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    Entries in travel (13)


    The Invisible City

    Business travel is (mostly) terrible because we spend comparatively more time per trip dealing with the worst aspects of the process of traveling, (airports, delays, long cab rides, crowds...), and less time actually doing the fun parts of traveling, (sightseeing, trying some local restaurants and shops, meeting new people, catching a ball game). No, most business travel is actually two stressful, periods of 'travel', interrupted briefly by a little 'business' in the middle. And if you are a frequent business traveler you sometimes are faced with pressure from home (partners, spouses, kids, the dog), to minimize all non-essential elements of these business trips so you can get your butt back on the plane and come home. Which might make for some peace on the home front, but does nothing but increase the traveler's angst and to some extent guilt. After all, jetting to San Diego for a meeting or a conference in February sounds a hell of a lot more fun than dealing with the 27th Winter storm of the season back home. Just let's not talk about spending 9 hours at O'Hare after you missed your connection and nothing is going out due to the snow storm.The Invisible City, Chermayeff & Geismar Associates

    But you usually (and usually rightfully) give in to the demands of home and family and work, and minimize the time you spend away. You will willingly take Monday at 5:45AM flights on the way out and red eye flights back home so you are not giving too much of the appearance that you actually might, you know, want to take a little time to have a tiny bit of fun on one of these trips. And you do that so often, in so many places, that after a while everyplace starts to seem kind of the same. Starbucks in every city tastes the same. So does Chipotle. Sure, it would be better to try something unique and local, but the Starbucks is in the hotel lobby and the Chipotle is right next to the rental car drop off. And you need to get home, so if you grab something fast you might be able to stand by on an earlier flight.

    And that is probably the worst part of business travel, especially for folks that travel frequently. That we allow it to become routine and ordinary and mind-crushingly the same no matter the destination. Lao Tzu is said to have said that 'A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving'. Which is the opposite of what we make business travel. We always have plans, we are obsessed with getting in and out as quickly as possible, and eventually we turn these experiences into the mundane, and not the remarkable opportunities they should be.

    And I don't mean just the opportunity to see another conference room or a hotel ballroom or the Starbucks in the lobby. 


    Notes from the Road #16 - ALL CAPS EDITION

    Submitting this brief dispatch from Delta Flight 2316 to Las Vegas where I am heading to attend, cover, and moderate a session at the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference this week. For folks who might not know this, I live just outside of Rochester, NY, a fine place to live for many reasons, but like many mid-size cities in the US, suffers from a lack of direct flights to many popular destinations. It was this circumstance that had me on my first flight of the day - a 6:10AM early morning short hop to Detroit, where I caught the aforementioned flight to Vegas.

    The flight from Rochester to Detroit is short, maybe an hour of total flight time. Add in a few minutes taxiing out and the total time for the flight might have clocked in at about 1:10 this morning. Thanks to the fine, fine folks at Delta, I was upgraded on ROC - DTW flight, in seat 2A. Seated next to me in 2B was your perfectly typical, perhaps stereotypical 'business guy sitting in first class' person. He had the look, the manner, the tech, (iPad and iPhone) of a corporate VP-type. Maybe in consulting, maybe in sales, hard to say for sure, but definitely someone pretty high on whatever food chain in which he resides.

    So (finally) here's the point of the story. For the entire 1:10 minutes we were on the plane from ROC - DTW the guy in 2B wrote emails, starting on the iPhone, switching to the iPad once airborne, then back to the iPhone again once we landed. Non-stop email.  I mean not one minute he was not emailing. It was an impressive feat of email stamina.

    But that was not the most interesting thing about the guy in 2B. Everyone one of his emails, at least every time that I snuck a peak to my right, was typed in ALL CAPS. EVERY EMAIL WAS IN ALL CAPS.

    Insane, right?

    Can you imagine being a person on the receiving end of one of Mr. VP's all caps emails that was sent from a plane at 6:05AM? I have to think anyone who received one of those this morning could not have been all that excited about that prospect.

    Look, everyone knows that emailing in all caps is akin to shouting at someone, and you should never do it. But I think it indicates more than just bad email etiquette. It flags you as having just about no self-awareness, no understanding of what kind of impact you're having on folks, (especially if you are the boss, like I suspect Mr. 2B is). 

    I couldn't not stop thinking about Mr 2B's staff when they fired up their email this morning. They had to have been hoping they'd have a quiet day, since 2B was on a 6:00AM flight and would not be around today to bug them. Instead, they likely received an ALL CAPS blast before they got their coffee.

    Work can sometimes be a drag. In fact, it often can be a drag. It sometimes is hard to tell why. But guys like Mr. 2B are certainly not helping matters.

    If you work for Mr. ALL CAPS guy I feel for you today. Hang in there.


    Notes from the Road #15 - The Five Guys You Meet in the Hotel Fitness Center

    Back out on the road this week while simultaneously trying to stay (reasonably) healthy and what passes for fit for a person of my stature. This combination of travel and desire to not let the half-dozen Las Vegas trips I have on tap for 2015 ruin me have placed me in quite a few hotel gyms and fitness centers of late. And when you spend even a little time in hotel fitness centers, you inevitably encounter at least one of these five types of guys (and yes, these are always guys), along the way. Each type is at best slightly annoying and at worst downright frightening and no matter which one you meet, you will be reminded how terrible people are.

    1. Meathead screamer guy - this guy grabs the heaviest weights he can find in the gym and carries out a cycle of squats and deadlifts while making sure everyone in the hotel hears how hard he is working out by emitting a series of grunts and groans in his best Monica Seles voice. It doesn't matter if the heaviest dumbbell is 20 pounds, meathead screamer guy is going to lift it in several ways and scream about it the entire time.

    2. Making up an exercise guy - Let's see - if we balance on a large medicine ball, hold a 10 pound plate in one hand, and lean forward and try and pick up a 5 pund dumbbell, we have just created a brand new exercise! Decades of research, study, and documentation of the basics of exercise are not enough for this guy. He has to leverage the vast resources of the Courtyard by Marriott Perimeter Northeast fitness center to break new territory.

    3. Extremely tight shorts guy - needs little explanation. Middle-aged, out-of-shape men of the world: Please stop wearing compression shorts in public. I beg you. You are at a sales conference, not prepping form the Ironman.

    4. Michael Phelps of the hotel pool guy - What? The hotel has a 20-yard long, kind of straight pool? That is the invitation for the wannabee Michael Phelps types to don the speedo and those tiny little goggles barely large enough to cover your eyeballs and start their own version of the 400M individual medley. Backstroke, breast stroke, butterfly - this guys has them all and wants to make sure everyone notices. Hey Mark Spitz - I just want dangle my legs in the shallow end and have a Mai Tai without catching the spray from your kick turns.

    5. Try every machine once guy - This guy probably has not ever set foot in a gym since middle school and the chance to experiment with the latest in 18 year old Nautilus machines in the Doubletree is just too tempting to pass up. This guy hits the bicep curl, then the shoulder press, then the abdominal crunch, then back to the bicep curl, and then maybe the overhead press for a few reps. A few rounds of the exercise machine roulette game and this guy is ready to hit the very happening lobby bar for $3 Miller Lite pints and half-price pulled pork sliders.

    Ok, I am out. Back to the grind that is Las Vegas in the spring time. Be careful out there my fellow road warriors. And stop annoying the rest of the world in the hotel fitness center.


    Notes from the road #14 - Things seen and (over)heard

    The better part of the last two weeks on the road as always provides a rich source of amusement. 

    Herewith, presented in no particular order, are 5 random observations from the road...

    1. Overheard in the Delta Sky Club - 'Tell him to take his head and pull it out of his ass.  If he can't do that, then fire him. I SAID FIRE HIM!'

    2. Also overheard in the Delta Sky Club - 'The last four guys who quit have told HR in their exit interviews that the demands of the job are unreasonable. That it total BS. No, I can't meet with you tomorrow. I have a meeting with HR.'

    3. Also overheard in the Delta Sky Club - 'No I have not hired anyone for Japan yet. They keep sending me crap candidates. The last one didn't know that Osaka is not the same as Okinawa.'

    4. If there is a major spill of liquids or such in an airport corridor, the sheer number of folks that get involved is staggering. Retail workers, airport staff, private security, Metro Police, cleaners, other kinds of maintenance people, etc. I saw a pretty large spill of water in the Cleveland airport, (one of those 5-gallon water jugs blew out), and no less than 9 different people had some involvement in the reporting, cleanup, and assigning blame processes. 

    5. If I ever do another 'Ignite' style presentation (20 slides, 15 seconds per slide), I will absolutely not try to tackle as big a subject as Humanity's relationship with technology. I did think the 5 minute talk went well, but as is my typical fashion, I could have gone on for another 45.  But DisruptHR Cleveland was a blast.

    Have a great weekend!


    Notes from the road #12 - On helping each other

    On the road this morning on the way down to the Brandon Hall Group's Excellence 2015 Conference where I am pleased and honored to be a participant tomorrow in a panel discussion on HR, data, and analytics. Hopefully, I will also talk about basketball, craps, and Lucha Libre, (which are all relevant to the HR and analytics discussions, trust me on that).

    Today's Notes from the Road dispatch involves one of the most simple, yet increasingly infuriating elements of modern business travel - the airplane boarding process. As most regular or even occasional travelers know, boarding planes these days is some kind of hellish mix of mosh pit, confusion, violations of personal space norms, and utter despair. Boarding planes today is a test of patience for sure. People crowd the gate area the second that they get a sniff that boarding is about to begin, the folks in first class (me too sometimes), jockey for space in the 'preferred' line, and once on the plane, lots of fighting for limited overhead storage space for bags ensues. The advent of checked bag fees has made the 'I don't care how large it is, I am not checking this bag' mentality even more prevalent.

    So that was the context in which I boarded the 6:00AM flight today. Boarding just in front of me was an older lady, probably about 70 or so, who was clearly struggling with her bags as she made her way down the jetway and onto the plane. She had taken advantage of the call for pre-boarding to take a little extra time to board. About half way down the jetway it became clear to me that she was going to have some issues actually hoisting her bags up to the overhead. By the time I caught up with her, we were just inside the plane and I offered to assist her (since I am of course a consummate gentleman), in carrying her bags on to the plane and then up to the overhead bin. And so I did, and once making sure she was situated and seated, I headed back up the aisle (to my seat in Row 1, thanks Delta), and sat down.

    Later, once the flight had commenced, and the flight attendant in First Class came round to take drink orders she stopped to thank me for helping the aforementioned older lady with her bags. I thought it kind of odd that the flight attendant even noticed, and just stammered 'Thank you'. It was not really that big of a deal. The older lady clearly needed some help. I am (thankfully), still able to lift relatively heavy objects off of the ground, so I helped her. This is not that big a deal.

    But the fact that the flight attendant made a point to mention it to me once we took off, at least 30 minutes later, kind of struck me as a little unusual. Like it must have been unusual to her, like maybe she doesn't see people helping each other all that often.

    Which, if true, is kind of sad. 

    It is hard out there. Especially for older folks, or people who don't travel all that often, or for people that are just a little nervous about the entire experience of airports and planes and TSA and everything else.

    It is pretty hard out there sometimes. And it is pretty easy to help out. And to be kind.

    Happy Wednesday.