I wrote this post back in March, but decided that today, while I work through the weekend (again) is an appropriate time to update and post.
Last Friday I updated my flights and I'll be in three cities for work this week. Yep, I booked on Friday for flights that leave on Tuesday morning first thing. This is my normal.
Back in March, when I booked similar travel I was:
- less than a 15-minute train ride from one friend who has repeatedly offered to drive as far as New Hampshire to see me.
- a short drive away from another friend who I only get to chat to via FB since we stopped working together
- ANOTHER friend who was about to have a baby (baby boy is since born and I see Snapchats of him frequently--SO CUTE)
- On the second leg of the trip I could have stayed at my Uncle's house. I was less than a 20-minute drive away from his house.
Oh, and of the two airport options, I could've flown into one that would allow me to see yet another friend who has flown to Minneapolis to visit and have dinner at our house, but I've never met up with his family in Philly.
Here's the thing: I won't have time for any visits.
I don't think people who haven't done worked in a position similar to mine can understand. Afterall, I'm right THERE - so close by! Why wouldn't I have time or make time to visit? At least have dinner; you have to eat, right?
Here's the problem with my work travel. It's exhausting and I am working non-stop. There really isn't time to eat. Or sleep. Or do anything but work frantically and meet with customers. If I'm not preparing demo data, PowerPoints or ironing a suit then I'm on a conference call for yet another future meeting or driving to a customer site or trying to meet up with the sales person.
Yes, you read that right. Often I don't eat meals. I pack a LOT of snacks and just snack my way through the time I'm working in the hotel room. I try to book hotels that are a) near a Starbucks (I can get a gluten free breakfast there on the run), b) have room service and c) have a fridge so I can stow water or tea in them because hydration is important.
I am thrilled when I go back to a customer site that I've already visited and know where the grocery store is that sells Gluten Free stuff.
This week I tactically booked my hotel across the street from the grocery store. The hotel isn't directly across the street from the Starbucks like last time, but the Starbucks is still within a 5 minute drive.
I'm lucky if I get 6 hours of sleep. I try every time to book my trips so I can get more rest. I avoid 5am or 6am flights whenever possible.
I usually can't sleep on airplanes though occasionally I unexpectedly (involuntarily?) fall asleep with my laptop open on my lap. Any flight with WiFi means I'm working.
Though it might sound like it - I'm really not complaining. I chose this job. I get paid overtime. God knows we need my salary. Sometimes I really love this job. Usually I'm pretty good at it.
But sometimes I dream of quitting. I think about what job I'd choose instead. Yoga instructor? Day care worker in an infant room? Target cashier? (No, probably not. I wouldn't like dealing with the occasional crabby Target customers.)
Recently I broke down in tears at the Avis rental car center and my only comment to the employee who tentatively approached the crazy crying lady was: "It's okay. I just think I need a new job". (Honestly, it was a lot more complicated and was related to exhaustion, missing a client dinner due to an Avis screw up and traveling the day after I had my staples taken out of my leg post-surgery.)
Having Global Entry, TSA Pre, Clear, Delta Gold, Sky Club and Avis Preferred means nothing. Really folks, it's commonplace for every one of the "road warriors" I encounter.
I know exactly how things work for the gate agents, flight attendants and pilots. I can spot who's "dead-heading" and who is waiting for our flight's paperwork. I know when they'll do their upgrades and when we're not actually leaving on-time despite what the sign says.
I also know when we're really truly screwed and not likely to depart--and that's when I quickly look for other connecting flights (even on other airlines, b/c sometimes Delta will get reciprocity with United) to get me out of whatever snafu is holding us up.
I know when it's due to no inbound aircraft (you can also track the inbound equipment to see if they're delayed and you have plenty of time to find a bite to eat in the airport), timed out crew, ATC decisions due to heavy air traffic or storms. Sometimes I can spot mechanical issues and that one is a 50/50 chance. They might be able to fix it, they might be able to get another aircraft if they really need one at the destination airport - that's a "Hang tight and watch the tarmac" situation.
I know when the inbound aircraft is given ATC permission to make up time in-flight, and can often tell by their flight trajectory, too. That's a time when you don't worry about being too late.
I know which airports are likely to have delays and I book accordingly for expected late departures. I avoid certain airports like the plague knowing how notorious they are for ATC holds, late departures or just being a general cluster.
When we're really screwed, even before they tell us, I know when to book a hotel near the airport proactively and for some airports (especially Dulles for some reason - though that airport isn't on my black list) I already know the exact hotel and may have their number saved in my contacts.
Delta sends me a message when my bag has been loaded on the plane and when it's at the baggage carousel. I know how many Diamonds and Million Milers there are going to be on a hub to hub flight and that I won't get upgraded even if my ticket cost $3,000. (Yep, you read that right. I often fly domestically for more than it'd cost me to go to Japan.)
This is not special. This is the price of the job. This is just what you learn, what you do and how you survive.
This isn't meant as a whiney post - just an explanation for why, when I'm within a short driving distance, you won't see me. You won't even know that I'm nearby.
This is why I've stopped posting where I am on Facebook 99% of the time. Unless there is something exceptional like a crash landing (been there), major brawl (been there, too) or an exceptionally special rental car (I get the occasional BMW or Mercedes - and it's totally random!)...you won't know that I'm not home.
Oh, and I didn't post on Facebook about that beautiful blue Subaru with dual sun roofs that Avis gave me (I was the first rental on this car - it had only 8 miles on the odometer) a month or two back that another driver hit within VIEW of O'Hare (less than a 10 minute drive back to the rental counter).
The front of the car crumpled like it's engineered to and the front bumper was in the middle of Mannheim Road. (The other driver foolishly ran into 50 mph traffic to retrieve it despite me yelling "Stop!!")
My coworker and I somehow fit the bumper into the car and drove it back to Avis. That was a really nice car.. Avis hasn't given me one that nice for the last several rentals. Can't blame them. (Even though the other guy was at fault.)
So, dear loved ones, you won't know when I'm in your town or within a short drive of your home. I'm sorry - but it goes with the job. I wish I could see you - hell, I wish I could see some of the towns I visit, but it is what it is and I hope you understand.