esterday sitting at the airport lounge waiting for my flight home, I was inspired to write about business travel. Traveling for business is exhausting and an unconventional experience. For those of you in the choir, I’m sure you hear from friends or family members that business travel must be such a sexy and fun adventure – Wrong!
Due to a self-imposed curse of organization, my pre-travel routine begins by printing out a checklist – Checklist? My wife thinks I’m ridiculous yet I created a document to assure myself that I’m prepared. I follow this customized document (overnight; 2-days; a week) listing basics from clothes, toiletries and the infamous miscellaneous column (I’m never without a cigar cutter, corkscrew or electronic chargers). I actually believe following such a process, elevates my levels of anxiety relevant to the pending business at hand.
If I fly out of Oakland, I found a great parking garage where I use the valet service. Expresso Parking pricing is not only reasonable and offers such perks as free gourmet coffee, pastry and newspapers. Now that I’m moving to Southern California, hopefully the majority of my travel will be via the freeway as according to my research, I will soon reside 50 miles away from three airports near my future home. Back to my story, I was the last of the 10-12 adult patrons to disembark off the parking shuttle vehicle and noticed (although offering friendly, attentive service and good sounds) only two of us tipped the driver – people can be so cheap! I bet most of these non-tippers, especially if traveling for business will claim they tipped the driver as a business expense.
At the airport I am convinced the process of TSA screening is simply diabolical; it’s just not a normal process for anyone to experience. I find it amusing to watch passengers go through lines half-dressed and often half-witted (I wonder what I look like to others). For whatever reason, seeing my shoes, wallet and belt lying alone next to each other in the Rubbermaid type container on a conveyor belt just looks strange. I almost want to wish them good luck at they go through the machine. Speaking of strange, now that I had my knee replaced I am required to enter some type oversized walk-in tube and position my arms in a “jumping jack” formation. Eight out of the 10 TSA employees I encounter usually are courteous, then occasionally I meet up with that one employee, who models the image of a “bully” barking orders and intimidating customers – I believe we are actually customers aren’t we.
The airports concessions must be making a “killing” in sales comparable with “big ticket” sporting events. That same old (I mean freshly made) cold refrigerated sandwich you would find at a convenient store for 3 bucks sells here for the inflated price of $9 dollars – why (because they can). Without exaggeration I witnessed (and I actually did count) 38 customers waiting in line at one terminal’s Starbucks – “Cha-Ching.” And remember the days when people struggled to locate an available payphone? Of course those days are long gone, now the search is on to find a charging station or an electrical outlet. Only in an airport, I noticed one guy charging their phone inside the Men’s restroom – What a Kodak moment! I wonder what a time traveler from the past would think witnessing such, a sight.
Then it’s “cattle call” time to board. Despite all the announcements in what order to follow to embark, always, always, someone holds up the flow. Then when you finally enter the plane one encounters obstacles at every aisle seeking overhead space and of course, your seat. I then start my ritual in praying for an empty middle seat, right next to my aisle or window seat. The deplaning process is what I often find comical. Passengers, especially the elderly, frail ones attempt to go through 2 or 3 seats of rows back to retrieve his or her luggage from the overhead compartment; usually someone ends up getting conked on the head or shoulder. People are so impatient, I resigned myself to just allow the madness to pass, and then walk out without any hassles. Then I reenact a role from the classic Saturday Night Live sketch in which flight attendants serenade me with a chorus of “bye-bye.”
As I retrieved my rental car, I purchased the option to pay for the gas in advance. The rental agent made emphasis to return the vehicle as empty as possible – I envisioned myself riding around in circles to make sure the gauge light flashed empty; and apologizing it shame if it didn’t. As I drove off the lot to start the next leg of my journey, it’s on to “stop and go” traffic on the LA freeways driving at an average speed limit of 20 MPH – business travel is insanity! After arriving at my destination I could still hear the sound of the WAVE app ringing in my ears “construction ahead; approaching stalled vehicle on the road; police activity in area.”
This trip I stayed at a Marriott chain hotel that promoted the facility as an excellent choice for business travel – Wrong! I happen to book the only available room that wasn’t occupied by guests participating in a little girl’s softball tournament. This must have been a sales manager “major coup” to book such, a group for the hotel. One night I decided to take advantage of “R&R” at what seem as a deserted spa area. Next thing I know I was accompanied by four 10 year old girls – apparently the games must have ended. Not wanting to make the little ones feel uncomfortable, dodging kids in the hallways and the elevators with natural “Red Bull” like energy, I went back to the serenity of my room.
In my travels I’ve shared a hotel with some unique guests, such as the legendary Tex-Mex accordionist, Flaco Jimenez jamming away well pass 2am in the room next to mine. Likely the most memorable, sharing a floor with the Charlie Daniels band and canines participating at a regional dog show.
There is so much more to write on my observations; yet I’ll close with what I’ve shared with you today. Happy Travels – Yeah Right.