Friday, May 6, 2016

I Spend Too Much Time Leaving

Travelling for work is strange.  Especially once you get into a job where you travel regularly.  The romance of travel fades away, and, air travel, in particular, becomes a series of repetitive, boring, sometimes risky events.

"Have you been to Atlanta?" people will now ask me.  "Yes.  Twice," I'll say.  "What did you see?" they'll ask.  "A hotel, a conference room and a hotel bar.  And another bar that served cheeseburgers."  And they always look disappointed.  Because for reasonable reasons people assume it's a grand romantic trip to America's Peach Land! or however people think of Georgia when you're travelling.  But it's not.  It's a series of steps you're taking, all of which you want to go as smoothly as possible.  You don't want a story.  You don't want an adventure.  You want to just do your conference, talk with work pals, get a reasonable amount of sleep, get home without any fuss.

What struck me on this go-round is how much time I spend leaving.

Maybe Shane had the right idea.  Just saddle up and bail.


Friday morning I woke up at 6:00 Central Time to get ready for my day (I never bothered to adjust to East Coast time), as well as pack up, and do that triple-check of the room you kind of have to do so you don't leave your power supply or vital cord behind (or ditty bag with your toothbrush and all that, which I did last summer).  Then I have to check-out (virtually, this time, from my phone).  Then find a bell station to check my bags.  Then go to my conference, then make my good-byes.  Then putter around the hotel looking for a functioning ATM.  Then find a store to buy gum so I can get change and I don't have to tip the bellhop $20 for 2 minutes of work.  Then I get a cab.  Then I fear for my life in the cab.  Then the cabby gets mad because I want to use a credit card instead of paying cash (this was entirely new in Atlanta, and a dick move.  What business traveler doesn't need a receipt?).  Then the kiosk and bag check at the airport.  Then whatever adventure awaits you in security.  Then the train ride you take in the Atlanta airport.  Then finding your gate.  Then sitting.  Then boarding.  Then sitting.  Then flying.  Then sitting.  Then de-planing (and all the shenanigans people get up to seemingly as if they've never gotten off a plane before).  Then baggage claim.  Then the shuttle.  Then my car.  Then the booth where I pay to leave parking.  Then I drive home.  Then I'm home.  Then I have to unpack.

If I'm driving, yeah, it's a drive, but it's so many fewer steps, and so much more is under my direct control.  Plus, audiobooks and scenery.  And a lack of annoying seatmates.  And way, way more legroom.

There absolutely was a time when I liked being A Guy On The Move.  But, the romance of air travel died in the 1970's, and airports somehow became just places where snackfoods have a 250% markup.  They're dull and depressing, and no one has ever invented a comfortable airport seat.

In short, I'm a bit over it.


3 comments:

RHPT said...

My dad's been consulting for twenty years, and except for a three year strech from 2012-2015, he's flown out on Sunday night and comes home on Thursday evening every week. I had to make three trips in six weeks recently, and it was so mentally taxing. I don't know how he does it.

Gerry Lopez said...

I feel you. I had a time when I was traveling a lot for work and was lucky enough to bring the wife along for many of my trips. We would extend the stay a day or two and go out after the conferences. But if I went alone, it was depressi. I once walked to the White House and was unimpressed, only later realizing it was the back of the building. But by then I just wanted to be in my room.

Ryan Steans said...

I used to travel a great deal more, and I'm glad it's slowed down so much. I know when I was in the rhythm of travelling constantly, it was different. I liked the feeling of movement, of seeing people where they were, seeing new contours of new places, especially if I drove in. Flying, if done frequently, is a hassle, but it gives you a sense you're accomplishing something just by nature of appearing suddenly in new places, inserting yourself right into them. It's an illusion, but an important one.

But, yeah, you never really see a place, and when you do - like seeing the back of the White House, you kind of feel like you're doing it wrong. There's not really the time.

This week I'm not travelling, but I am welcoming folks to Austin for meetings, and was asked to take people somewhere "Austin-y", and as someone who kind of hates what tourists mean when they say this (because you mean: take me somewhere expensive, upscale and vaguely Mexican-y, which is only 1/3rd traditionally "Austin-y") I kind of want to take them to The Frisco and explain that this was one of the nicest places in Austin three decades ago as they try to figure out the menu of cheap fried foods under the eyes of a waitress named "Flo".