September 19, 2011

Navigating a Business Trip via the Airline

This past week I’ve been flying from somewhere to somewhere else every single day, crossing multiple time zones. I started in Toronto and in the past seven days I’ve seen Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Timmins.

A business trip may sound glamorous but once you get yourself to the airport its downhill from there.

The reality of traveling for business is you end up feeling more like a cow being herded by a really yappy pack of border collies than a vacationer going on a holiday.

It starts with the check-in.

You have some choices – self check-in with baggage-claim-tags, web check-in that doesn’t include baggage-claim- tags or assisted check-in which is only for people who really need assistance. Just because you’re hung-over and can’t focus doesn’t mean you qualify for assistance at the airport.

I use the self check-in kiosk, which for whatever reason, I find very challenging. There seems to be a “knack” involved in touching the screen that I apparently lack. But if you want to avoid the longer un-baggage-claim-tagged- checked-in -line-up then pick the self-checking-baggage-claim-thing-a-ma-bob which is the less crappy of the two choices. I usually impatiently press, pound, and rub the Continue Button until by some miracle of automation my baggage-claim-tag is printed out.

Figuring out how to attach the baggage-claim-tag is tricky, but after a service rep saved me from attaching it so it didn’t end up in the unclaimed baggage area I am now skilled enough to give clinics at the kiosk.

Then it’s off to the next line-up.

Once you’ve deposited your one suitcase that is 50 pounds or under and have made small talk with the baggage-taking-service-person it’s off to the security check.

I don’t even bother asking anymore – I just take most of my clothing off so I can walk through the sensors without a pat down or a view of my privates being giggled at by some young guy in a dark room in the inner sanctum of the airport.

Repacking my computer, regulation permitted liquids, and redressing takes time but then it’s off to Starbucks for my regular Grande non fat, half sweet, extra hot, no whip, no syrup, hot chocolate. And yes, I am aware that it is so bourgeois – but – I like what I like and for $3.83 it’s my treat for not destroying the self check-in kiosk.

Waiting at the gate is the most entertaining part of any trip.

Waiting at the Gate.

I love watching people. My actor roots kick into high gear and I try to figure out people’s back story, who they are, why they’re there, who they’re  going to see, and what they’re  going to do when they get there. It’s a very entertaining game you can play alone – try to avoid making eye contact – most people think its weird if your stare at them.

Gate announcements kill me. “Will the following people please report to the desk?” Is always very clear and then followed by some garbled bastardization of names “Mr Bexxkileingersol, Mr WWEswwil, and Mr Siotoitoitoi.” Then the usual stampede of people hurling themselves to the desk to only discover that they weren’t the Mr Bexxkileingersol the agent was inquiring about.

Then the second cattle herding – I dream of being in Business Class or earning Super Elite or at the very least Elite status so I can line up in the special line-up and board the plane before everyone else. But sadly I usually fly steerage.

When my son was small it was exciting – we got on next.  That was the only perk when flying with a screaming child. You got to board with the special people. But after my son grew up we became just another one of the throbbing mass of humanity pressing our way to the entrance of the plane.

I have, after many years, figured out a little trick.

Sit at the back of the plane – because after all the super fantastic people and the parents with the screaming kids get to sit down – the pathetic people at the back of the plane get on next. The downside is – you are the last off. But let’s face it the luggage never gets there before the steerage people do so who really cares if you get to deplane first.

If you were extremely lucky you have an aisle seat! So keep the faith and get on the plane.

Best leg room seat ever! All aisle!

Once you wander down the skinny aisle to your designated seat the real fun begins, putting your stuff either under your seat or in the overhead compartment.

I would really like to have a one on one with the brainy person who came up with the one 50 pound suitcase rule. Yes, fuel is expensive and we need to be putting less weight in the plane. But now most people are just putting all of the stuff that they would’ve put into the second suitcase into a carry-on. Then they try to cram that overly large and heavy carry-on into the overhead compartment over my head.

Mark my words –  after the first lawsuit, involving someone getting a concussion from someone else’s stuff after it flies out of the over stuff overhead compartment and it hits them in the head, no one will be able to even bring a briefcase on the plane.

Flying in dry recycled air surrounded by people who are sneezing, coughing and farting is always a treat! You arrive at your destination with straight hair, a dry throat and a lingering smell of someone else’s semi-digested dinner on your clothes.

If you are at all concerned about farting never drink anything with bubbles in it while flying. You’re just asking for trouble. Pressurized compartment, bubbles, your gut, come on!

Speaking of drinking – booze isn’t a great idea either. When you are sitting on a plane you’re basically a dehydrated inert blob, add alcohol and you become a more dehydrated inert blob that gets bombed fairly quickly. Because of my size one drink acts more like three to me.  If you need to be coherent when you land you might want to rethink the whole, “let’s have a couple on the plane.” idea.

And you might as well just skip what most airlines are passing off as food.  Seriously – have you tried some of the selections? I pack my own food or if I’m stuck I buy the nuts and chocolate from the food trolley.

When they bring the water around – drink a glass. It is the one proven way that you’ll stay hydrated. Less headaches, less jet lag, and less dried up wrinkled skin when you land.

Try moving around. Drinking that water is helpful – you’ll probably be up at least twice to use the bathroom. Moving around also helps with your joints and swelling. I do mini stretches in my seat. The person next to me usually thinks I am some tree hugging hippy but it really helps get the kinks out.

My one huge perk when I fly is reading books and catching up on TV and movies. This past trip I watched Midnight in Paris, a couple of episodes of Modern Family, and this crazy funny  BBC show about nurses.  I also read Sarah’s Secret and The Art of Racing in the Rain. Both fabulous, both touched me, and both I highly recommend.

Once you arrive at your destination try to go for a walk in the sunshine without sun glasses to reset your body’s natural rhythms. Drink more water and get to bed at a reasonable time.

Flying around on a plane might not be glamorous but it sure beats the bus.

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