behind the toddler who screams in decibels only heard at a Metallica concert as his ears pop from the cabin pressure change.

I’m also 99% sure the stewardess…. errrr ..flight attendant will run over my foot with the beverage cart. Then she will pop open your can of Coke right next to my head spewing a fine mist of sticky carbonation on the side of my head and sport coat.

 Later, I’ll be the guy in the bathroom trying to use wet paper towels to clean it off. You’ll know it’s me because this process willleave little fibers on my jacket making it look like it just came out of a dryer full of beach towels.

Once we land, I’ll hope my phone has at least 2 bars so I can faintly hear the half dozen voice mails that I received, I’ll be the one frantically pushing 1 so the message will rewind between the snap, crackle, pop of my “so clear you can hear a pin drop” of my cellular provider.

Of course all of this is really a moot point because the guy next to me will be shouting into his cell phone there’s no way the human cannonball should have been voted off America's Got Talent last night. His opinion on that is obviously mission critical to Howard Stern, Sharron Osbourne & Howie Mandell

I’m also the guy that will get hit in the head by the lady trying to get her 80 lb. roll on out of the overhead bin. Somehow, the wheeled behemoth was wedged, you guessed it, right on top of my carry on bag.

Did I mention I’ll also be the guy that ruins his shirt with the defective iron later in the hotel?
Luckily the effects of the concussion are mild and I stumble through the airport in search of the rental car shuttle. As you may guess I’m also the guy who misses that bus by 30 seconds and gets to stand next to the dozen nicotine addicts who must make up for their 180 minutes of cold turkey abstinence by chain smoking an entire pack of camels.

When I get to the rental lot I will be the guy who’s name doesn’t show up on the LCD board. As the attendant proceeds to explain that they are out of cars, I’ll be the one remembering the rental car scene from Seinfeld where Jerry says “you know how to *take* the reservation, you just don't know how to *hold* the reservation. And that's really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them”. I also shed a hidden tear that there will never be a show that funny on TV again.

Once I actually do get a car, I’ll be the guy you’re honking at for driving slowly coming out of the airport. It’s not that I don’t know how to drive; it’s just that my rental car didn’t come with instructions on how the electric seats, defogger or instrument panel work. So I can’t really see, reach the pedals or determine how 15 KPH converts to the local speed limit. Nine times out of ten I’m also the guy your local law enforcement gives a $200 “welcome to Denver” citation five miles from DIA. I’ll also be the guy trying to read the wrinkled Google map or figure out why my GPS keeps telling me its “recalculating new coordinates”.

An hour later, I’ll be that guy in the wrinkled suit that had to park a half mile from the entrance to the hotel. That entrance will always be uphill. And it will be raining... or snowing. Even in Texas. The strap for my laptop bag will be broken and I’ll look like a Kosovo refugee as I stagger into the Hotel.

And of course, all they will have left are smoking rooms. Next to the elevators. And the ice machines.
During the night my heater will sound like a Harley as it kicks on and off every 20 minutes changing the room air from arctic to sauna and back again. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the condensation from the temperature inversion will take the wrinkles out of slacks.

Who am I kidding? At this point I’ll be thrilled if there’s enough hot water for a three minute shower. I contemplate the nearby meal choices of KFC, Taco Bell or a $12 hamburger in the bar downstairs and decide that my ever increasing waist line probably will provide me enough sustenance to make it through until the breakfast bar opens at 6:00 AM. I’ll have to be quick though as the Quaker instant oats are always the first thing to go.

So I settle in, plug up my dead laptop and promptly learn it will cost me $10 to connect to the “high speed wireless” network my hotel so graciously provides. After agreeing to this reasonable sum, I am repeatedly informed “The wireless network is not connected” as I attempt to connect. I call the front desk to inform them and they kindly provide me with an 800 number that is answered by “Bob”.
Strangely though, Bob’s accent doesn’t make him sound like a “Bob”. At this point, I really don’t care as my e-mail correspondence, has reached triple digits. Once I’ve performed the ritual of shutting down and rebooting windows, twice, Bob apologizes for what must be the tenth time and concludes it must be a problem on their end.

At this point I thank “Bob” for his assistance close the laptop and pick up the phone to call home.
On the other end my lovely wife’s first question?  “So how was your day, honey?”

No comments: