So: travel light

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Over the past 6 and a bit years, I’ve learned that traveling light is truly the way to go. Thanks to my former neighbor and friend Jeanette, I learned about a wonderful carry on suitcase that can hold up to 10 days stuff for me.

My Heys X case is turquoise, one of my favorite colors. (Bruce’s is orange, his favorite color.) It makes people in airports smile and it’s an instant conversation starter. Business travelers always want to know how much I can cram in it.

I always answer: “enough to go to Spain for 10 days and still have room for souvenirs.” And usually it’s not crammed full. Bruce and I have gone to Hawaii for a week, Barcelona and Madrid for 10 days, and made countless personal trips between Dallas and Toronto, all with these tiny bags.

Bruce and I use them whenever we travel. For work I usually put clothes and personal stuff in one side and then use the other for work paraphernalia that I don’t want to schlep in my computer bag.

Today, I have multiple costume changes in one half and a metal cookie box filled with alfajores (delicious lemon sandwich cookies with dulce de leche in the middle and sprinkled with coconut–our contribution to tonight’s dinner party), an umbrella, and two hardback books (gifts). It will either be empty on the way home or filled with Canadian delicacies. Although not Kraft Peanut Butter because you know what happened the last time I tried to import a jar into the US. Maybe one of my dear Canadian friends will mail me some (hint, hint).

My X Case looks a little dirty. That’s because I take a lot of regional jets where they gate check your bag. The conveyer belts get the hard plastic shell dirty. But a Magic Eraser or even a paper towel and some kind of cleaner gets everything off. I was just lazy last night.

My carry on bag is a backpack. Right now it’s holding birthday presents for my lovely friend Reesa. They are all from Brazil, a place she really wants to visit. I’ve also got my purse in there, the required quart ziploc bag of tiny toiletries, a sweater, a convertable scarf (it can turn into a poncho, a bolero jacket, a shrug), and my trusty iPad. I will probably fold the backpack up and put it in my suitcase on the way back. Unless shopping happens.

It’s almost time to board. And start plowing through that humongous pile of magazines Bruce is hauling in his backpack. It too may be empty on the way home. Unless shopping happens…

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So: to do list

Library

 

My oldest friends won’t be surprised that I still am a slave to my lists. In high school and college, they kept me on schedule and made me feel like I was in control. To this date, I have home to do lists and work to do lists. And despite my love of technology and constant grip on my iphone, they are on paper. Written in pen. In my handwriting. Usually with a brightly colored Sharpie.

One college friend pointed out to me that I don’t usually cross out. I like to check the box next to the completed task with a big mark. Because I am goal-oriented!

Today, nothing made me happier than to blow through my work to-do list. Yes, I was motivated because I promised myself if I dotted my eyes, crossed my ts and made it through my meetings with no new immediate to-dos, I would be leaving early. And I did at, wait for it, 3:20 pm. I know, not that much early, but trust me, I made my goal happen. And I was grateful (those of you in the ad biz know exactly what I mean).

Unfortunately, my next to-do list was waiting: my errands before I got home list. Luckily, that all got completed pretty quickly and now I don’t have a birthday gift rattling around in the back of my car and my dear old dad will get his Father’s Day gift on time. Whooohooo!

Now, I’m officially on vacation. Dinner has been eaten and Gs have been walked. Now, it’s time to pack, x a few household things off my list, and hopefully grab a great night’s sleep to fuel up for the fun ahead.

Truthfully I’ve never been a great “night before” sleeper, whether it was a big test, a job interview, a family vacation, a monumental occasion, etc. So, I’m in no hurry to plow through my list. I’ll need something to do later when George and I are up at 3 am.

My ipad is loaded up with several books plus lots of samples to enjoy. Yes, perhaps for tonight, if I can’t sleep. It’s my contingency plan to read at least one. Although I definitely do NOT want to sleep on the plane. Why? Because my newest, most favorite place to read, other than outside on the patio, is high above the earth in one of those Coors Light cans* in the sky.

Why? On the plane, especially in the fancy class I’ve cashed our hard-earned points for, it’s lovely and quiet. Best of all, your needs are taken care of. Warm nuts, ma’am? Another glass of wine, ma’am? Would you like a blanket, ma’am? A pillow, ma’am? A glass of water, ma’am? A freshly baked cookie, ma’am? Would you like a mint, ma’am? Believe me, I take advantage of the offers. And I enjoy every minute. At home, Bruce will hook me up with drinks and bedding, but he draws the line at cookies. He’s not a baker, you see.

As you’ve probably gathered, I fly a lot for my job and it really is a special treat to have legroom (remember I’m only 5’2″ so that’s really unbelievable that I’d mention it), not being elbowed by the person in the middle seat who is usually a lot bigger than me, and having someone being super nice to me because I might be the manager of a washed up musical act, a captain of industry (ha!), or just a lowly ad hack who enjoys gardening and hoarding points is kind of cool. The flight attendants just know that I’m up there in the “special section”. I sure wouldn’t pay the prices that it costs in dollars with my own hard earned cash, although I’m sure I’ve “paid” for it in some other way. Nothing is free these days, except for produce from the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm (yes, that is a little commercial for my local pals—I may be setting up a u-pick situation if things get too out of control).

Don’t worry. Bruce is getting a fancy seat too, even though he’ll probably get bored with the stash of magazines we’ve saved up and watch the movie or chat with the person across the aisle from him. You know, another captain of industry!

We’re also lucky because we’re going to be horsing around at DFW with our pal Mike. He’s headed to Toronto and will be at the same dinner party we’re attending on Friday night. He’s been in Austin for the past couple of days for work and it just made a lot of sense for all of us to be on the same flight. You really don’t realize how much you enjoy spending time with your friends until those time are really few and far between because you all live so far apart now. Thank goodness for Facebook, cell phones, and the internet so you can keep up and keep in touch. And long weekends.

Ok, I’ve procrastinated enough. Produce is harvested. The forecast for the next four days is rainy/stormy so the Urban Farm will be fine. The Gs are going to have a wonderful time playing with their pals while we’re gone. Packing and my to do list are calling. And then a glass of wine reward.

Hope you’re enjoying your Thursday, the Gateway to the Weekend(TM) and that you have a fabulous weekend.

*I can’t take credit for nicknaming American Airlines’ planes. That credit goes to my Canadian pal Scott who was appalled the very first time he “enjoyed” a flight on AA from DFW to Las Vegas. They are my airline of necessity (hub is DFW) and every time I get on a plane, I hear his voice saying “flying Coors Light can”. If nothing else, it puts me in a better mood to be elbowed by the 6’4″ business man built like a linebacker crammed into the middle seat next to me.

So: deja vous

I need a travel exorcism.

Or maybe American Airlines needs new planes. A better maintenance schedule. A back up plan when there are mechanical issues. Something.

Right now I’m waiting at gate #3. My flight is delayed 2.5 hrs so far. Funny, I think this is the third time in a row this has happened to me.

In fairness my new pal Tom Horton sent me a lovely “I’m so sorry” email and gave me 2,500 AA miles. I’m sure he (and his marketing team/agency) think it’s an awesome PR move. I am glad for the miles, but I’m not sure they’ll be enough for some people.

Just like my hotel from last night. They left every guest a breakfast pack on their door and had Starbucks in the lobby. However, they didn’t explain why. As I checked out, every guest asked about the restaurants. And asked if their were health code violations. A terse “an investigation is ongoing” and “I assure you that the food and coffee provided was made off premises” was all the explanation offered. I still feel queasy. And I bet some travelers will make a big scene. I’m going to write the GM a note and let him know what I thought of my experience.

But lest you think I’m just bellyaching, I’m actually very grateful. My team at work is kicking ass without me, just as they always do when I take my show on the road. I was in a great city today. With people that I absolutely enjoy working and spending time with. It was a much better day than yesterday. The taxi drivers were fantastic–and told me a lot about their city.

Here are a few photos I took from the zooming cabs:

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And I’m looking forward to getting on the commuter jet to my next destination. Meeting two awesome colleagues there tonight. Meeting new colleagues tomorrow. Seeing some people who mean the world to me.

So wait I will. Patiently. You’d be surprised just how much I can get done with pen and paper and this little phone.

If you still haven’t figured out where I’m going, here’s another hint: it’s my home and native land. Ok, not really since I’m a naturalized citizen, but that’s how the song goes, eh!

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(Thanks to Bruce for helping solve the travel mystery)

So: comedy of errors

If you’re living in the U.S., you may have heard about today’s airplane travel adventures already. If you, like me, were lucky enough to have a ticket on American Airlines to go somewhere today, you probably reached your destination much later than you were intended to get there. Or you might still be at the airport waiting on your plane to arrive from somewhere else. I am lucky to be at my destination, although I arrived late.

Apparently some sort of massive computer system shut down/failure caused the problem. Even the back up systems failed. If you watch the video I posted, you’ll learn that it was a software issue. Originally we were told it was the reservations system that went down and that’s what caused the problem. But once I started chatting with fellow passengers, I found out that the problem was much worse, since the airline had taken full flights and brought them back to their gates then unloaded the planes. Or made them sit on the tarmac for hours.

I got off very lucky. When I got to DFW, I was surprised to see so many people everywhere in the middle of the day. Usually it’s super busy first thing then again at the very end of the day. I didn’t think much of it and grabbed some lunch. Hindsight being 20-20 I should have noticed that there was a disproportionate number of day-drinking business attired folks, not just the usual retirees, college kids, and vacationers who know that it’s 5 o’ clock (or noon) somewhere.

My first real indication was at the gate. When it was time to board, the staff was more stressed looking than usual. Lots of shouting into phones. Staff on their cell phones, especially smart phones. At first they made it sound like it was just a gate change to another terminal. Ok. Get on the little train and walk to the new gate. Once at the new gate, more stressed staff who explained to us that the computers were down and they weren’t sure that this would be our final gate and to sit down and wait for further instructions.

After a couple of hours, it appeared that things were up and running again. Kind of. Back on the little train to another gate. After an hour, get on the plane. Then sit on the plane until they could fill it with more irate (and honestly irrational) passengers. I 1000% get that it’s annoying to have your expectation of leaving on time and getting to your destination as promised dashed (remember my last travel tale?), but if it’s a system wide computer failure, you’re not going anywhere fast. Yelling and being a jerk will not get the planes moving faster. I sat back and watched some people at their finest and many at what I hope was their lowest since they are really rotten S.O.B.s if they can get much shittier than they were to the airline staff.

Once on the plane, grumpy passengers almost rioted when the wifi didn’t work. WTF people? Just a few years ago, planes were the only place a business traveler could really turn out and unhook from the Matrix for a few blissful hours. Today people acted like it was the end of the world. First world problems, flying public. Read a book. Look at a magazine. Talk to the people you’re sitting next to. I did and met a DJ from Finland who played at Cochella last weekend. I checked out his YouTube video from Cochella and decided that I’ll follow him on Facebook (too tired to go to his midnight show tonight). See, talking to strangers can be fun!

Being nice to the flight attendants and not complaining earned me a freebee, which I’m sure you know makes whatever you’re eating or drinking taste even better. I felt so sorry for them because they had nothing to do with wifi, computers, the flight delays, etc., but yet from the way they were being treated you’d think they pulled the plug on the Internet out of spite. Sheesh.

Once we got here, I hopped in a cab, told the driver I wanted to go. First, we ended up where he wanted to take me, a hotel with the same name but in a different part of town. I had to nicely, yet firmly tell him that I gave him the correct address and it was his responsibility to take me where I asked and that I would not pay for his mistake. Needless to say, we had a difference of opinion which quickly ended up in my favor when I told him I had written his license information down and would be happy to call in a complaint if we didn’t head off to the right hotel immediately. I also suggested that I could easily get out of his cab without paying and find another.

I arrived at my lovely hotel. Checked in. Checked in at home. (Gs are fine, but needy. Bruce was puttering.) Then since it was so late, but I hadn’t had dinner, I called for room service. No answer. The second time I called, I finally got someone. The voice told me that the hotel restaurant was being renovated (code for shut down by health department, perhaps?) and would be out of service for the next two days. No dinner food. No breakfast food. She could give me some phone numbers of local places that could deliver or addresses of places in walking distance. Um, ok. Wish they would have said something when the reservation was made. Or maybe when I checked in. Good thing I had a snack on the plane. I’ll hunt for coffee in the morning. City this big has to have a Starbucks (or if I’m lucky, a local mom and pop cafe) around the corner.

Whoever suggests business travel is glamorous lies. It has fun moments (free drinks, Finnish djs), but also annoying/scary ones (transportation situation). And like any other day that’s out of whack (mercury in retrograde again?), it’s over. It’s already tomorrow at least in this time zone. I’m still on Dallas time, so I’m going to call it a night and wake up ready for a fun day. A day where I get to see a bunch of people I usually only talk to on the phone. I like these folks a lot so I’m pretty excited that I get to spend a whole day with them. Then after that, I’m going to get on another plane and head for one of my favorite cities. I’ll give you a hint: it’s in North America, requires a passport, and I lived there for a while. So tomorrow’s going to be awesome.