I am trying to add it all up. In the past three years, I have flown about 500,000 Miles; my fairly new car’s odometer says 75k and at least 100 hours on the rails. Platinum Marriott and Hilton Gold, about 120 nights away from home a year. I’m sure I’ve flown over a million miles in the past 5 years. I am just trying to tell you that I travel a lot.
Although much of my travel is spent alone, I am fortunate to have a great group of co-workers that I meet up with when I reach my destination. That makes things much easier, having people to commiserate with and also count many of them as friends.
People think that business travel is fun. I expect when you sit behind a desk every day, it sounds fun. I crave for the days I can be at my desk. It is a grueling way to spend your days and nights. Up in the Air was a great movie because it depicted it so accurately. Yes, I have spent hours comparing loyalty programs in hotel bars, but I actually don't carry around the cards. And yes, I like staying at the same hotel chains because I know what to expect.
One of the things I like best is seeing this country - coast to coast. Mind you, much of that is viewed from 30,000 feet. I still take pictures of landmarks I recognize and put them on Facebook. But usually when I am on an airplane, it's part of my business day. Meaning there is an expectation by my employer and me that I get some work done, which brings me to why I am writing this blog. This kid next to me is adorable but when he keeps touching my screen and keyboard and asking me every 3 minutes if he can try it, he is pissing me off. Let me rephrase. His parents are pissing me off. The woman behind me, who is talking very loudly on her cellphone before takeoff, sharing details of her recent surgery, was bad enough, but now she is assuming the whole plane wants to hear it too.
As my opening blog on this topic, here is a quick list of things to consider when you choose to hit the airways, trains and highways with people who are just trying to get through their day.
If we look like we don't want to talk, guess what? We don't! Watch for our signs - nose in book, using computer intently, headphones or earbuds apparently operational, polite nods and then looking away staring intently out the window. This is why I prefer the window seat - I can deflect easier.
Frequent traveler lines. The airports were kind enough to give us our own lane. Stay out of it! Traveling for business on your annual company meeting doesn't qualify you 9 months later with your kids in tow. I have, to be fair, seen some very organized families get through security quickly, but the lane is for business people who do this all the time. I can get everything in the bins in the security line in about 30 seconds, and can pack everything back up in about a minute on the other end. That’s my qualifier.
Babies and children on planes. I know it can't be helped - you need to get somewhere and sometimes babies need to go on planes. Please don't take the red eye. They don't call them that because of baby’s eyes after crying for 8 hours, or our eyes after listening to them. Bring something for them to suck on or chew so that they can relieve the pressure in their ears - but sometimes they are just unhappy. If it can't be helped and they are old enough to sit by themselves, buy them the ticket and bring their car seat so they are comfortable. But above all - be parents! One of my co-workers had a whole carton of milk poured into his suit jacket pocket while he was napping - I myself have provided food and entertainment for kids with clueless parents, and sat horrified while a woman changed a diaper on the tray table next to me. It may take a village to raise a child, but Boeing 757 isn’t part of the equation.
Be nice to the people who are trying to help you. This one isn't for business travel specifically but yelling at the airlines personnel not only doesn’t get you anywhere faster, it also makes them cranky for the next person in line. They are just trying to do their job, with a whole lot of people who are angry or edgy for probably the same reason you are, in line behind you. Your ticket is to cover the fuel to get you from place to place. The only thing you are "owed" is to get there safely. I don't think kissing butts is in the equation unless you are a business traveler - doh! Just be nice - it usually works out pretty well.
The Quiet Car. I sometimes travel Amtrak between Rhinecliff, NY and New York City. The Business Class car isn’t technically a quiet car, but most people use it that way. If you have little kids, you probably should avoid train cars that are labeled “quiet” and probably Business Class too.
Crowding at the Gate: One last pet peeve for this post - when you are waiting at the airport for your flight, they actually do want you to board when you are supposed to - by row number or by zone. I have actually missed First Class boarding because I couldn't get through the crowd. Some airports are worse than others, but everyone is going to get on the plane. Just sit and relax.
Business travelers are critical to most travel-oriented businesses success. There are good reasons why we have what looks like special treatment - it's just the small things that make it a little easier to get through the day.