My boss and I sat in my European sports sedan, somewhere in the southbound lanes of I-79, in a driving snow, headed for Pittsburgh Airport. At one point I couldn’t see more than 50 feet in front of my car.
This is good, I thought. We’ll miss the flight, and we’ll skip the trip, and it will simply become one of the line items on a list of the objectives that we should have done this year, but we just didn’t get to. Maybe we’ll try again next year.
We knew the snow was coming, we gave ourselves an extra hour to get to the airport, and we only needed half of it. We checked our bags, had a nice dinner, with the last beer we would have for a while, and we made the gate in plenty of time. Shucks.
We taxied down the runway, and had to de-ice; this took a while, we took off late. With our tight connection in Dulles, it looked like the trip would have to be scrubbed.
We just made it…running through Dulles International the whole way, I was the last person to board the giant airplane bound for Frankfurt. I was putting my passport into my briefcase as I crossed from the jet bridge onto the plane, and I dropped it. I looked in horror as the vital ID laid there perilously on the lip of the jet bridge…wanting to fall onto the tarmac – into the wind and the snow, likely never to be found.
It stayed. I picked it up, while two flight attendants who witnessed the incident stared at me in horror.
“That would have been bad! Are you trying to sabotage your trip?” the pretty one asked.
I don’t think so.
And so my first ‘International’ revenue generation adventure (Canada & Mexico don’t really count) begins. I was excited, I was anxious, and I was afraid. Excitement and anxiety are rational…the fear was irrational.
I don’t nurture irrational behavior in others, but I give myself a pass a couple of times a week. I am the classic ‘over thinker’…the classic irrational over thinker. It’s a form of insanity, and it’s a curse, but it is also in that very active part of my brain where all the Large Man creativity comes from, so…I give myself a pass. When my wife, kids, friends and co-workers start their own blog, I’ll let them slide too.
There is a business opportunity in Saudi Arabia that’s being watched by the whole world (relative to my industry). My boss and I thought it would be a good idea if we put some boots on the ground to take a firsthand look at the situation. When the idea that two of those boots would be size 11-1/2 EE with my feet inside of them was first presented to me, I thought, bitchin’. It was something of an honor that ‘the powers that be’ (and that would be “the powers that be” writin’ my paychecks), would ask me to be one of the assets on the ground for the project. It was all very cool at first.
Then I started doing research, listening to tales of other visitors to Saudi Arabia, applying for my visa, signing documents about all the things I understood about the laws…the women, the removal of hands & heads & weenies (I never saw anything about weenies, but I think weenies are funny), no alcohol, death penalty for drugs, left hand manners, crossing your legs, proper gifts…and on, and on, and on.
The more I researched, the more ascared I became. Fear occupies a large slice of my emotional pie chart in the best of circumstances, now I’m traveling halfway around the world, to a place where they don’t understand me, and I don’t understand them.
But, ascared or not, I was committed, so I did it. I hopped on a plane in Pittsburgh that took me to a plane in Washington D.C. The plane in D.C. took me to a plane in Frankfurt Germany, and that plane took me to Dammam, Saudi Arabia. I got off of the last plane at about 12:45 AM local time. The customs dude (with the coldest eyes I have ever looked into) stamped my passport at about 2:00 AM, and a guy with a somewhat rumpled Xerox paper sign that read “The Large Man & The Large Man’s Boss” stood near the place where we picked up our bags. He had a car.
We got in his car…
…his non-logoed, non-descript, neutral colored, mid 90’s, Large sedan.
As he drove into the Saudi desert under the cover of midnight blackness, at a speed that felt somewhere in the range of a NASCAR time trial; it occurred to me that there was no ID on the visor and no hotel affiliation listed on the car. We were barreling down the highway into what I imagined would be a slow death administered by Arab youths at some sort of terrorist training camp. Naturally.
As the horror of it all began to sink in, I felt bad for my boss; he didn’t really even have to be here. I’m the sales guy, and the one who started this ‘Saudi Project’. My boss has paid his dues and ascended to that coveted VP title, he should be an administrator and a coach – not a ‘trenches’ dude. And he’s a nice guy too – one of my best friends. In fact, he’s so nice; I didn’t think he was going to be able to handle all the torture stuff very well, so I was hoping they would kill him first, and quickly, so he wouldn’t have to see what they were going to do to me.
And then… our Large neutral colored sedan pulled into the Sheraton, and valet dudes got our stuff out of the trunk, and welcomed us, in English, with charming accents, and warm smiles. Crisis (and torturous death) averted.
Now I’m feeling kinda guilty, so I over tipped the driver.
I was at a party several years ago, and I heard a really stupid white guy make a really stupid, racially idiotic remark about D.C., to a really smart black guy. The details of the exchange aren’t important, but the final reply made by the smart guy has stuck with me forever:
“Most fear is bred by ignorance. Your fear was born of ignorance. Educate yourself, and you’ll find things much less frightening.”
That made sense.
And although it was an uncomfortable exchange to witness, I am a better man for having been there. The thought has stayed with me for about 20 years. It will most likely be mentioned on page 1 of The Large Man’s Field Manual for Revenue Generation & Life.
As I zipped up the elevator to room 1816 in the Sheraton, Dammam Towers…that ‘fear & ignorance’ lesson seeped back into my consciousness; this allowed rational thought to start pushing my psychosis aside…and I started to relax a little bit.
I was as prepared for this trip, actually more so, than any other trip I’ve ever taken. I am NOT ignorant, so I shouldn’t pretend to be. (Even if only to myself) Chill it, Large Man…Embrace this opportunity to grow.
So I did.
And THEN…I went on an adventure.