Thursday, January 27, 2011

Business Professional - Or Not

This week I had to take a one-day trip for work. . I've watched my dad travel for business quite a bit and I wanted to emulate his efficient travel style. So this morning I set out to play the part of an experienced business traveler.

Step one: pack light. I succeeded in this. I fit everything I needed into my computer shoulder bag. Toiletries, computer, clothes for tomorrow, I'm all set. More on this later.

Step two: don't waste time at the airport. I also succeeded here, sort of. I arrived at the terminal 15 minutes before my flight was supposed to board. No big deal, I had checked in online, had my boarding pass on my phone, no checked bags. I got through security, checked my gate and headed off towards my flight. The board had said B17 and I didn't think much of it until I was halfway through the trek to the B gates in the Salt Lake Airport. They are two people movers and one level away from security. I arrived at my gate, there was no where to sit but I saw some columns marked with row numbers so I went over and hovered near the one marked '6' because that was what row I was on. I waited until they were boarding and I went up to give the woman my boarding pass via phone. She didn't take it and scan it, she said "Uh...this is a Delta boarding pass." And I liked right back at here thinking "Yes....?" Then she explained, "This is a Southwest flight, not Delta." Then it all made sense, trekking all the way over there, the row numbers, almost no business-types around. Apparently when I checked the boards for my gate, I had looked at the wrong flight leaving for San Diego. What are the odds that there would be two flight leaving at almost the same time, for the same place, from the same airport? High apparently. So back I went to the C gates (which happen to be RIGHT in front of security). Thankfully I arrived before they called my zone. I was perspiring a little, and the two men sitting on either side of me didn't seem thrilled, but I didn't care. I had originally planned to read my Wall Street Journal finance book to keep up my appearance as the 'savvy business traveler' but that had pretty much gone out the window, so I played Monopoly on my phone instead.

Lesson: Double-check gates. 

Step 3: Move through the airport without slowing down (like you've been there a million times before and you know right where you're going) and get a cab. I did this just fine. Got in the cab, told him where I needed to go, and we were off. However, about 30 minutes in I looked up at the price clock thing and realized the amount of cash I had in my wallet was possibly not going to be enough. I remember thinking about that before I left, but also thinking, eh, the cab ride isn't going to be more than $40, that's how much it is in New York and there's no way it will be that much here.I quickly mapquested the directions to find out how much longer we had to go and realized that I DEFINITELY did not have enough cash to cover this.  And there was a little sign that said no credit cards. Bad news. So we arrived, and I told him I could give him what cash I had (enough to cover about 60%) when he pulled out a credit card machine from his glove compartment. He didn't exactly know how to work it so he was not happy but he got his money and I got to my hotel.

Lesson: Cab rides are based on distance, so don't assume the fee will be the same wherever you are.

Step 4: Get rewards points. I made sure the hotel had my rewards number when I checked in so I could get all my points. She called me Ms. West and told me there would be a shuttle to take me to my meetings in the morning. I felt that I had succeeded in making this woman think I was a savvy business traveler. She even looked surprised when she found out I hadn't stayed at the hotel before.

BUT THEN....I got to my room and realized I had forgotten two things in my effort to pack light. First, pajamas. Second....well, at certain times of the month, certain items are required. I required them...but I forgot to pack them. I literally ran to the hotel services book to see if they had a gift shop where I could buy them. They didn't, only vending machines with food. But they did have a section that caught my eye called "Forgot something?". It said they would provide toothbrushes, combs etc. free of charge as a service to guests. So I could call them and ask them, or ask my male business associate who I was going to dinner with, to make a stop at a store so I could buy them. I decided it was better to embarrass myself in front of strangers than colleagues.

So I called the front desk. To my chagrin a male voice answered. I just took a breath and said "This is an embarrassing question...but do you have any feminine hygiene products?"

Response: LONG PAUSE...Uhhh...let me check. ANOTHER LONG PAUSE. Yes...we have both....kinds.

Me: Oh great! So, should I....

Response: I can have someone bring them up.

Me: That would be great!

Response: Ok, um which kind would you like?

Me: Oh, uh, (awkward laugh) well..either one is fine.

Response: I'll have someone bring one of each.

Me: (To myself: One? Seriously one? Oh whatever I am not making this worse). Ok thank you!

So then I waited for the awkward exchange. Pretty soon there was a knock at my door, and I found myself being presented with a tray, the kind hotels use to bring room service food, lid and all. When I opened the door the man standing there lifted the lid for me, I took the stuff, and he walked away without saying anything. I'd like to think that they made it look like room service for my sake...but from the look on the kid's was definitely for his.

Now I'm sitting here trying to force myself to call the front desk again to ask for a toothbrush, yet another thing I forgot.

Lesson: There are more important things than packing light.