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Traveler’s Lament: Musings from the Corner Office

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The year has only just started, and it’s already starting to feel like one long red-eye. Not that I mind getting out and about but, first class or not, flying the unfriendly skies for work just isn’t what it used to be.

Let’s skip the irritation, inconvenience, and indignities of the security process, including the questionable wisdom of the 3-1-1. And there isn’t much that hasn’t been said about the glories of doing time behind the curtain, aka economy class/tourist class/low class.

It’s not so much the hours I lose from my life in the coming and going or the nightmarish people and situations I encounter along the way that stress me out. It’s the crash landing that first day back in the office that is really a hardship assignment.

The red light on my phone blinks accusingly. Obviously, no one ever bothers to listen to my “I’m out of the office” message. Fortunately, e-mail has an automatic reply feature that lets people know I am not checking e-mails. Unfortunately, no one pays any attention to that message either.

“Hello, can you get back to me ASAP?!”

Hello, can you read?  

Coming back after a long haul usually necessitates a marathon of make-up meetings. From afar, the notion of back-to-back catch up meetings seems like a mighty fine way to get back in the game. Inevitably, I schedule myself into a counterproductive crunch of appointments my first day back. I end up feeling further behind. And, I accumulate more messages and e-mails to follow up on.

And what about the dreaded expense report? Regardless of rank, every traveling exec is reduced to receipt collector throughout the trip. No matter how organized you are, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll lose a few along the way. Even the C Suite is subject to accounting’s archaic travel policies. Until the day when we are allowed to pack our assistants in our carry-on bags, the fees that fall off the expense report are just the price of doing business.

Then there are the snide comments from grounded employees who never “get” to travel and therefore assume every trip is a boondoggle. Seemingly, every coordinator has visions of long limos instead of long lines, shops and theaters rather than decks and working-lunches, sleeping in versus sitting up at a ninety-degree angle with no pillow.

“Oh poor you! So your luggage got lost, your beloved Blackberry broke, and you only slept four hours in two days. At least you got to travel!”  

It’s enough to make me long for the cold comfort of coach… Middle seat by the back bathroom, Chatty Patty on the left, Sneezing Stan on the right, sub-zero cabin temperature, and finding solace swilling five-dollar merlot from a plastic cup. Oh yes, my dear coordinators, I have arrived.  

Remember, if you don’t have anything nice to say, my door is always open…

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