April 19th, 2010

Travel is not luxurious. I promise you. Unless you’re flying trans Atlantic with the pretend crew of Virgin airlines from the advert and things like check in services, waiting lounges and delays have mysteriously disappeared don’t even let that thought cross your mind. I know you do though – you sort of want to commute via aeroplane to work. And I know why.
Films are great at presenting the romanticised version of travel. Sleek looking people in sharp business suits stepping of the plane and striding through the airport talking on tiny phones; tall women in sunglasses and trolley cases clicking their fingers at PA’s and rich looking middle aged men in top to toe tailoring who always seem to know where they’re going and how to get there.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s consider a travel diary I noted down last week whilst catching a domestic from my home town to the client:
2200h night before.
Pack suitcase. Remember to bring antibacterial cream, painkillers, laxatives and anti diuretics. There’s nothing like travel to mess your internals up. Fold all clothing into small balls and sit on suitcase to make it close.
2400h night before
Try to sleep. No chance. Go over the contents list of suitcase again and again. Check alarm clock is DEFINITELY set. Definitely.
Wake up. Phone taxi, get dressed (and I mean full makeup/hair/business attire – can’t be seen to be letting the side down!) and throw coffee in the general direction of your face.
The check in machines at the airport have went down. Join the long, long check in queue of boredom death. Talk to annoyingly chipper attendant who sings when she says thaaannkkkyyyoouuu.
Join the security queue
Still in the security queue
Arrive at the scanner, panic as you attempt to remove belt and trip over your shoes, rip your stockings, kick the man behind you and drop your boarding card. Haul your laptop out of the bag and empty the contents of your pockets into a tray. Realise that you forgot to put the laxatives into the little plastic bag which is now the sole repository of your cleaning essentials. Check in guy insists in checking your bag and putting the laxatives in the plastic bag before making it go through again. Congratulations, your bowels have held up the airport.
Start redressing yourself.
Arrive in waiting lounge. You’re not a manager so can’t use the business lounge. Sit in the cattle class coffee area and pay three times the high street value for coffee and a muffin. Feel too ill to eat it anyway.
Check the board. No delays. Yet. Fat guy shuffles in beside you and snorts whilst reading the paper.
Boarding commences. Time to stand in another line of morose business people and watch the plane being refuelled and de-iced. Get confused over whether the crew want to see the boarding pass or passport or what. Get a snarky look when you hand them both. This one only wanted boarding cards.
Listen to the safety announcement AGAIN (you still don’t know it and quite frankly know the chances of surviving a plane crash are slim to ha-ha-ha) and fall asleep with a jumper over your head and your mouth open.
Land. Try to pull yourself together. Check reflection in the terminal building. Baggy eyes-check. Greasy skin-check. Lank hair-check. Realign cuffs with jacket sleeves and drag weary body to rail station.
Fight for a space on the train. Annoying man is loud on the phone. You imagine jumping on the phone and nailing his ear to a wall. Smile to yourself and get a funny look because people don’t smile whilst commuting.
Arrive in the office. Your manager is snarky because you weren’t there before nine. He can get there before nine apparently.
…and that’s a good day. That’s when the flight isn’t cancelled and delayed, the guy beside me on the plane isn’t trying to talk about the weather and I have remembered all my essentials.
Yet I still get people telling me that it’s so cool to travel as part of work. I don’t understand it. Genuinely. You get to spend a week away home in a generic business hotel, get whipped into working even longer hours because “you’re not going to be doing anything else,” abandon your friends, family and relationship several hundred miles away and eat sandwiches from the supermarket because you don’t know where the nice restaurants are.
I’ve heard some arguments to the contrary. Some people who simply refuse to hear that travelling for work is like a knife to the soul.
“You can go to the gym”
Really? After being up for eighteen hours and working twelve of those you can go to the gym? Even if you have time for the gym you have to find a gym. A public gym you don’t have to join or complete inductions for. You have no car, don’t know the transport links, opening times or area. Good luck to you, sir.
“You can go to the cinema”
With who? Your manager?
“Go for a drink”
Because it makes getting home in a strange city even more interesting.
“Don’t you get expenses?”
So I get my flights and hotel and transport covered. I get a generic amount towards one meal a day. Yes. “Expenses”. I can feel another rant coming on about the expenses myth. Hmm.
The best thing that can happen to a business flight is it that it’s cancelled (unless it’s the one taking you home). Next time someone tells you that they travel with work spare a thought for them. When you’re just about getting up and thinking of getting up to go to work they’ll be half way there on a 500km commute and the content of their lives in a rattley trolley case. Not cool.

5 responses

  1. phdconsultant comments:

    I will start working for a consulting firm in a few months and I already think I won’t enjoy this part at all, sounds awful! Especially the part where the alarm clock rings at 4.30 am :S

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  4. Amy comments:

    I will start working for a consulting firm in a few months and I already think I won’t enjoy this part at all, sounds awful! Especially the part where the alarm clock rings at 4.30 am :S

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