I hate business travel. Once upon a time business travelers could breeze through customs, use mileage to upgrade to first class (I miss you, Continental), suck down a glass of wine and ease into the latest biography from David McCullough. Alas, those days are deader than John Adams.
Today, business travelers endure endless delays, Syrian-refugee-like lines at security and desperate passengers pummeling one another to grab the last remaining spot in the overhead bins.
So, here, submitted for your approval, are six recent business trips from hell:
1.) The imposter. Boarding a flight for Charleston, a gate attendant stopped me, scrutinized my boarding pass, and asked to see my driver's license. She took one look and declared, "We don't have a seat reserved for Steven Cody." "Look at my ticket," I said. She shook her and said, "Sorry, but the ticket reads Steve Cody, not Steven Cody. You'll have to go back through security to check-in, and have them re-issue you one that matches the name on your driver's license."
2.) Good news. Bad news. About an hour into a flight to Newark, our pilot announced, "I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that, thanks to strong tail winds, we'll be arriving a full 35 minutes ahead of schedule!" Then he added, "However, Newark ATC is reporting severe thunderstorms and is re-routing every plane. So, we'll be touching down in Albany, and will most likely put you on buses that will shuttle you back to Newark. Oh, and thanks for flying United. We know you have other options."
3.) The turnaround blues. We had a humongous new business pitch scheduled for Oshkosh in the middle of last winter. Even though the meeting wasn't being held until 3 pm, we figured we'd hop an early flight, take some time rehearsing and relax a bit before the pitch. That's when the hellishness began.
First, the pilot reported a cockpit malfunction. That took an hour to fix. Then, because it had started snowing, the pilot said we needed to hop on the de-icing line. That took 90 minutes. Then the pilot announced "Ah, because we had the malfunction and had to wait in line for de-icing, we've lost our place in the departure sequencing and are now number 30 for take-off."
My associate gave me a stricken look, and said, "We'll never make the connecting flight." I immediately picked up one of those early, wire-cord in-air phones and called the client. "Non-issue, Steve. We fell in love with the group we just met with and have already made our agency selection. I wish you, and Peppercomm, every success in the future." As I hung up, our plane took off for Detroit where we landed and promptly turned right around.
4.) Use the hand warmer. My business partner refuses to fly in commuter jets for a reason. They make him air sick. But, when one must fly to Norfolk, Virginia, one will find few, if any, 767′s to board. And, so, we buckled ourselves into a tiny Embraer.
Naturally, the weather turned rough, and my partner turned green. He rang the flight attendant button. She offered him crackers and ginger ale, but that didn't do the trick.
As we made our final approach, Ed's lunch made its final departure (from his stomach). It was a horrifying scene that nauseated passenger and crewman alike. When we finally de-boarded, Ed bolted for the men's room. He immediately yanked off his suit, shirt and tie, tossed them in the sink and did his best to clean them. The poor guy then used the hand warmers next to the sink to try to dry his clothes. That didn't work very well, so, when we arrived at the client's office, he kept his distance from everyone else in the vicinity. Ed took an Amtrak home.
5.) You cannot be serious! I was en route to Orlando, AKA DisneyHell. The plane was packed with screaming brats running sprints in the aisle. And I was sitting in front of a mini-monster practicing field goal kicks on the back of my seat.
But, the piece de resistance came when I took note of a truly horrific odor, glanced to my immediate left and watched in horror as a mom changed her baby's soiled diapers right on the seat table. I bolted for the restroom and explained the situation to a flight attendant. She moved me to a middle seat surrounded by kids re-fighting the Civil War. Then the pilot announced that, due to thunderstorms in the Orlando area, we'd be circling for the next 45 minutes. There ought to be a law.
6.) London calling. Having just won the U. S. portion of a worldwide consulting firm's account, I was asked by the client to fly to London to meet the global CMO. I packed my finest suits and ties, boarded an overnight flight, awoke the next morning and dashed off to baggage claim to pick up the clothing I'd need for a noon meeting.
Unfortunately, the luggage had chosen to travel to Houston instead. By that time, it was too late to do anything than head to the new client's HQs. I arrived unshaven, disheveled, and seriously jet-lagged. Happily, the global CMO was way cool about the whole thing and we ended up winning their business as well. As for the luggage, I haven't seen it since and assume it's chosen to pursue an alternative lifestyle in Houston.