Quite a Day in the Life of a Business Traveler

Quite a day

Quite a day

I used to write notes to myself in a notebook.  I guess you could say that I still do, but either I have less to say or they appear in another format (this one).  It was a quote I liked here, a song lyric there, something to remember to tell someone, a web address, a line from a book or a new word to look up.  Occasionally I’d write down what was happening with the kids or how I felt about something that was going on.  Calling it a journal does an injustice to journals.  I’d carry the book around for years—literally—without adding to it.  The last time I wrote anything in it was May 24, 2007.  The time before that was November 2, 2006, the time before that was March, 2006.

Until ten months ago, I’d never been out of work.  I loved what I did and miss it.  I should say I miss 80% of it.  There was always about 20% too much to do, sometimes more than that.  The last five years of my work life were particularly hectic.  I was away from home about 80 nights a year in those days, racking up about 100,000 miles a year in the process.  That’s not as much as some people I know, but more than most.  It was chaotic, important and fun…and nerve-racking and exhausting and challenging.

I worked with a group based in Houston, Texas.  For reasons that weren’t particularly clear to me, I had the group’s only Houston client, while one of my colleagues managed two relationships in Chicago.

What follows is my entry for November 2, 2006 which details an overnight trip to Houston to spend a few minutes in the office there and visit a troubled client with my boss, who rarely traveled out of town to see clients for medical reasons.  But not only did he not travel out of town, he rarely left his suburban home—he only went into the office only occasionally, choosing to phone it in instead.  It led to some interesting office dynamics within the Houston office.  It was a net positive for me, because my only option was talking to him on the phone and his lack of presence in the office leveled the playing field with my Houston colleagues.

The client we were going to see had just named a new CFO.  I had met him for the first time only eight days before at a convention in Chicago.  The company was owed by a major hedge fund and huge client of the firm.  There were important things to discuss, so I arranged to introduce my boss to him.

Anyone who has ever done any business traveling has a story like this.  Here’s my story of one very weird day as it appears in my little book.

11/2/06

A short (?) list of things that have gone wrong in the past 24 hours.

  • I missed my original outbound flight do manage problems with another client.  I had to take a flight at 8:30pm.  Lands—scheduled to land—at 11:30.
  • Flight delayed 45 minutes for no known reason
  • I had upgraded to first class on my original flight, using two of my few remaining upgrades.  The upgrade carried over to the later flight, which I find essentially empty.  Coulda sat anywhere I wanted.  Waste!
  • Land at 12:15am.  No ramp workers around to guide flight in.  We sit on tarmac for 15 minutes.
  • Rental car navigation system failed to kick in immediately—can’t find the satellite.  I make an educated guess on how to get to the hotel.  Wrong.  Once the gizmo kicked in, I’m 15 minutes off course.
  • Check into hotel at 1:45am and send emails until 2:15am.
  • Awake at my usual 5:30am! Send more emails. Head into the office which is down the block from the hotel.
  • At some point, I get word that the boss wants the client meeting moved to 10:30am from 10 o’clock.  A flurry of emails are sent to get the participants to confirm the new time.  Done.
  • Go into the office to interview candidates for summer internships.  The sessions run long as no one has anything to say, and we fill the empty space for them asking and re-asking questions in the hope of getting something more than a one word answer or a grunt in response.  Mercifully two people appear decent—if only my colleagues agree (not guaranteed).  Race to get to client to meet boss.
  • Valet attendant can’t find my car; ten minutes wasted, and will be even later than expected.
  • Navigation system changes its mind on directions to client; Houston traffic is “typical” as in horrific.
  • Directions include going down a toll road that only has unmanned booths.  Surely there’s a ticket in my future.
  • Late arriving at client; boss is already in the parking lot but on a call with his boss.  He doesn’t get out of the car to walk into office.  I alert the client that we’re running late without telling them that we’re sitting in separate cars in their parking lot.
  • Twenty minutes after the already delayed meeting is supposed to start (10:50am), the boss calls me to say that his sister is having a baby and he’s going to the hospital and I’ll have to do the meeting by myself.  His sister.  Not his wife or his daughter, his SISTER!  He’s 52 years old and his sister is having a baby and he’s going to be there with the dad.  Fantastic.  I wonder if he’s just trying to get out of the meeting, but focus on more practical things like what the hell I’m going to tell the client.
  • Meet with client for 20 minutes and have nothing to say.  Awkwardly explain that the boss couldn’t make it, but am too embarrassed by the actual reason to tell them.
  • Head to airport and arrive in time for an earlier than scheduled flight.  Get a middle seat.  That’s OK though, because I’ll be home so much earlier, it’s worth it.  A good thing.
  • Earlier flight has mechanical problems and a new plane is required
  • Earlier flight now scheduled to leave at same time my originally booked flight is to depart
  • Return to original flight (better seat).  Board flight for an on-time departure.
  • Equipment delay.  The forward lavatory is broken.  We can’t leave without a working forward bathroom in our post-9/11 security world, because the crew needs access to a facility without having to walk through the rest of the cabin. Ninety minute delay.
  • Three and one-half hours after arriving at the airport for my “earlier flight”, the plane leaves Planet Earth.
  • An eventful twenty-four hours ends—without a(nother) hitch.

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