Road Warrior Hell

Jul 13, 1998

Traveling all the time is no party, as anyone who does it can tell you. But it’s a fact of life for many of the top people working in the A/E/P and environmental (as well as management) consulting businesses. That’s why I have wanted to write a travel-related article for some time. I thought I’d list all of my complaints. It’s more than screaming babies whose parents won’t rock them, change their diaper, or give them a bottle. Or youngsters who won’t stop kicking your seat or flopping down their tray tables (that are attached to your seat, of course!). It’s things such as how on every red-eye flight, there’s someone who doesn’t know that they are waking up 43 fellow passengers when they use the seat backs for arm rails as they head to the restroom. Or the guy who, the moment the plane docks, will mow down anyone and everyone in his way to retrieve the carry-on that he stowed 10 rows behind him. Worse still, is when this same fellow occasionally tries to get back to his seat, mowing down everyone in his path again! Another favorite rude-passenger-type is the one who takes his shoes and socks off, then puts his feet up right next to you on the empty seat! Or the guy who takes 10 magazines when the flight attendant offers them so all you are left with is a tired, three-month-old copy of Condé Nast. Another time I was sitting in a center seat, smack dab in the middle of two 400- to 500- pound folks, a woman and a man (not related). After breaking through to ring the flight attendant call button to see if I could be reseated, I asked the woman if she could get up to let me out. She said “no!” The people in the row in front of me had to move and I climbed over. Once I saw an older fellow, traveling with his shrunken wife, put his thin briefcase in the overhead compartment. The guy sitting in the row behind him said, “Hey— you put your bag on my coat.” The older fellow said, “I’m sorry—I didn’t know it was there.” The other guy then says, “Yeah you did.” Hmm…I thought to myself. “Nice guy, real nice guy.” Coming back from a family vacation to Fort Lauderdale, our flight connected through JFK in New York. My wife, two daughters, and I stayed on the plane. When the passengers started loading onto the plane once again, I saw one guy turn around and say to the fellow behind him: “You push me one more time and I will break your f#%*ing leg!” Nice language for my kids to hear… But it’s not just the passengers who are miserable. The workers who are serving the travelers can be just as bad. Did I ever tell you about the time that a fellow passenger asked the flight attendant on a TWA flight to repeat their meal offerings in coach? The flight attendant sighed, then told the passenger that “she’d already said the choices 29 times.” I told her she shouldn’t mind saying them again then! One time I was coming through Minneapolis/St. Paul on Northwest, and they decided to strand us there over night. In addition to a room at a nearby airport hotel, one with the TV controller bolted down to the nightstand, part of our “accommodations” included a meal voucher. At the hotel/motel restaurant, all of us started talking. It turned out that an 18-year-old college student who was part of our group got a $6 voucher, and the rest of us got $14! I guess they thought they could get away with that! Another time, I landed at what is now called George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. I quickly grabbed a cab for the 30-mile ride through rush-hour traffic to meet my client for dinner at my hotel. I knew the schedule would be tight and I wasn’t going to have time to change, so I had dressed in my evening attire. But the cab I got into turned out not to have air conditioning that worked! Anyone who has ever been to Houston in the summer knows that AC is a must! But then the cabby had the nerve to tell me that “men don’t need showers every day.” He said, “every three days is sufficient for a man.” I said, “Listen, Buddy. I don’t know about you, but I stink.” But none of these stories top what happened to us last week. Fred White, Mick Morrissey, Audrey Borowski and I our firm traveled to DC last week for an open house for our office there. Everything went great until the morning we were scheduled to leave. We left the hotel in our rental car at 6:30 a.m. for an 8:15 a.m. flight out of Dulles. We got in the plane, sat on the tarmac for two-and-half hours, then the flight was canceled and we returned to our gate. With no one to help us, and every flight to Boston either booked or canceled, we got on a bus and headed to Ronald Reagan Airport (formerly Washington National). There, we stood in line for a couple of more hours, and finally got on a plane for Boston. It, too, left the gate, sat on the tarmac for a couple of hours, and returned. Once again, we got in line for a few hours. Then U.S. Air decided to put us all in cabs and send us to BWI! That flight was delayed, too, but we did eventually reach our parking lot by midnight that night! A rental car, a cab, a bus, three airports, and three planes later, and what should have been a 59-minute flight turned into an 18-hour ordeal! We could have driven back in less than half the time. Traveling is part of doing business for most firms today, and everyone who travels has an occasional tale of woe. Maybe it helps a little bit to know that you aren’t the only one who has travel problems! Originally published 7/13/1998

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