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The Charms of Business Travel These Days

 article about business travel
2015-03-10 06:38:18
Here is a typical reaction that you get when someone finds out that you travel regularly for business. Wow, that must be exciting! Oh yes, the glamour of it all. I mean, that is, if losing 4-5 hours of your week not including the airtime is appealing to you!

Business travel is such a pain now. There are some modern "conveniences", like to be able print your boarding pass in advance off the Web. It's kind of like getting a ticket in advance to your own surgical procedure.

You stressfully drive through traffic so that you can get into the first of multiple lines at the airport. The lines at airports make college registration from years gone by seem like a breeze! Line number one is to check your bags. Those of us experienced business travelers avoid checking bags at all costs! The work around is to pack less, over-pack a roller carry-on and to elevate mix and matching outfits to an evolving art form.

You are in your first line...checking bags under the presumption that you are either bringing golf clubs, skis or traveling for more three days. First, we pros go to curbside check-in. (only rookies stand in the ridiculous circuitous lines inside) You have to park and put your emergency flasher on. The flasher is universally recognized by the airport police as a signal that says though it looks like my car is parked, in fact it is not! By invoking the flasher you are officially designating your vehicle to be waiting, not parked. The flasher evokes the message to the parking police that I understand and appreciate your security responsibility, and I am a well-intentioned law-abiding U.S. citizen just trying to check my bags...so I can get in my next required line sooner. Ok, now your bags are checked with the cautious optimism that you will be reunited with them at your destination.

Your next line is into the parking garage or even more fun - the remote parking. By the way, just for clarification the parking garage is for company paid/business travel and all remote less expensive parking is reserved for personal travel. You find a parking space and write down your location in the garage the size of the Mall of America. We have all forgotten where we parked at least once.... no issue with the Pros...simply walk around pressing your panic button on your remote and follow the alarm like some kind of audible bloodhound.

A travel tale would not be complete without addressing the joy of the security line.
In the post-911 era that we live.... this is the biggest change. I find it somewhat ironic that more often than not I have a security person who can barely speak English checking MY ID and PAPERS.. I mean boarding pass. Sorry I had a Hogan Heroes moment. This is the one place other than the plane that we 'travel pros' have no choice but to mix with the rookies. Patience is a premium...they don't know what they don't know...Oh, do I need my shoes off? My belt? My keys? I find it is best to take a little mental vacation at this point. If I paid attention to all the stupid stuff that the rookies do in the security line...I may be tempted to just lay them down on the x-ray conveyor belt and tell them their doctor will see them on the other side!
"
When exactly did we get so fatigued and lacking of purpose that we transformed into a grocery item?

Security behind us....we proceed to the gate. I now have to endure another instance to lose more faith, if possible, in the human race, that being the moving sidewalk. Race? If you saw the people on this thing.... they are clearly not in a race! Elderly folks and handicapped people aside, when exactly did we get so fatigued and lacking of purpose that we transformed into a grocery item? Rookies walking briskly along until they get to the moving sidewalk and then as if they go into a George Jensen trance they stop, stand and set their bag down! A few poor souls have to be additionally nudged to stand to the right. For the Clueholders among us, I recommend a daydreaming stroll down the middle of the hallway between the vegetable aisles!

The security to gate journey these days requires a reasonable amount of agility. In days gone by, walking through a crowded terminal required some good lateral evasive maneuvering to avoid bumping into oncoming travelers. I have found that navigating through a crowd is lot like driving; initiative and commitment is paramount. This is where the newest airport obstacle comes in...the carry-on bag. Lets face it; they should be called a roll-on bag. Now that these bags have wheels and an extendable handle, they are never carried and always pulled. Now just avoiding bumping into an approaching traveler is only the half of it, you now have to also have the nimbleness of a hurdler to miss the traveler's tailfin, the roll-on!

The end is near...figure of speech....you are at your gate. By the way that sinking feeling, bad choice of words, that you are feeling is your autonomy and independence leaving you. Once you get on their plane, they own you!

  The rookies think that this is their gate, but the pros know all too well that this is undisputedly the airline's gate. They can change to another plane on a whim. They have no issue to load you on a plane with no departure expectation to open up "their" gate for another one of their planes.


At the gate, the pros check the departure time above the gate agent and then habitually check to see if there is a plane at the gate. No plane indicates an obvious delay. You know - no plane, no loading, ...get my drift? Yet there are the rookies sitting contently in the gate area and not all curious as to why there are so many available seats. It apparently doesn't occur to them that since there is NO PLANE...there is no reason to sit there!

I digress, lets assume that there is a plane at their gate. Lets also assume that yo have a seat assignment. The airlines have devised a couple different methods of passenger loading, but you would have to LISTEN to the gate agent announcement to know what that method is!

You have loading back rows first and front later or by numerical group. If your clue worthiness was evident to a rookie, you will be undoubtedly asked by a rookie who was supposed to be getting on the plane now. I think that the airlines need to re-define the definition of those passengers that require special assistance. How about something like if you are really old, really young, really slow, or not listening please join us now!

I often think, ok, loading passengers from the back of the plane to front makes sense. Then when I assess they should also load from the windows, middles and aisles in succession, I look around and start laughing.... only to be interrupted by some rookie who wants to know if they should get on now!

If you want to pay a little less for airfare like Southwest, they let you stand in line by group before you get on the plane. This additional line trade-off is that you can pick your own seat. What a bonus!

Finally, we are told that the flight attendants are there for our safety first. That's interesting since they are going to help us if we have an emergency yet they are not strong enough to help a grandmother hoist their roll-on into the overhead compartment. Safety is one thing, but observing the privileges afforded them their union is another. So just so I am clear, they are present primarily for our safety as long as it does not take any more physical prowess than is required to lift a bag above their heads!! Oh, give me an extra bag of six pretzels and I'll be comforted.

The plane leaves and lands and now its time for more lines. We land...the symphony of clueholder's cell phones all turn on...don't get me started on cell phones.... and we taxi to the gate. The plane stops, the all-clear bell rings and people jump out of their seats like a boxer ready for the next round. They wanted a head start so that they could stand longer in their exit line.

We are almost there now. On to baggage claim ....a few head fakes and hurdles that Edwin Moses would be proud of and I am standing by the bag carousel. This baggage carousel, like the moving sidewalk, is not the place to feel better about the collective intelligence of the masses.

The anxiety of whether their bag will mystically rejoin them is only diminished by their mind-numbing lack of understanding of how the carousel works. I have seen rookies stand on the wrong side of where the bag gets on the carousel and they just stand there, an apparent trained behavior perhaps from the moving sidewalk, and wait for their bag to come around to meet them!

Is traveling glamorous? Clearly it is not. The rookies, through not fault of their own (as far as they know), are annoying to those of us self-proclaimed Pros. Yet, how smart can we be when in return for our many frustrating trips, we accept airline incentives like a bunch of sheep to do what ...travel free. Free? Yeah, free of sanity, free of relaxation, and mostly free of clues.




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