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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.