The Perils of Business Travel

Flying horror storiesI fly a lot for work. I’m not proud of it. I don’t fly First or Business class. I’d have little to complain about if I did. Things look pretty nice up there.

But back here, on a five-hour flight, many perils exist. If you do this once or twice a year, it’s no big deal – you forget any inconveniences almost as soon as the trip is over. But if your company tries to convert you into a routine business traveler – do yourself a favor and put in a transfer request for the mailroom.

The mail room guys don’t get paid too much – it’s true. But on the other hand, they are never forced to overnight in a Motel 6 with paper thin walls, kept up all night by the traffic from I-95 and the incessant racket caused by the drunks and prostitutes (more on this below).

Seating Area

A person who gets zone 2 on his boarding pass might think: “This isn’t so bad, there’s only one zone ahead of me”. Untrue. There can be as many as seven zones ahead. Consider United Airlines: First class goes (surprise!) first. Then 1K status. Then Premier Platinum, followed by Premier Gold and Premier Silver. Next come the cripples, then the deaf and blind, followed at last by women with small children.

Finally, your zone is called. You jockey for position with fifty or sixty other people, hoping there will be some space left for your bag when you get into the plane. Once onboard, you find there is none. A stewardess (yes, stewardess) looks at you disapprovingly. If you had been in First or Business, they might have let your awkwardly-shaped bag through.

But today is not your day. “Sir, this flight is 100% full. We’ll have to check your bag.” Your bag is then lost, flown to Canada, returned to your destination and delivered the following afternoon. In the meantime, you will have to attend your morning meetings wearing what you wore on the flight (for comfort, of course) – a vintage 1980s Transformers t-shirt and tattered Orlando Magic sweat pants.

Stewardesses

I have no idea why we need to call them flight attendants. Why the name change?

Did a bunch of stewardesses get together in the 1970s and decide that the word “stewardess” wasn’t dignified enough to describe the people who deliver your peanuts and Diet Coke halfway through the flight? Did they hope that in changing the name to something more dignified that perhaps the nature of their work might also change?

If so, they failed. Forty years on, the work is less dignified than ever. The safety features of the aircraft are now demonstrated by pre-recorded videos, meaning that upwards of 90% of the flight attendant’s job description now revolves around the intricacies of peanut service.

Stewardesses aren’t the only ones who have changed their job title. Every group of people in history that grew ashamed of their occupation has decided to change its name at some point. Janitors became janitorial engineers. The personnel department became human relations. Mailmen became postal workers. Maids become – the “help” (wtf?)

But guess what – all those jobs still suck. And not only is the job of flight attendant the same as the job of stewardess, but all flight attendants are now old, frumpy malcontents. I’ll continue to call them “stewardesses”, at least until people start calling me “Corporate Archmage”.

Dolphin Tale

Few airlines have Direct TV. Some have in-seat monitors, but limit your viewing options to GOP Primary Coverage or reruns of Two and a Half Men. But the greatest outrage is what I am experiencing right now. The Super Bowl is on as I write this. The captain informs us the score is 9-0 Giants, but I have no other information. There is no Direct TV. There is only – Dolphin Tale. Yes, Dolphin Tale. Now I understand why Alec Baldwin got drunk and flipped out a few weeks ago!

Babies

Why in God’s name would anyone want to fly for five hours, in coach, with an infant? Your infant is inevitably going to cry, unless you intravenously administer barbiturates to it. Probably not a good idea, in any case.

I have sometimes sat on airplanes, listening to the blood curdling screams of a new born child, wondering what might happen if I marched towards it – coolly and collectedly – turned my head slowly to make eye contact, and let loose a few barbarically loud indications of my own misery?

WAAAAAH. WAAAAAH. WAAAAAHHHH!!!

Would the baby cease its crying? Has anyone performed this experiment? If not, why not?? All the young mothers out there will think this is cruel. But who cares. This is my fantasy, and you’re not allowed in.

Farting

This is the worst peril of all. In addition to the cramping, the crying, the lack of good food and the dry, thin air, one must occasionally endure what I call the serial fartist.

This is a person who should go to the bathroom, but refuses. Typically the fartist is an older man. Perhaps he had a rich meal at the Gordon Biersch in Terminal D; perhaps his insides are literally rotting away because he is so freaking old. Whatever the reason – he is a menace and must be stopped.

Has anyone ever found a way to confront this? What do you say – “excuse me sir, I think you shit yourself?” I’m still working on this, after eight years of business travel, and still come up empty every time.

There ought to be a separate section of the airplane for these people. The same way TSA collects information on terrorists – they should also collect information on serial farters. When you book a ticket online, a window should pop up saying “You have a history of serial farting. You will be seated in row 47 with all the other decrepit old men. Our sincere apologies for this inconvenience, and thank you for choosing Delta. ”

Motel 6 – Atlanta, Georgia

If you travel enough you will eventually encounter the nightmare scenario, which is as follows. You are trying to catch a flight from Wichita. (What wrong turn did you make along the road of life to end up there?) Your flight is delayed three hours due to thunderstorms. It finally arrives in Atlanta at 11pm and you miss your connection.

You head over to customer service. There are 150 equally angry people in line. You commiserate over how terrible your lives are. You may trade stories about past travel debacles or sob quietly to yourself.

The customer service people are unapologetic; you are just another inconvenience in their long, chaotic day. They look at their computers, ostensibly to research your individual case. But the computer has Angry Birds on it, and regardless of your individual circumstances the outcome will always the same: you get vouchers.

Your first voucher entitles you to spend the night at the Motel 6 right off I-95. The other voucher entitles you to $6 worth of food at Gordon Biersh. You throw the food voucher in the garbage, and catch a cab to the Motel 6.

When you arrive, the toothless yokel behind the reception counter grins. “Room 101”, he says. This room is ten feet away. It’s literally next to the reception desk.

You try to go to sleep on a mattress that is seemingly made of straw, but not before checking it for bed bugs. You realize you don’t know how to check for bed bugs, so you shrug and lie down on it anyway. You stop to listen to the ambient noise. Outside there is a constant stream of tractor trailers barreling down I-95. Every ten minutes a group of drunks walks by your door, having returned from the Ruby Tuesday’s down the street – eager to order some prostitutes.

A little while later, you hear the prostitutes as they earn their pay. You flip on a 250 pound television in a wooden frame that was placed there in 1963. You notice that the remote has mysterious stains on it.

You fall asleep at 1:30 AM. Your alarm goes off four hours later. Next stop: Hartfield Jackson International Airport , a flight home, a cab ride to the office and a visit with HR to discuss that transfer to the mail room…

3 comments for “The Perils of Business Travel

  1. February 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I always fart on planes because it is impossible to detect the source.

  2. Murph
    February 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    If you see me fiddling with the overhead air supply thing, I just farted. I’m trying my best to diffuse the smell quickly. Same deal with pillow between the legs. That’s a fart suppression technique.

    I am considerate

  3. Mr. Cleavage
    February 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Mr. Cleavage and the Stink Monster from Asia, Chapter 1

    As I was winging my way home from a 10-day f*ck fest in Shanghai (OK, it was all work, but I hear some foreigners actually do get laid in that city of SPECTACULARLY flat-chested women), I felt the unmistakable vibration of a long, machine-gun fart…Literally FELT IT through the aluminum seat frame of our exit row. By this time we were 12 hours into the 15 hour flight from hell, and my 6 foot 4, 250 lb. ass was aching worse than on any other flight I had experienced (There is exactly .325 inches of foam in a Boeing 777 seat bottom).
    I reached up, and turned all 3 air nozzles at the guy next to me (only other person in my row, hence my certainty about the offender) on full-blast. I said, extremely loudly, “DUDE!! HONESTLY? WE’RE 3 FEET FROM THE BATHROOM!” He denied doing anything wrong, but he turned 4 shades of pink and disappeared into the crap-cubicle for a good 20 minutes. They’ll let any fucking PIG with money on a plane these days…

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