Congratulations on your promotion! Your boss is a smart cookie for seeing the promise and potential in you. It’s cool that he is offering formal training classes, too, so that you can both benefit from your expanding skills set. He’s willing to pay for the classes and for your time, airfare and hotel expenses? Nice! The classes are in Boston? Oh, good for you! Boston is a wonderful town, knee-deep in historical sites and fabulous dining establishments.
What? You don’t want to go?
Oh. You don’t want to fly.
Have you ever taken an airplane trip? I see. Well, flying is like eating oysters. You won’t know if you like flying or not until you get yourself in an airborne plane. The oyster gives no advance indication that it is delicious. One has to try it to find out. You may find it delectable. Or not. Why not at least try it?
Maybe you are scared of flying? It’s OK. Sure, you could die. The plane could crash. It probably won’t, though. You are 100,000 times more likely to become fatally ill from a bad oyster than you are to die in an airplane crash.
I’m just poking fun. None of us are getting out of this life alive. Maybe the tragedies of 9/11 are holding you back. It was awful … it is awful. Dealing with the fear and facing the pain-filled memory may help you move beyond the horror.
If you choose not to fly, your career could suffer. Worse, you are saying no to a wonderful, available miracle of our time. In a single day, you can fly to any point on this planet. How cool is that?
Don’t say, “No!” Say, “I’ll go!”
As a veteran traveler, I offer these tips for making the most of your flying experiences.
Packing Pointers• Consider air travel as recharge time. Pack a carry-on full of fun stuff: your iPod, a brilliant book, juicy gossip magazines, a deck of cards.
• Check on the latest rules from the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) - prior to your trip. You can find them online at www.tsa.gov. Don’t expect reasonable rules … just get clear on what it will take to get through the security checkpoint.
• The airlines may lose your checked bag, so wear something comfortable and presentable. Avoid white and tight.
• You’ll be taking your shoes off at the security screening. Wear socks without holes.
• You know the nice foam earplugs that you use with power tools, or when mowing the lawn? Put a pair of those in your pocket.
Get Into the Zen Zone• Adopt a sense of adventure. You may not get where you want to go right away. Accept the ups and downs and go with the flow. You will get a lot of opportunities to practice living in the here and now, in a graceful way.
• Get to the airport two hours prior to your scheduled departure. Make sure you have a window seat.
• Do as directed through the security check. The TSA folks have a crappy job, so be kind to them.
Finding Food and Fun at the Airport• The Dallas Fort Worth and Minneapolis airports have great fresh taco bars. In Boston’s Logan International airport, I discovered one terrific lobster roll sandwich. Of course you will find a Starbucks every few feet. Keep your eyes peeled for a Dunkin’ Donuts. I love their coffee and cake donuts.
• Then walk off the calories. You can walk for miles inside the airport terminal. Good exercise and great people watching.
• Many airports are morphing into shopping malls. For entertainment, wander around a bookstore. Get a shoeshine. Relax with a half-hour chair massage. Buy “missed you” gifts for the kids.
• Enjoy time alone doing whatever you want to do. How often do you have that opportunity?
The Blast-Off• Be at the gate 30 minutes before the flight is scheduled to leave.
• Board the plane as directed. Squeeze yourself into the too-narrow seat.
• Put your earplugs in. You can still hear what you need to hear (“This is flight 3456, with service to Boston …”). The earplugs will temper the sounds coming from the Fran Dresher sound-alike in seat 3A.
• My favorite part is the blast-off. The plane picks up speed as it rolls down the runway. Put your head back on your headrest. Don’t fight the flight. Close your eyes and relax as the pilot pulls the nose of the plane up. The centrifugal force pushes you into your seat as the plane climbs up, up, up and over the clouds. You’re flying! It feels great. When the plane levels out, look out the window. It is always sunny at 30,000 feet. The cloud layer below is a chaotic sea of white foam. On a clear day, you can see what land-bound engineers envisioned as they portioned off land, created ribbons of highway and stacked steel and concrete into skyscraping towers. It’s beautiful. Don’t deny yourself this experience.
• Pilots pride themselves on smooth landings. If you get one, compliment the pilot on the way out of the plane. If it’s bumpy, hang on the armrests and remember to breathe.
Getting From Point A to Point B• Don’t wait on the curb at the airport at 1:00 in the morning looking for the shuttle to the hotel. Take a cab. Turn in the receipt with your expense report. Do save money by taking the hotel shuttle from the hotel to the airport. Check into it the day before you need to leave.
• If you like to drive, rent a car. If driving in a strange city makes you nervous, look into public transportation.
A Lot of Work, a Little Play• Plan to do a little bit of sightseeing. There is always time between training sessions and convention meetings. Walk around the city. Visit a museum. Stop by a historical site. Take a tour of a famous house or place of business. Do something unique to the area. Get the T-shirt.
• Enjoy spending time with your fellow conventioneers. You will learn as much from the between-meetings conversations as you will at the classes.
• Ask the bellman for a restaurant recommendation. Tip him a couple of bucks for the advice.
• For at least one meal, order room service.
• Do I have to remind you that what happens in Vegas, or Toledo, or Boston … never stays there?
The Kindness of Strangers• Tip the maid. When you are heading out the door for the last time, leave a couple of dollars on the dresser for each night’s stay at the hotel. Tip the doorman. When in doubt, tip an extra dollar. Being a good tipper, and the extra dollar will do it, is a nice reputation to have. Anyone working for tips will appreciate it and may bless you with their kind thoughts.
• Even in the world’s biggest cities, crime is relatively miniscule. Consider how many people are not hurting each other every day. Do avoid the rough parts of town. Do notice the little kindnesses that grease the skids of peaceful human contact. Pay attention for moments where you can help and be of service. Hold the door. Give up your seat to a wobbly older person. Smile.
• Travel is a way to discover each other and ourselves. Air travel helps you move around the planet faster and has that nice blast-off moment. I wish you love, peace and grand adventure in your travels.
Author’s note: I am writing this article during a weather delay at the Springfield/Branson airport. If the weather clears in Chicago, I may make it to my destination - Appleton, Wis. - by midnight tonight. So, there’s that.
Deep breath. Off to the newsstand for the latest Vogue magazine. I know a nice spot by Gate 7 where I can stretch out and get caught up on my e-mails and discover what’s happening in the world of high fashion.