Not All Business Trips Go According to Plan

Not All Business Trips Go According to Plan

Those of you that follow me know that I do a significant amount of travel. There are weeks that my business requires me to make four or five flights to meet with clients, give presentations, etc. I have become quite adept at getting from point A to point B, but even with experience, there can be challenges. How we choose to deal with those trials reflects how we deal with life in general (in my opinion) and, in turn, will determine our success in whatever we set out to accomplish.

Just a few days ago, I left my office for a trip to give a presentation. On my way to the airport, I received a notification that there was a flight delay. I thought that’s not a problem, it’s to be expected this time of year with seasonal thunderstorms. A bit later, I got another notification that the flight is back on schedule – sometimes pilots make up a bit of time in flight. Great news! When I got to my gate, the flight was delayed again. Now, this just makes me laugh – when stuff happens that’s beyond your control, there’s nothing you can do but embrace it. Several people are quite upset, even though the delay was only about 30 minutes, not several hours. We boarded the plane and made the three-hour flight without issue until we landed. Multiple flights landed within minutes of each other, and there was a shortage of flight bridges (or staff to operate them). We waited another 30 minutes. Everyone wanted to get off the plane, and the passengers were getting angrier by the second. As time went on, passengers began to assume they wouldn’t have to wait for their luggage since it was taking so long to deplane. I guess they thought the passengers on the other planes didn’t have any luggage? Since 10 flights landed at the same time, all the luggage needed to be unloaded at the same time. We waited again. Don’t misunderstand me, I wasn’t jumping for joy about the string of annoyances, but I recognized that yelling and screaming at customer service or other passengers was not going to accomplish anything. We waited 40 minutes for our luggage, then. went out to the rental car shuttle.

At this point, it was after 10:00 p.m. I was expecting to be at my destination by 8:00 p.m. Every rental car shuttle was arriving except for the one where I had a reservation. I stood with about 60 other people – and the crowd was growing. Honest to heaven, we waited so long (nearly an hour) and the crowd was getting so large that someone from the airport came out to ask which shuttle we needed. I don’t need to tell you, frustration was mounting. Many of these people had experienced delayed flights, long waits on the tarmac, an extreme wait for luggage, change in time zones, it was late in the evening and now there was no shuttle. It’s no surprise that the mood was not great.

Finally, in the distance, we could see the shuttle! And…it was not a large bus it was a small van – “Oh no, this mob of people is never going to fit in that van! It’s going to be survival of the fittest,” I thought. I decide I would wait for the next van, I was not going to get in the middle of that chaos – I didn’t care how tired I was. The van stopped, all but in front of me. I was still planning to wait it out when a gentleman motioned me to go ahead and get on – what a kind man. As I stepped up, the driver took my luggage and the person in front of me. He set two bags directly in my path so I had to stop. That’s when I felt something hit me HARD in my calf, my leg buckled and I nearly fell over – thank heaven for all the luggage that was around me to hold me up. I turned around to see a large hardcover suitcase (apparently filled with rocks) had been hurled at me by a 6’2”, 250-pound man behind me. Apparently, he didn’t want to carry it up the steps. I don’t know, but in any event, it hurt like hell. I could feel my leg swelling immediately and I truly wanted to strangle him. He apologized for hitting me and we moved on.

I finally arrived at the rental car location, hobbled in with my sore leg, and my luggage in tow and proceeded to get my car. I was to drop the car off at 4 a.m. two days later so I could make my early flight home. The clerk informed me that the shuttle doesn’t start running until 4:30 a.m. but there is a drop box for the car keys. I inquired as to how I might get to the airport at 4:00 a.m. His response, “I guess you’ll have to walk.” Did he really just say that? Customer service was lacking at this location. I wanted to inflict the physical pain I was feeling on him. Instead, I replied, “I’ll figure it out. Thanks for your help.” I went outside where I got my rental car and instead of giving me the printed receipt, he e-mailed it. Finally, I could head to the hotel and get a few hours’ sleep. I pulled up to the gate handed the gentleman inside my driver’s license – he asked for my receipt. I explained that it was e-mailed, and I didn’t receive a printed copy, he then replies – “I guess you’ll have to go back and get one.” (I couldn’t pull it up on e-mail because it was sent to my assistant.) Was this day ever going to end? I was exhausted, my leg was killing me, and everyone was being less than tolerable. “I don’t think so,” I replied. “I am NOT going anywhere. You can pick up the phone and call him if you like but I am not turning around.” So, he called his manager. Another wait.

I got to my hotel around 1:00 a.m., starving and drained both emotionally and physically. I examined my leg, it was swollen, horribly bruised and the top layer of skin was ripped off (the next day I was speaking for several hours, wearing 3-inch heels). Nothing a bag of M&M wouldn’t fix.

The trip home was another adventure. I’ll save it for another time. My point is, at many points during this excursion, I certainly could have gone the route of many others and yelled, screamed, and cussed at the less-than-helpful customer service agents. I am a top-level frequent flier, I’m a top level rental car customer, and the same goes at multiple hotel chains, but what does that matter and what does it solve. When an individual does that, the corporation doesn’t look bad. The person yelling and swearing does. They look like fools. Was it the customer service agent’s fault our flight was delayed? Was it the airline attendant’s fault that there was not a bridge available the moment we landed? Was it their fault we had to wait for our luggage? No, is the answer to every one of these questions. Yet it is these customer service representatives who were being yelled at and belittled in front of crowds of people. Getting angry and abusive doesn’t solve any of the annoying travel problems – it only causes more anger and hatred.

To those who think that business travelers live a life of glitter and glitz…we do get to visit more destinations than the average person and we do (usually) have a good time in our travels, but it’s not always what you envision. To those who travel as I do, if you’ve never worked in the service industry, be patient with these folks – they’re people too. They are out there trying to earn a living just like you and me. Put yourself in their shoes. Is any of this going to matter six months from now? Probably not. Take a deep breath, it will all be over soon – and it could be worse, at least you’re alive to complain about it.

To the gentleman that hit me with his massive suitcase, I hope you arrived home safely and got a good night’s sleep. I recommend getting your blood pressure checked, and maybe you should try meditation (or medication. Or both).

I think I should write a book based on my last 10 years of travel experiences, there have been some doozies