A Good-Bad Day

The good. Made a sales call today. Competitive opportunity. Had done work for this company 14 years ago. (In another post I will reveal how I can pinpoint the date). Get up early, fly, drive, wait. The meeting.

In the rental car for 6 minutes. Phone rings, unknown number. It is the people I just met with asking how long I need to revise my proposal. I say Friday. They say Thursday morning so it can get approved at a meeting that day. They are anxious to get started. BTW, the proposal has to be revised to include more than I had originally thought. 

6 minutes. Not bad.

The bad. The plane is delayed and I will get home really late.

I will still have a smile on my face.

6 Down, 1 to Go

Seven planes, four cities, four client Board of Directors directors meetings in four days.

I am sitting in the Drury Inns in Chesterfield, MO. One meeting, one plane ride left this week. The good news. The meetings have gone well so far and I did not miss any planes. Two of my travel legs required a connection to a second plane.

The one that had worried me for weeks required taking the last flight out of Kingsport, TN in order to make a flight out of Charlotte in order to ultimately arrive in Orlando. The connection was tight to begin with, 50 minutes, and then as I sat in Kingsport with a 30 minute delay, I was close to panic.

I realize that there is no travel snafu that causes the world to end, not even my world. Yet, missing the flight to Orlando would mean changing hotel and plane reservations very late at night, staying at the Comfort Suite near the Charlotte airport (not recommended), participating in an important meeting by phone with 10 people on the other end all sitting in a room (in hind sight, there was one difficult issue that came up and it would have been close to impossible for me to have solved this one if I had not been there in person), and then found a new flight that did not interfere with the other calls I had scheduled between meetings and flights.

I wished hard for making that connection and did. Lesson #1 when praying to the travel gods. Go big. I had prayed to make the connection. I did. However, that plane was delayed 40 minutes and I arrived at that hotel at 12:30 AM. By the time I fell asleep I had time only for 4 hours of sleep (I need more than that to function at a high level). Next time I pray to make the flight and that it is on time, if not early.

As long as I am allowing myself some time to wade in the pity pool I will share that I also have 3 more board meetings on Monday. We are still working on materials for all of these. I cannot make all three meetings since they take place in 3 different cities and they all overlap. I will miss one completely though we are working on materials and I will spend much of the weekend on the phone with the client. I will attend one by phone for 2 of the 3 scheduled hours (they neglected to tell me about extending  the meeting from 2 to 3 hours until after I had committed to another meeting. I join the third meeting 30 minutes after it starts. I fly Sunday to NY and back Monday for the privilege.

During all of this I did find time for the sublime experience of talking to my son at college. I had missed the last two scheduled calls. While there were no major revelations, connecting with him makes my week. It reminds me of why I put myself through all of this. Certainly not for the airport experiences, the crowded flights and the feeling that you get when you do not remember where you are when you wake up in the morning.

It could be worse. Yes, I saw Up In The Air.

Access Denied

As of a few weeks ago I can no longer check on one of my favorite blogs  from work. When I attempted to read Pax Romano’s Ramblings the following ominous message appeared.

Access Denied (content_filter_denied)

Access to this webpage is restricted. URL: http://paxromano.blogspot.com/ 
Category: Adult/Mature Content 

Unfortunately for all of us, Pax is taking some time away from blogging so it will be hard to show you what you have been missing.”Adult Content”, what a joke.

Sure Pax has the occasional picture of a strapping young man scantily clad on the site. So? And yes, a frequent commenter is Miss Magnolia Thunderpussy who is as outrageous as they come.

Most of his posts are truly adult content. Topics often include:

  • politics (he leans left)
  • work at a social services agency in NJ
  • sharing tales of the serious illness of family members
  • his joy of horror movies
  • his hatred of snakes– the human kind
  • some of the most beautiful pictures of flowers and sunsets

 Pax brings humor, insight, and a unique perspective on the world to the blogosphere. This is the kind of adult content that my company’s systems should be forcing us to read…not denying it.


After getting up before dawn to begin a day trip to Richmond Va. for a 2 hour sales call, any break on what was already going to be a long Friday was definitely welcome. I got two.

All through the 2 hour meeting I faced a window and received a clear view of  a major rain pour down. While focused on the task at hand, in the back of my mind I am thinking that the plane will be delayed and it will be an even later night than planned. I hate losing Friday nights to business travel even though it is all part of the career I chose.

The first break came when I saw the plane on the ground and the sign telling me it was leaving on time. The best came a few minutes later.

I was in seat 4B, an aisle on the small four seat across regional jet. As the flight began to board, the counter guy was calling names of stand-by passengers that were getting seats. I paid little attention as I already had a ticket. But then I heard my name or so I thought. I wandered up to the counter guy to find out if my hearing failed me– as it often does these days. No, not this time. He wanted to know if I would mind sitting in first class. Mind? Always willing to do the airline a favor I replied. Seat 2C.

I fly often enough to have accumulated a few first class upgrades but not often enough to be able to do so every flight. I tend to save them for flights at least 2 hours long. This  was a pleasant treat at the end of a long day.

Now this was a regional jet so the upgrade meant that I could get drinks when I wanted and a bigger, more comfortable seat but no haute cuisine or foot massage. Yet when it came to the algebra of this flight, as my friend Frank would say, “It’s all good”.

I Was Punk’d

purell_sanitizer_lgIt happened at work. The weird thing is that I would have never believed that in my totally bland workplace that people would have the sly creativity and cleverness to pull it off. At least a couple of people do. Good for them!

Here’s what happened.


I woke up with a bad cold over the weekend. Bad enough that on Monday I stayed home–I follow my President’s instructions. I show up very early Tuesday morning to find 16 bottles of hand sanitizer on my desk with the following note:

Date:       May 12, 2009 

To:  All Managers and the Leadership Group

From:       V. C.
Senior Vice President,
Global Business Services

As was announced on the recent Leadership call, we are distributing Purell to all U.S. associates as part of our response to the recent H1N1 flu outbreak. If you are a manager who was recently sick, we are providing you with additional supplies of Purell and request that you apply the lotion frequently (preferably every 5 minutes) until the supply has been exhausted. If you need additional Purell, please use the Sanitary Alert form in the Forms database.

In addition, we ask that you distribute a bottle to each of the associates you manage. We also suggest that this is an opportune time to share with your associates the upcoming reductions in health care coverage and the role that Purell plays in our new health care plan (see the April 31  posting: Greater Flexibility in New Health Care Coverage).

We appreciate your efforts in ensuring the health and safety of your fellow associates.


I read the note, it registers in my brain that parts are a little weird, drop bottles of hand sanitizer on the desks of the 3 people who report to me, check our intranet to look for the note on our cut in health benefits (which I cannot find but that happens all the time), I curse the cut in benefits and start doing my work forgetting about the memo. Oh yeah, I move the remaining bottles off my desk and on to a shelf.

A few hours later, since I had obviously not gotten the joke, a co-worker comes in to explain that on Monday morning everyone had a bottle on their desks. When I did not come in he and the guy in the office next to mine started gathering up bottles from 15 other offices and composed the note.

Once I knew it was a joke I reread the memo and cracked up. The thing is..we have gotten memos like this from our leaders with other callous, somewhat hairbrained ideas. This fake memo could have been real.

The people in my office know me well enough to know that I NEVER waste time listening to any of the Leadership calls and read less than half the memos. Last minute cuts in benefits have become common and it would not surprised me if someone in HR thought that a bottle of hand sanitizer would partially make up for it. Should the reference to the recently ill managers washing their hands every 5 minutes tipped me off? Probably.

But that is the sheer beauty of this prank. It was off the wall but only by a hair. Close enough for me to think it was all real. 16 bottles and all.

I tip my hat to the pranksters. I have a new found respect for them and gleefully await their next effort…as I plan mine.

Missed It By That Much

The voice in my head Wednesday night night was that of Don Adams as Max Smart delivering one of his famous lines.

The Plan. Monday through Wednesday 6 planes, 4 meetings, 4 cities.

Made 5 of 6. Missed it by that much.

Monday. Up early to head to O’Hare. A call and then a flight to NY. Work all day, client dinner. 

Tuesday. Awake at 5:30 est  for6:30 client breakfast. 7 AM start on a  2 hour meeting with a short window to get to Newark for a flight to Orlando. Meeting goes long. Panic. Make the flight. Long plane ride, get to meeting. 2+hour meeting. Go to hotel by airport. Answer emails. Dinner in room. Try unsuccessfully to get boarding passes. Sleep.

Wednesday. Up at 4:30 est. Dress, get boarding passes, security. The plan is 4 planes, 2 meetings and return home at midnight. Second to last plane was delayed due to weather in last city before home. Arrival gate is last gate at E terminal, the last plane is at furthest gate at B terminal. Two most distant points in airport. Run, fast walk. Sweat, a lot. Plane left 8 minutes ago. Missed it by that much.

Hour on phone  with travel agent. Flight next morning confirmed head to fleabag airport hotel (name brand). First room has electrical problem. In second room at 11:30.

Thursday. Up at 5:30 est. Why all this reference to est? Because I live in cst which makes 5:30 am 4:30 am by the time I get home.  I get home.

Sleep for an hour. Get up and work. Would have loved to have made this a 3 day instead of a 4 day trip. But from a work perspective if I had to miss 1 plane this was the one to miss…by that much.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Be sure that if you are asking/praying/hoping for something, ask/pray/hope for all you need.

Monday through Wednesday I am on 6 planes through three cities not including one layover city that I pass through twice.  A key part of this trip is getting from an early morning meeting in NY to an 11 am plane at Newark in order to get to Orlando for an afternoon meeting. On to Kingsport, TN the next morning. There is only the one flight that leaves NY late enough and gets to Orlando soon enough. If my NY meeting ends on time I have 45-60 minutes to make the airport. Google Maps estimated 45 minutes but said with traffic it could be an hour and 10. Miss this flight and my entire itinerary gets shot to hell, I would not get to Orlando, I am at the wrong NY airport to get to TN and my tickets to TN all assume that I am in Orlando.

So of course the meeting runs late by 20 minutes. I run to a waiting car. The traffic in Manhatten is stop and go. I start to ask/pray/hope. The whole focus of my request to the powers that be is to get to the airport on time.

Surprising, I make it. That is when I realize the needed to ask for more. I did not ask that the plane leave on time or that I get something other than a middle seat for this 2.5 hour flight. So I got neither.

From now on I am asking/praying/hoping BIG. I want it all.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Friday was a madhouse at work. We had 5 client reports due. Every time I took a call there would be two new messages from clients waiting by the time I hung up. Lots of people were helping. The whole office was busy. The Admin Assistants were working constantly…and getting a bit testy.

At 2 pm I went to the office of one of our young associates (YA) to check on progress for one of my five reports. I had made changes and given feedback an hour ago and had expected to have a final draft to review by then. I had too much going on to be anything but direct. The conversation went like this:

Me: Where is the report? I thought it would be done by now?

YA: I gave it To M (one of the AAs) but she has been busy.

Me: When did you last check on progress? (I could see a hint of fear sweep across his face.)

YA: You want me to check with M? (The look of fear grew more intense.)

Me: Isn’t the client expecting it soon? (I use questions to make the point. The Socratic method.)

YA: (Silence)

Me: Who are you more afraid of, her or me? (More Socratic method)

YA: (More silence as he was clearly trying to figure out the answer to that question.)

Me: Trust me. I can make it so you are much more afraid of me.

YA: So I guess I should check with M?

Me: Good idea. (Conversation ends. Sometimes you need more than the Socratic method to make a point.)

I am not typically a scary person. I am not physically imposing. I do not yell, scream or swear at the people who work for me. I do however become quite annoyed when our client work is not getting done— especially when the person responsible (YA) is not doing his/her job. I suspect, OK I know, my annoyance comes through in my tone of voice.

Maybe to be more effective I should have a little Psycho music playing in the background when I walk in.