Large Man Chronicles
October 30th 2009
Tips for the Modern Traveler
I may have one of the best jobs in the world. My job is to fly or drive all over this great land of ours and tell people the stuff my company makes is really good. Sometimes they buy the stuff. When they buy the stuff I thank them for buying the stuff. Sometimes I thank them with dinner and drink…sometimes a tee-shirt with my company’s logo on the front pocket… sometimes a round of golf. Not a bad gig – I get to go with them for the dinner and drink. I get to go with them for golf. Unless the customer is a woman, I let them enjoy the tee-shirts by themselves.
The job is exciting, sometimes even rewarding; but the logistics of this job are a bitch. I am either on a plane, in an airport, or in a car for hours on end. In these travels, I often feel like that little kid in the movie The Sixth Sense. Early in the film he makes a very emotional revelation to Bruce Willis, “I see dead people”. My revelation here is close, but I see dumb people. (Spoken with the same Haley Joel Osment sniffle)
Here is what I mean…On what planet does it make sense to give a verbal bitch slap to the person that has the job of repairing your travel problem? Dumb…. I once stood in line behind a woman who (along with about 100 of us) was taken off of a plane because one of the engines died on the runway. I listened to her abuse the agent at the service desk from the moment she reached the counter. The angry passenger’s reply to, “Hi, may I help you?” was, “This is F-ing bullshit!”…then she continued with the foulest tirade I have heard since I asked my father in law if I could marry his daughter. She spewed her hate filled filth in front of families with kids that were also in line. Why? What outcome was she expecting? Yes, I see dumb people. This is just one incident…I see dumb people all the time.
Maybe I’m missing something, but I was very appreciative of the fact that they discovered the dead engine while we were on the ground. I think taking off with only one engine just so this angry woman could make her appointment that afternoon would have bordered on irresponsible. You may disagree, but I despise crashing in airplanes…especially when these airplanes are really high in the air.
For the record; Ms. Angry Cursing Lady and I were both rescheduled on the same flight later that day. I was enjoying my cocktail in first class as she walked past me to get to her middle seat in coach. Gee, I wonder how that happened.
Tip # 1: Be nice. I am quoting the late, great cinematic icon Patrick Swayze from his masterpiece “Road House”…but it’s so simple it’s comical. BE NICE! I see this every week in every airport, or at every rental car counter; I see it at the front desk of every hotel. The travel industry has provisions in place for mistakes. Be nice and you will reap so much more than you really deserve because there was a thunderstorm in Atlanta. Be nice, and you will fly first class. Be nice, and you will stay in the Presidential Suite because somebody at corporate made a mistake. Be nice, and you’ll drive a Caddy instead of a Chevy because Alamo Rental Car is out of mini-vans.
In a tense situation, when you are really frustrated, when you are speaking to someone WHO CAN HELP, the first words out of your mouth should be something like, “I know that this is not your fault, but I’m in a jam. Can you help me?”…and be nice. This won’t always work; sometimes it is what it is. But the odds of something really good happening go way up when you choose to be decent.
Often when I observe these fits of hysteria because there is a thunderstorm in Atlanta, or there was a rash of late check-outs at the Hyatt Place, I hear this, “Why don’t you take a look at how many miles I have?” or, “Do you know how many nights I stayed in this chain last year?” Trust me my dear Large Man readers, the person behind the counter has to consider everybody in line…not just one person.
Tip # 2: Deep inside their heart, the individual who is in the position to help you does not care how many miles you have. They do not care how many times you have stayed at their hotel chain. The corporation that gets your travel dollars may care, but the person behind the counter mostly cares about maintaining their dignity in a shitty job. The folks behind the counter would like to feel good about themselves while dealing with people who have the kind of job or life that allows for travel on airplanes, stays in nice hotels, and eating shrimp cocktail on corporate expense accounts. The people in this profession work unreasonable hours for marginal pay, and moderate benefits. Instead of offering your resume of travel perks, offer a compliment…a little flirtatious sweet talk goes a long way.
Just so you know that I can throw myself into the mix of dumb people, I’ll share a few of my faux pas as well. These are not as much dumb, as they are symptoms of CRI (See A Large Man Looks at 50).
I’m in a different hotel room every night, therefore a different room number every night. If I leave for dinner, or to run an errand, often I will return to find that I have forgotten my room number, or at the very least I remembered it incorrectly – either way you’re hosed. This happened about once a month until I devised a strategy. Now that I have implemented the strategy, this issue only happens about 3 times per year. A 246% performance improvement…I think that calculation is correct, but I’m a salesman & chronicler – not a statistician.
Tip # 3: Write your room number on a piece of paper that will fit in your pocket or wallet…if you have no pockets available; write it on your hand. If you do write the number on your hand be careful with your hand washing technique until you check out of that particular hotel. Always avoid using a Sharpie; if you use a Sharpie you’ll go to the room number you stayed in on Monday all week long.
Oh and another one…Quite often, if I get a rental car after dark, the next morning I can never remember which car is mine, or where I parked. I walk out of my hotel into a parking lot that is a sea of white Toyota Camrys, silver Ford Fusions or black Chevy Impalas…any one of these cars could be mine. Thank goodness they now all have the automatic locks, so you just press the lock button on your key chain until you hear your car beep. That works when you’re the only business traveler on the lot…if you are standing in a hotel parking lot with two or more people, two or more cars beep at the same time. This can be frustrating and embarrassing to all participants. But it is kind of nice to see the other weary travelers trying to find their car too. It doesn’t make you feel less stupid, it just makes you feel less alone.
Tip # 4: Leave your hotel room during off minutes of the hour…leave at 7:05 rather than 7:00…8:37 rather than 8:30. There is a better chance to beep your car in solitude.
I believe that we can all suffer a disconnect from reality in the course of our daily lives. Many of us do our jobs more by reflex and muscle memory than by intent of action. Every now and then, something odd comes up that forces us to handle a mishap, or oddity. The best way that I’ve heard this point explained is by an airline pilot. In describing her job, and justifying the substantial pay scale, she told me, “I’m not paid for what I do; I’m paid for what I can do”. That made a lot of sense to me. Her point is that we don’t use our expertise every minute of our work day.
Any of us who work in a service related industry can sometimes lose sight of the fact that we do what we do every day, but others may not. I understand the “ins and outs” of the travel industry – I touch the travel industry in some function every day. Most people do not. My guess is that the sweet little family that is running in panic through the airport with 3 kids under 10 years old, 5 roller bags in tow…pillows, woobies, Teddy bears, and portable DVD players, probably don’t do this every day. Probably once a year or less is more likely. A little consideration helps there too.
Tip # 5 is for the other side of the counter.
To be continued…