Business Travel

Priceline, Kayak, Jet Blue; I almost forgot to check Jet Blue. The GSU event begins at 10am, wait, where exactly is GSU? Statesboro. Where exactly is Statesboro? Okay, this flight lands at 9, how far is Statesboro from the airport? Fine,  I’ll take the flight that lands at 8:50. Now from GSU I go right to Boston. What time does the Boston event start?

In order to land at 8:50 I must take off at 5:30. I do my best to ignore what time I must wake up in order to take off at 5:30.

tarmac prop planes

I park in the lot and take a picture of E/35 knowing there is no way I will remember the space when I get back next week. I get the text reminders telling me to check in online but I have an extra bag. To the counter I go. The counter is mostly for tourists, the ones wearing cheetah print sweat pants and slippers. They travel with giant three week capacity bags and  stand between the self check kiosks and the counter confused. The people behind the counter mostly just watch.

outside window

I am in boarding zone 4. Most wearing ties pre-board. It looks crowded and I worry my briefcase will have to go under the seat rather than above. If it goes underneath, my feet will have no where to go and I won’t be able to sleep. I have the isle seat, the other guy has the middle, no one is at the window. When they close the door he slides over. Lucky again.

slc from the air

I open a book and ignore the safety presentation then get jogged awake when the wheels hit the ground. I realize I’ve been drooling and look coyly around. Everyone else pretends they didn’t notice and I collect my bags and wait my turn to get off.

Then I wait my turn at the carousel.

Then I wait my turn at the rental counter. They give me a Fiat that looks like a Smartcar. I don’t mind. I hop in, pull my gps out of my bag, rifle through it a bit more. Where is the mounting bracket for the gps? I have the Garmin but no mount. Sigh.

I drive an hour with the Garmin in my lap.

alamo rental

I am on time. The event goes well. Not a bad campus, a bit corporate for my taste, where does one eat? Brand new state-of-the-art dining hall and all they serve is Burger King and Taco Bell? I stop at a grocery store on the way to the Days Inn.

claremont hotel room

My phone rings at 7:30 but when I answer I just sit and listen to, “What are you doing? No you have to brush your teeth every night but come here first. What do you mean you have math? I thought you only had the book report. Where is your sister? Come on Dad is on the phone ready for a prayer…. Okay Dad are you ready?

There is a chorus of I love you after we say Amen and she promises to call back once they are all in bed.

I refuse to pay $12.50 per night for internet and spend the next half hour trying to figure out why my my-fi card won’t work. I suppose I can do my data entry tomorrow.

Wait… what time does the plane leave tomorrow?

reading wide shot

By the end of the week I have stood in lines, sat in seats, talked, gained ten pounds, and traveled twice as far as Marco Polo ever did in a year.

Business Travel

The girl at the table next to me is having a smoke. She has on thick black framed glasses and her hair is shaved close to her head on one side. She is sitting by herself breathing out mustiness and slowly turning the pages of her oversized fashion magazine.

Flowers and potted plants separate our tables from the bejeweled old ladies and jacketed men as they pass on the sidewalk heading into the Fox Theatre. The marquee is all lit up with flashing lights announcing the ballet, a play, or a concert of some sort. I can’t tell which is playing tonight; I don’t care enough to look that close.

I have been sitting here long enough that the sky has gone from blue to black and the tall buildings have gone from bustling to blank. The windows on the higher  floors have stopped reflecting the sunset, turned to electric light, and then turned off. It is not quite nine.

It is warm enough that the men who jog past go shirtless, no matter their physical condition. I’m not sure if I should be impressed with their boldness or appalled by their lack of self awareness. Either way I make a mental note to remind my future self, the one who eventually gets in shape, to keep his shirt on. I’m sure that if he should forget, plenty of people will remind him.

I’m guessing most of the joggers come from hotels, like me. Those strolling, dressed for an evening out come from parking lots. A man carrying groceries in a wheeled cart hints at local city living till he makes a right turn in front of me and heads into the Hotel Indigo. He is not local, just frugal.

I am lonely.

Not the sort of lonely where you hunger for company, the kind of lonely where you miss someone specific. Lonely may be too strong a word, bored is better. There is plenty of entertainment walking in front of me, lots of talkative sales reps and convention goers at the bar inside, but I want that person here with me that I can kick under the table, tip my head toward the guy wearing the moon vest, and she will know what I mean without me saying it. She would laugh. She wouldn’t be laughing at him, she would be laughing at the tv episode from two years ago. That is what I miss.

The girl at the next table has stopped smoking and started talking on her phone. They are at the wrong bar. She will meet them there.

There is now a man three tables down smoking a cigar. He has on a logoed polo shirt and khaki shorts. He is not watching me watch him, he is watching his smartphone. Groups of three or four walk past and at least one of them is always watching their phone.  LED lit faces and palms walking down dark sidewalks ignoring the people right next to them.

I do it all the time. Its like whistling or shaking your leg under the table; you do it without thinking. I add phone stairing to my future self reminder list, then, in a moment of honesty erase it.

If I sit here long enough my mind will wander; to religion, the two papers I have half written on my desktop, and people I know who are having trouble finding jobs or paying the bills. But then I will notice someone wearing a bow tie or realize I’m whistling three lines of the same song over and over. Then I remember the insurance forms I was supposed to fill out. It is too late to do anything about it tonight other than loathe myself and cross my fingers I remember tomorrow.

The cigar man is gone. I can’t remember when my flight leaves tomorrow so I stare into my LED lit palm to look it up. Someone across the street thinks something is funny. I go back upstairs and pack.