Tag Archives: business travel

Well connected

This was my first full week at home in a while. In the last month or so, I’ve spent 15 days in airports, some 20 airports in all, counting connections. You might say I’ve been going at terminal velocity.

Or you might say I’ve been on an extended hub crawl. (Okay, I stole that pun from a recent issue of the US Airways in-flight magazine; being that they graciously plugged my blog last year, I owe them attribution.)

This last wave didn’t yield epic tales, as previous trips almost always have. Thankfully, this time I’m left with just a few bits of footage, which remain stored in my mental DVR:

  • There was a medical emergency mid-flight. The crew called for a doctor to tend to an ailing passenger. The woman beside me—who had noticed the clinical trial data I was reviewing in preparation for moderating a medical program—tried  to volunteer me. “Aren’t you a doctor? Can’t you do something?” I wanted to tell her that if a doctor emerged, I’d be happy to introduce him, but that’s all I was qualified to do. Instead, I said nothing.
  • Before an early flight, I watched as a woman poured Starbucks coffee into a child’s sippy cup. I was horrified, but didn’t say anything.
  • One morning I stopped for breakfast at an airport restaurant called Real Food. I ordered a pancake and bacon. When I went to cut into the pancake with a knife and fork, it was so hard that it snapped my fork in two. I couldn’t even get my teeth through the bacon. I was tempted to accuse the manager of serving Pretend Food but instead I threw my breakfast Frisbee in the trash without saying a word.
  • At what I assume was a pet-friendly hotel, I watched a dog drop his business in a carpeted corridor and walk away nonchalantly with its owner. Not a peep out of me.

No, I’m just a frequent flyer who sits quietly in the gate area listening to the Bluetoothed blowhard (there’s one at every gate) loudly putting together the big corporate deal. And I shake my head at the Smartphone Sallies who fight over the last available outlet, scrounging for electricity as if it were crack cocaine.

My personal addiction? Airport jewelry kiosks. This credit card bill’s going to be a doozy. I already know these impulse buys are irresponsible, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything.


Filed under Travel

Everybody dance now

Life’s awkward moments come in many flavors.

One situation I often find awkward is a one-on-one conversation with the driver of an airport shuttle when, obviously, I am the only passenger. You wouldn’t think this would be the case, as I’m able to hold a conversation with just about anyone, whether the person wants to or not. But sometimes, after the first two or three pleasantries, it’s hard to keep it going. I don’t mind riding in silence, but when the driver makes an effort, I feel an obligation to connect.

Yesterday I took a shuttle bus ride on a steamy afternoon. I had waited a long time for the bus in the Miami heat and was physically and mentally wilted when I boarded. When the young driver tried to make conversation, I tried to offer more than a terse response.

“How was your flight?”
“Fine. I came in from Washington, D.C.”

“Was it sunny there?”
“Yes. And hot.”

[Banter about traffic, followed by awkward silence]

Just then, one of my favorite songs came on the radio. It was Madonna’s La Isla Bonita from 1987. I love that song. I know every word. I refrained from singing, though it took some effort. I tapped my foot instead. I noticed the driver banging out an impressive bongo solo on the steering wheel. I bopped my head a little. It was a nice moment, communicating with this young man without words.

The next song was another good one, Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now), recorded by C.C. Music Factory in 1990. (Who remembers how it was used in the movie Man of the House?) I danced in my seat while my driver did another rocking drum solo. Another great moment.

Until I said, “Wow, they’re playing some great music here.” He replied, “Yes, this is our oldies station.”

Here, have a moment of your own. Whether the music is part of your adulthood, your childhood or your I-wasn’t-even-born-yet-hood, I dare you not to sing. Or dance. (For some Friday fun, if you’re in your office, crank that second one up really loud and see if you can get your colleagues on their feet.)



Filed under Music, Travel

Overseas aid

They say everyone should have a current résumé and a valid passport.

I have both. Neither one gets much love these days. In fact, I just noticed that my passport was renewed five years ago, so it’s at exactly the halfway point of its valid life. The sad part is that neither the passport nor I have left the United States since 2001. It’s waiting, in its safe place, along with all the passports I’ve had since age 10 (when, by the way, I apparently stood at 4 feet, 11 ½ inches tall). My current passport is stiff and uncreased and has a pretty good photo if I do say so myself. I just wish a customs agent could see it.

My last passport saw some action and it shows. In the years before it expired in 2006, I travelled to Switzerland several times, France several times, Greece twice, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Aruba. I like to look back at the pretty visas inserted by countries that require them.

I still travel often, but to places like Detroit and Tupelo and Cleveland, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that my passport and I are itching to fly beyond U.S. borders for a change. We just need a reason. And a lot of money.

I am reminded of an I Love Lucy episode in which the wives tried to raise money to accompany their husbands to Europe. They staged a raffle for a bogus charity called Ladies Overseas Aid. (“We’re ladies, we want to go overseas and boy, do we need aid!”)

This lady needs to come up with a clever way to see the world on someone else’s nickel. Any ideas?


Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, Travel

Night terror

Do you know those tests the sleep specialists show on television to demonstrate what happens to drivers when they’re sleep deprived? Poor judgment, slower response time, even hallucinations come into play when a human does not get sufficient sleep.

This morning, I am tipping orange cones all over the place.

Yesterday I flew to California, worked until almost midnight and went to bed after being up for 23 hours. Then I woke up three hours later, still in the West but with my rhythms in the East.

For the last two hours I’ve tried everything that usually works for me—reading, getting up and walking around, even having an informercial playing softly in the background. The latter usually works like a charm. Not this time. But I can tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the P90X fitness program and something about the anti-aging magic of melon extract that keeps Cindy Crawford’s and Valerie Bertinelli’s faces frozen in time.

Looking back over this, I’ve counted more than a dozen typos and, I hope, corrected all of them. I’ll check back again after this afternoon’s nap.

Aside from sleep aids—which aren’t an option when you’re an hour and a half away from the alarm going off–what works for you when you’re wide awake, yet more tired than you’ve ever been, at 3:00 a.m.?  Other than blog–I’ve tried that.


Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Health, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Movies, Television and Radio, Travel

Southern hospital-ity

The universe has a way of teaching us valuable lessons, often despite our attempts to block our learning pathways.

The obstacles I put up often are erected by my own impatience, anxiety and desire for control. The lessons I learn, despite these obstacles, often come to light as a result of my foibles and faux pas. In other words, I go through life with a mission, a strategy, profound organization and planning and compulsion for making sure things go right. For example, when I am on a business trip, I am always triple checking that I have everything I need, that I am running on schedule and that all the pieces come together precisely according to plan. Then, occasionally, I do something really flaky that throws my planetary orbit completely awry.

Yesterday, I facilitated a medical meeting at a hospital in Mississippi. When it was over, I knew I had time, with a nice cushion built in, to drive 95 miles to the Memphis airport in time to catch my flight home. I packed the trunk of my rental car and reorganized my materials and belongings efficiently for the flight. I triple checked everything: meeting materials organized, boarding pass and ID accessible, car and house keys where I could access them when I got home, phone in hand in case of emergency.

In a nanosecond of flakiness, I closed the trunk of the rental car. With the keys inside.

Everything was in the trunk of the locked car, except my purse, the contents of which I had emptied into my computer bag, also locked in the trunk. Fortunately, I had my phone and my wallet.

Let me first say that all prior moments of anxiety on this trip were assuaged by the exceptional niceness of Mississippians. From Internet and printing problems at the hotel to the logistics during the meeting, everyone who crossed my path bent over backward, not only to help but to care for me in the process. At the risk of generalizing, there really is something to the notion of Southern hospitality. It’s like having a mother everywhere you go. People really care about you and will go to whatever lengths it takes to get you what you need. This was the first lesson: no matter how impatient you are with people, they can beat you down with kindness.

After a moment of panic, I called the car rental company to see what they could do. I naively thought they could flip a switch and unlock the car remotely. The Southern gentleman rental agent apologized that this was not the case and offered to send someone out, for a fee and perhaps not in time for me to make my flight. He suggested AAA might be a better option but assured me he was there if I needed him.

I called AAA. By this time, I was in a fair tizzy. I was connected to the Northern Mississippi agent, whose name, aptly, was Mr. Nice. I could tell he felt my pain. He would send someone immediately if I gave him the address. The address was locked in my car. He remained on the phone with me patiently while I walked back to the hospital reception desk. While he waited for me to give him the address, he gave me a callback phone number and a confirmation number. I grabbed a pen from my purse but had nothing to write on, except a tea bag. I jotted lots of information down on the paper wrapping of the tea bag and, when the receptionist finally became free, I asked her for the hospital address, gave it to Mr. Nice and hung up. She asked me why I needed it, if I was already in the hospital. I told her of my foible and that I had called AAA.

She said, “Honey, why didn’t you just call hospital security?” I admit, I had thought of that, but I didn’t want to detract critical hospital resources from the business of saving lives and thought I could handle this on my own. Another lady came over and joined in the chorus of “Now, you call and cancel your triple-A right this minute and let us help you.” I hesitated. She called security herself and set up the rescue. I still hesitated. She insisted. I cancelled AAA and hoped for the best. Time to catch my flight was running short.

She said, “Honey you best get out to your car so they can help you,” and said a security agent would be out, shielding her mouth and whispering, “just as soon as he tends to an urgent matter over in Behavioral Health.” Who knows how long that could take? Plus, I already had observed (from the fact that no one in Mississippi seemed to drive faster than 10 miles per hour below the speed limit) that “urgent” to this city girl and “urgent” to others have two different definitions.

The security agent arrived within 20 minutes, then took an additional five just to get out of his car. It was then I learned that breaking into a locked car is a manual process. My second lesson: The Chevrolet Impala is an extremely secure, tamper-resistant machine. The very warm and friendly man, who assured me he unlocks several cars a day, could not crack this nut. After trying every instrument in his arsenal—including something that looked like a blood pressure cuff—I decided to help. I pressed my face up against the window of the passenger door and navigated him to the well hidden and protected (for a reason) unlock switch: half an inch to the right, an inch down, back up, almost there, bingo! Actually, “Alleluia!” was what I shouted (even in Lent, when the word is taboo). I broke into tears and thanked him profusely. He apologized profusely to taking so long. The third lesson, much like the first lesson, so simple yet so compelling, being nice can change someone’s world.

A genuine Tupelo angel

I won’t bore you with the how the rest of the adventure played out; it’s better to end here.

When I said my bedtime prayers at three o’clock this morning, I gave thanks for Southern hospitality and the many souls—Courtyard Marriott desk clerks, AAA’s Mr. Nice, the two ladies at hospital reception (one of whom ran after me as I was leaving, to give me a hospital note pad) and the security guard, whose name I have already forgotten. May we all take a lesson that we can change the world just by being nice.


Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Travel