Sunday, February 22, 2009

Business Traveler Chronicles – Fifteen More Minutes?

I travel pretty frequently for work, and one of my least favorite things is departing my house to get to the airport. I never pack until the last hour before I have to get in the car. I flew to Dallas today and I went through the motions of this familiar dysfunctional system.

First, it seems that whenever I have to fly out on a Sunday, I get some kind of warped view of time and I think that I can get the equivalent of a week's worth of work done. I make all these crazy unrealistic goals like organizing my life on a spreadsheet, going to a meditation tea lecture, and watching a two-part Suze Orman show on managing your money. There has been more than one occasion where I have called my parents in exhausted tears stating, "My flight leaves in two hours and I haven't fixed my life yet!

Second, what time actually does (and I could probably scientifically prove this if pressured) is it moves way faster than it normally would on say, a boring Monday when you stay at home and watch a public television documentary (which I totally love to do and I am not dissing documentaries here in any shape or form). So, what we are looking at here is the perfect storm of the typical business trip traveler: 

Lofty goals of efficient task completion + Strange time speeding up effect = Lots of swearing and sweating, and maybe (accidentally) kicking the cat.

Which brings up a good point. The cat. Well, OK, I have two cats, but the black one (Oscar) doesn't count because he is super cool and knows who he is. He does not define himself by me. Vincent, on the other hand, is a wreck without me, and on days when I have to leave my house for the airport, he does eveything possible to guilt me. He is genius at planting that little seed of doubt deep within my heart that asks, "Well, are you happy with your life?" I swear, Vinny is on a mission to turn me into a stay-at-home cat mom. I don't know, I think it threatens him that I have this career where I have made something of myself in the world. Chauvinist.

If you are laughing, you obviously don't know the misery that tiny five pound Vincent can bring. He is so good at giving me guilt, he most certainly is Jewish. Which makes sense because my Jewish friend Sara loves Vinny even though Sara is normally afraid of cats.

Today Vinny was being particularly bad. I think I was even a little embarrassed for him. If Vinny were a person, he would be the sweaty little boy who comes in from the playground and when everyone else has calmed down with their Crayola Markers, the little sweaty boy is a sandy, salty mess swinging his legs and kicking his desk. Yes, that is my Vincent in human form. What he did was he kept running around the apartment with things in his mouth that he found on my bed as I was trying to pack. Tampons, hair binders, bras – yes, these all made it into my seven-month-old cat's mouth. Then he had to do something really cruel:

Right as I am resigning myself to the fact that I truly  do not have enough time to change my life all in one hour as well as get my suitcase packed and myself ready to walk out the door, Vinny climbs into my suitcase and looks at me with that look. (See photo). It's that look that says:
"Why do you have to go, Mommy? Why you do dat? 
[Wait. No. This is not the voice of Vinny. He is way more aggravating.] He says:
"Sooze. You are dumb. I watch you pack like this a million time and you always come home same ol same ole. Nofin fun ever happins on yur trips. You never meet anyone and you nevur make bouyfriend. Why you do your job, Sooze? Sooze. You know that plane crashed while go? You worry bout dat, Sooze? Oh. And I feel lonly now so if you rilly go, that's kind of mean pet ownership Sooze."
THAT is what the look on Vinny's face says. And that is when I start getting all nostalgic and ritualistic. This ritualistic behavior happens every time I have to leave on a trip. Again, this is probably one of the side effects of my movie-trailer-imagination – I have to make all goodbyes a damn ritual. And it is exhausting.
"Good bye, bed. Good bye, piles of welcoming books, (...wait, did I pick the right books to take with me on the plane?) Goodbye, ray of sunlight coming through the blinds, goodbye, stinky garbage disposal (...shoot. I should have washed my cereal bowl. Will the remaining milk in it get crusty? Should I soak it?) Goodbye, Netflix movie that I have not watched yet, I sure do hope that I get to watch you (yeah, I can get kinda dramatic while I am doing my goodbye ritual. And then, the inner dialogue can get ugly...)
...Will the cats drown in my bowl that I have soaking in the sink? Is it bad to let dishes sit soaking in a vacant apartment? Do I leave the toilet seat up to make the cats happy and make me less of a bad pet owner? Or is that just a potential hazzard? Should I leave some blinds open, or shut all of them? But if all the blinds are shut, will I get robbed by an Uptown thug cause he will know I am not at home? ARahh, I wish I could call my boss and cancel... you know, maybe just ask to sit this one out).
My analysis paralysis continues in this fashion until it is exactly fifteen minutes later than the time I had designated to leave. It always happens this way and I am now subconsciously prepared for the Fifteen More Minutes phenomenon. Which would have been fine today, had I remembered that on Friday it had snowed an insane amount and I had not yet used my car. 

So today I was out there chiseling away at about four solid inches of semi-frozen snow. It's times like these when I really pull at my academic background to come up with the most disturbing and original cuss phrases I can think of. It is oddly gratifying to have a defined purpose for generating new verbs and nouns with the use of those basic four-letter-words that we all know and love.

Needless to say, I of course made it to my plane. I was a sweating, swearing mess, but that is nothing new. From where I sit in my hotel bed, I can glance lovingly at my suitcase and remember the crusties my darling little kitten (I am not a cat person) beamed at me earlier today.

Rest assured, when I have to pack up my suitcase and make my way back home, I will go through a similar ritual in my hotel room as I did at home today. The only difference will be that instead of saying goodbye to stuff, I go into what's called a checking, rechecking, and checking-one-last time ritual. This is something I learned from my brother when he used to (maybe still does?) make sure that his car doors were locked and then he checked and rechecked and then checked-one-last-time. 

Believe me, this technique works and if you neglect to use it, you might get burned. I know I did. Once, I completed the check and failed to finish with the recheck and the check-one-last time and I left my cell phone charger in a hotel room. When I called the hotel (I had only left about 15 minutes prior), it was like some extremely complicated process to even get someone to confirm that I had indeed stayed at the hotel. Then the house keeping staff was contacted and the line went dead. Did I get my cell phone charger back? Hell, no. I guarantee there is a room of left items in each hotel and the staff uses these items as white elephants at the annual employee holiday party.

My point is, check your sh#!, OK? You don't want to be losing your precious items. The travel can suck by itself, anyway. Oh, and, by all means, leave yourself an extra fifteen minutes to say goodbye to your plants, or whatever.


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