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Why I Need to Retire
Originally Posted 07/26/10

This blog is for all those people who always say, "You have a dream job. Just travel around from city to city, drink good wine and talk to people.Ē This blog represents the reality of being a traveling speaker these days. This all happened during a recent, supposedly simple trip starting in Boston and ending with a client in upper, western Illinois. My family lives in southern Illinois so I decided to include a drive south for two nights and then a visit to my client in Galesburg, Illinois.

I left my house at 5:00 a.m. on a Tuesday for a 9:00 a.m. out of Boston. It is an hour and a half flight to the airport so I am up at 4:00.

I left a day early to see my family in Southern Illinois, a three-hour drive south of Moline, the closest airport to Galesburg where the client lives. The plan was to fly in to Moline, drive south for two nights, and then drive back for consulting on Thursday morning with a return on Friday to Boston. I should be having a beer with the family by 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday if all goes well, which was my first wrong thought for the day.

When I arrived at the airport and did the kiosk check-in I was rejected and sent to the counter to see an agent. This is never good news. The 9:00 flight was now pushed back to noon because of maintenance issues, which is another way of saying we donít have enough people to fly just now and since we arenít making money, we arenít going.

It is a perfectly sunny day with no weather and this flight is the only one on the entire board with issues. Every businessperson on that flight is furious at the airline since there are no openings on the rest of the oversold flights going to Detroit.

The ticket agent, who has taken a public beating from overly stressed business guys with no where to go, starts crying at the front counter when I list my flight number because she has been yelled at so many times before I actually got to her that she breaks down. She is so pathetic, I just laugh at her, tell her Delta hammers me almost every week, and I get a $100 ticket credit for a future flight. She also spends 10 minutes badmouthing Delta telling me it is now the worst airline in the world and that all the employees hate it and hate working there. These are things you want every employee to be telling your clients, especially the ones who fly so much they have advanced status.

I am still good, though, despite the delay, for the connection in Detroit for Moline and can still get to momís by 8:00 p.m. There is still a good meal and beer in my future and I can still see the family

At 11:30, they now announce that the plane wonít be towed to the gate until noon and we will now leave at 12:30. They get everyone on the plane but it takes another half an hour to do the paperwork since the plane had been in maintenance. We take off at 1:00, now four hours later than listed, and land at exactly 3:15, the exact same time as my connection flight is leaving. We of course land at the farthest possible gate from the connection so there is no chance that I can run through two terminals and make the flight.

The connection from Detroit, which would have left at 3:15 p.m. and I missed, is now rescheduled for 7:45 p.m. While I am waiting to rebook the flight, I find a diamond earring, which I offer to the agent in jest as a bribe to get on the flight. She thinks this is funny, but the earring goes into her pocket as we speak and I do get a good seat.

I now have four hours to kill in Detroit Airport, and people wonder why I drink so much wine. There is a nice people-watching seat available and after two glasses of wine I now realize that the Detroit Airport is running about 20 percent higher in obesity. I have been keeping score of fat people, sort of fat people, and average people while I am drinking. I am also keeping a side count of attractive women, which is a small number in that airport.

Obesity is running about 40 percent in Detroit and I am being generous in that number. And no, BMI has nothing to do with this. These are just plain big old Midwest fat people who eat too much lousy food and drink too much cheap beer. I have also mad a startling discovery. Bad hair seems to go hand in hand with a big butt. These needs further research but I may be on to something.

I catch the 7:45 and fly to Moline, an airport I have never been too, which is amazing in itself, but the mystery fades when I land and realize I have never been there because there is nothing but cows and fields in Moline and no sane person would choose to go to Moline unless forced by gunpoint or a need to make consulting money. It is on the far western edge of Illinois and totally isolated farmland.

It is now too late to drive south so my travel agent gets me a reservation at a Hampton Inn, the low end of the hotel food chain. They are understaffed so the woman at the desk says they will send a cab because they have no one on duty to drive the shuttle. I sit for 20 minutes and then start pacing in boredom. I look up and realize that I can see the Hampton Inn from where I was sitting. It is a short walk to a cheap hotel.

Apparently, I am the only person who has ever made the 200-yard walk. Even the kid making cars move along offered to call me a cab because it was quite far and people usually donít walk there. This might explain the average tonnage per person in this part of the country. It doesnít, however, explain the bad hair.

The nice hotel next door to where I am staying looks inviting as I enter the barren lobby of the Hampton Inn. The give-away that it is a dump is always the free buffet signs for the all-you-can-eat breakfast. The girl is not at the front desk because she is delivering towels to a room. I should have paid attention to this.

I wait patiently until she returns and then she yells at me for not waiting for the cab to pick me up since the hotel will still have to pay. I am paying $129 a night for a lousy hotel and manage to get yelled at by a 22 year old, $10 an hour employee.

She too starts crying when I say: "Well, I stand corrected and wonít do that again.Ē She apologizes for being mean to me and states she is having a bad day. She keeps crying and apologizes numerous times. The check-in takes about 20 minutes because now she is afraid I will tell someone she was mean. I let her know she was fine and I completely understand but it still takes 20 minutes to get my room.

I check in and walk back to the front counter to get a recommendation for dinner since the hotel only has snack machine. I am sent to the "bestĒ steak house in Moline, which is called Montana Jacks. It looks like a run down Key West bar from the outside and looks like a beaver lodge on the inside with nothing but raw wood on the walls. My first urge is to flap my tail and chew on a board.

I look into the dining room. All the tables are covered in checkerboard plastic table clothes. The waitresses are wearing matching shirts in the same pattern. I choose the bar. The barmaid is eight and a half months pregnant and she has to sit on the beer cooler to take the order. While we are placing my order, she farts rather loudly telling me that gas is a problem when you are that pregnant and have to stand up so long.

The waitresses, dressed in red and white-checkered shirts like the tables, and with hot pants and gun holsters with wooden guns range from 12 years old to about 60. This would be cute except the girls are bigger than the horses they rode in on. Western themes are bad in a steak house but I would draw the line in matching staff to Herefords.

I choose steak, which comes with a salad bar. The salad bar had jello with carrots, a scary treat from my grandmotherís era and several open cans of beans. The lettuce is white and there is a big bowl of peas and tuna fish, which must be for anyone who thinks he might be a cat. I eat lightly but do notice that the locals are tearing up the white lettuce.

I eat at the bar watching Americaís Got Talent with rednecks and an engineer from India, named Ramy of course. "Oh, this is my favorite show. You have no idea how popular this is in India.Ē We all decide that the dancers didnít bring it this week and that Lil Chris actually sucks. We all vote for the rock climbing dancers. Draft beer is two for one so the rednecks are defending their position pretty firmly. Ramy and I voted for the guy from LA who knits his own hats for his dancer and sings like he is a fugitive from the King and I but the rednecks think he is gay and refuse to vote.

I return to my room, sweaty from the walk in the Midwestern heat, and jump into the shower. This turns out to be a mistake when I discover there are no towels in my room except for the mat on the floor, which I use for a temporary solution. I go to the desk and the girl that chewed me out feels even more badly, gives me double towels and a $15 ITune card. It was a tough decision on the card. I had to choose between the ITunes or a box of 12 donuts and a gallon of coffee redeemable at the gas station across the street.

There is a big sign in the lobby leading me to their fitness center. I might have time to get a workout before I drive in the morning. The sign is slightly optimistic because the fitness room is one treadmill. No weights, no equipment, just one treadmill and you have to get a key for the treadmill from the woman at the desk since they are afraid kids might kill themselves using it. I decided not to workout that morning.

I called my mom to tell her I would be a day late getting there, not unusual for a road trip these days. I have just wasted an entire day of my life trying to get to Moline, Illinois, somewhere I didnít really want to visit anyway.

This all means that I sit too much, eat too much and drink too much. This also means that stress is a daily occurrence if you want to travel anywhere this day. By the time I got home I too felt like crying although my client Wil was a pleasure to work with and saved the trip.

Airlines suck.

Next week I will return to educational blogs and less rants, although you out there seem to like side trips more than me trying to teach you something.

Read Dip, by Seth Godin, my recommended read for the week.

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