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LJ Idol: A Travel Travesty

I'm in Seattle. I'm home at last. I immediately run upstairs with my suitcase and shower off my week:

Monday, flight to Las Vegas. Tuesday, 8 hours of work, flight to Idaho Falls. Wednesday, another 8 hours of work and a flight to Denver. Thursday, 8 hours of work. Friday 8 hours of work, but Alaska Air has stopped running the 7:55pm flight to Seattle, so I stay in Denver until Saturday morning. My alarm doesn't wake me up at 5:00am, or at 6:00am. I sleep until 10am. Stupid alarm. I drive to the airport, desperately praying for an early-ish stand-by. Nothing available until 5:20pm. It's the last fight of the day. So I wait, and catch the last flight home. I scrub my hair hard with shampoo, hoping to mentally erase the past week. The dirt and grime and airplane stink circle down the drain.

As I'm drying off, my little brother bursts into the bathroom. He's four and I remind him he needs to knock before entering when a grown up is in the bathroom. "But it's dinner time. We are having pizza!!"

Ugh. Pizza. I am so sick of pizza. So sick of eating restaurant food, sick of eating fast food, of eating candy bars when I don't have time for lunch and Mountain Dew for breakfast cuz it's the only option; sick of not eating because if I eat, I miss a flight. And now that I'm home, we aren't even having a home cooked meal. Ugh.

I dress and open my suitcase, take out the dirty socks and undies and toss them in the hamper. Unfolding my pants, I evaluate them for dirt. Still passable. Next I pick up my shirts, smell the armpits, decide they are good for one more week. I mentally review my upcoming site visits, and try to remember which outfits I wore the last time. No duplicates--I think--one new sweater = wardrobe magic.

I refold, and with tetris-like precision, repack a week's worth of clothing and an extra pair of shoes and some gloves and a hat, just in case, into my tiny suitcase (actual carry-on size--not the expandable-to-three-times-its-volume-unzippered, three-inch-wheels-on-the-outside, stuff-into-the-overhead-and-pray-it-fits size that is so popular these days). Cramming clean socks and undies into the empty spaces, I zip it back up, bring it downstairs, and set it by the door.

Sunday. 5:55am, I wake up. Carefully, I sneak down the stairs. My mom says I "elephant" when I leave, no matter how pad-footed I am.

Airport. I punch my frequent flier number into the ticket kiosk and grab the ticket. It's now 6:30am so I head to the D gate security line; it's usually the shortest morning line. Three quick movements and I'm de-laptopped, de-3oz-liquided, shoeless, and through security.

Where am I even going?

I glance at my ticket. Toronto (YYZ) via Minneapolis (MSP). 3 hour lay-over, flight connects at gate B14. Fantastic! There's a really great Chinese buffet over by C25, I'll swing by after we land, and have a nice lunch.

On the plane, I close my eyes. I'm so tired. "So, are you coming or going". My eyes snap open, laced with poison. The man who has sat down next to me leans too far over into my space as he asks this question. I live in Seattle, so I guess going, I say. "Ah, fun vacation planned?" No, work. "Do you travel a lot for work?" Annoyed. Yes, I do. "Oh, I'll be that's fun". No, it sucks; why do people always think it's so glamorous, I think as I say Well, I get to see a lot of places I might not otherwise see. "What do you do?" Nostrils flare. I hate answering this question that's what, I think vehemently and grit my teeth. I monitor clinical drug trials. "Oh, like one of those Drug Reps?" No.

I finish my much-practiced speech and swear next time I will just say I sell insurance.

My burps smell like Chinese food, and my flight is delayed. I sigh and pull out my book. Positive, think positive! If you get upset, this will just suck harder. Positive thoughts!

A man, besuited even on a Sunday, is already yelling at the woman behind the counter. I silently fling hatefulness at his back. Maybe if this lady were an X-man she could control the weather in YYZ, but last I checked that was just a comic book. He sits next to me, pulls out his cell-phone and bitches at his wife for an hour and a half.

Later, I drop my suitcase off to be gate-checked, and squeeze into the tiny window seat on the tiny mud-skipper plane. I shove my laptop bag under the seat in front of me because there's no room in the overhead, and no way am I gate-checking $1000 worth of electronics. As I sit down, I feel like one of those contortionists who package themselves into a duffel bag. We taxi. And taxi. And taxi. And taxi. And stop.

Oh no.

Loud speaker crackles and tells us the storm over YYZ has worsened and the tower has told us to slow our roll for 45 minutes, after which conditions will be re-assessed. I pull out my book and read more, fidgeting. I'm so goddamn sick of sitting on planes. I'm so goddamn sick of sitting and touching other people. I shake off the claustrophobia by fidgeting more.  I'm so antsy.

More crackling and forty-five minutes morphs into an hour and a half. Then another half hour. Then another twenty minutes. At least the captain has the decency to enter the passenger cabin and give us these last two updates and an apology in person.

Three hours later and the plane re-enters the MSP gate. I glance at my watch and laugh in a not-funny way because it is now the time we should have landed in YYZ.

I wake up and head to the airport. Again. Last night, after waiting for my updated flight info (I'm now flying MSP to YYZ via Detroit), and waiting for an 'Essentials Kit' (cuz my gate-checked carry-on has been forwarded to DTW), I got a hotel room. But with all the delays and waiting, and after getting hijacked by a taxi driver who tooled around for a half hour before dropping me off at a hotel 5 miles away from the airport, I only slept 3 hours before heading back to MSP.

DTW, an hour and half layover, a flight to YYZ. Mandatory grilling at customs. My answers don't appease the guard and he sends me into the second room for more intensive screening.

No, I don't need a work permit because I'm paid by an American company. No, I'm not transporting drugs into or out of the country. No, I don't work for a Canadian company; my company is an American company that contracts with another American company that is contracting with the doctor's office in Canada. No, I don't know who pays him. No, I don't know if a Canadian could be doing my job. Yes, I was in Canada two weeks ago, and yes I was in Canada a week before that. No, I didn't need a work permit those times either because I'm paid by an American company and Legal told me I didn't need a permit.  No, it's an American company. No, I don't know why they picked this Canadian site. No, like I said, I'm paid by an American company in American money so I don't need a permit. No, I'm not planning on coming back to Canada for work after this trip. She smiles, tells me next time I should bring a letter from my company to explain my job, and stamps my passport.

Crap. I forgot to extend my car rental from last night. No cars are available. I take a town car to my hotel in Kitchner, another hour away. I try to sleep on the ride, but I'm too exhausted to hold my eyelids shut.

I shower, quickly change and take another taxi to my site. My two coworkers greet me frantically, did I bring the worksheets?? No, sorry, I forgot them at the hotel.

YYZ to Atlanta (ATL) to Birmingham (BHM). I finish with my visit in BHM. It's Friday, I'm sitting in the airport and headed home (BHM to ATL to SEA) but I won't arrive until 12am Saturday. Then I have a 45 minute drive home. Hopefully I don't fall asleep on the drive. I sigh and close my eyes, begging for sleep.

My cell phone rings. It's Clayton. The phone lights up his name. As I hold it in my hand, I can feel the weight of impending bad news. I grimace and answer it.

He voice is quiet and...tentative? slurred? Not boisterous and crabby, as usual. I'll bet he's drunk. In fact, I'm sure of it. I would bet a solid thou' that he nips from the bottle at work more often than not, plus he's always pounding 'em back after our quarterly, in-person team meetings. I wonder if he has a problem. Actually, I'm convinced he does. I ponder whether or not to mention anything to Josh as I try listening to this round of demands.

"Erin, you need to cover a visit in Virginia Beach on Monday. You are the only person not traveling then" I exhale and plead Clayton, I'm not traveling Monday because I've been out the last three weeks, Monday through Friday.  And I still need to do all my follow up work; I'm at least three weeks behind. I can feel the tension in my voice and shoulders. Brow furrowing, heartbeat ramping up. I lean forward, slightly nauseous, head-achy.

"Well, whatever. Everyone is behind on reports. Even me. And this visit is for the AMFM initiative so it takes precedence. Brian from the sponsor will be joining you, arrange your travel then let him know your flight and hotel info." Clayton..."The sponsor chose you for this initiative because they really think you do fantastic work." I snort my skepticism out my nose, So they beat me because they love me?

Non-drunk Clayton would have laughed at my joke. Or at least volleyed something back equally as bad. Or complimented me for my whipper-snapperness. Or called me a nerd in a way that convinces me he was probably a short bully with a Napolean complex in high school. But...nothing. Definitely drunk. "I'll email you Brian's contact info." He hangs up, and I dial the Travel Department.

I fucking hate my job.

Yikes, sorry this got so long ya'll. Thanks for reading, I was on a roll! And yes, I still have this fucking awful job. Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in again.


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 14th, 2011 10:37 am (UTC)
I just woke up and now I'm really tired! Thanks a lot! Grin. Wow! I do not envy you at all! Whew!
Dec. 14th, 2011 11:32 pm (UTC)
Ooops, sorry! Maybe I should put a "may cause sleepiness" warning at the beginning. Thanks for reading!
Dec. 14th, 2011 11:51 am (UTC)
Although I say I like traveling, this doesn't sound like my sort of travel!

Hell on wheels in fact. Hope you get a break soon.
Dec. 14th, 2011 11:33 pm (UTC)
The worst part is that I would LOOVE the travel for fun, but when I do get some time off, I never want to go anywhere! Thanks for reading :)
Dec. 14th, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC)
Loved this. I am one of those people who envies people who travel for work, and I needed to see this. Especially like, "I am too exhausted to hold my eyelids closed." Good use of the present tense in this piece keeps me with you through all the torture. How in the world do you find time to write??
Dec. 14th, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC)
Well, I wrote this at 3am, if that gives you any idea of my 'free time' :) I'm glad you enjoyed the present tense, it was experimental. Thanks for commenting.
Dec. 14th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
OMG, I would so be wanting a new job. It's hard to have a life with a schedule like that.
Dec. 14th, 2011 11:36 pm (UTC)
Yea, that's what I'm really struggling w/ right now. I work from home, live in a state where don't know anyone but have no time to make friends, and spend most of my time out of state. I am literally that woman who only talks to her cats. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
Dec. 15th, 2011 01:58 am (UTC)
Wow .. hope you find something else.
Dec. 17th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
heh, thanks.
Dec. 15th, 2011 01:09 pm (UTC)
You certainly hit the topic on the head.
I am exhausted just reading it. Your stress level must be very high.I hope you find a better schedule for yourself before you collapse!
Dec. 17th, 2011 01:10 am (UTC)
I definitely had a lot of material to work with, haha. Thanks for reading :)
Dec. 16th, 2011 02:49 am (UTC)
That sounds so unnerving :(
Dec. 17th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
It's not fun, that's for sure. Thanks for reading!
Dec. 16th, 2011 02:59 am (UTC)
As someone who does his fair share of flying, I pity you. I can't imagine having to go through all that.

You might as well get a pilot's license.
Dec. 17th, 2011 01:00 am (UTC)
BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH! BARFBARFBARF! I think I'd want to be a helicopter pilot instead. THAT would be awesome.
Dec. 16th, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry you hate your job...but on the upside, you're really good at illustrating that hate for LJ Idol! ;)
Dec. 17th, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
The silver lining indeed :) Thanks for commenting!
Dec. 17th, 2011 06:10 am (UTC)
Next time someone asks what you do? Tell them you sell drugs. That should shut them up even if it's not the truth :P

Exhausting. I rarely travel, mostly it's for leisure when I do. I'm flying this coming Monday actually.
Dec. 19th, 2011 07:34 am (UTC)
Oooh, headed anywhere fun? I'm off to CT for work. Yay (not)
Dec. 19th, 2011 01:23 am (UTC)
MMMMM. I don't envy you. Well written.
Dec. 19th, 2011 07:04 am (UTC)
What a crappy travel schedule! I also travel for work, but I think I'm blessed that we tend to be in a place for 3-7 days, so it's not quite as frantic. I wish you the best of luck, and a better frequent flyer program - you should be upgraded all the time with the amount of flyer you do!!

Also - your company may or may not pay for it, or you may have enough frequent flyer miles to buy it with miles, but I bought the airport lounge membership last year and it was one of the best things I've ever done. Just having a peaceful, quiet place with free internet and snacks and drinks, to sit and rest and be a little pampered, is AMAZING. Totally worth it! I've got Delta and it's also good for KLM and Air France lounges. I highly recommend it!
Dec. 19th, 2011 07:33 am (UTC)
Yup, the Delta lounges are LIFE SAVERS! Esp to change out of your work clothes and into travel clothes. My company doesn't pay for the membership, but it's worth it to me to join. Plus I have status with Alaska (and Delta) but Alaska's membership is way cheaper and gets you in the same places. And I do get upgrades, but half the time those aren't even worth it cuz I end up just sleeping through.
Dec. 19th, 2011 09:44 pm (UTC)
My husband's had to travel for work a lot in the past and you're right - although it seems glamorous to those who don't do it, it really does take it out of you and it's not nearly as much fun as it seems from the outside.
Dec. 20th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
wow, I'm sorry your job sucks so much for (and out of) you. :/
Dec. 20th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
Wow! Your schedule sounds absolutely grueling. I could never, ever, ever do it. I hate airports with an all-consuming passion. And I also hate when people talk to me on planes.
Feb. 16th, 2013 08:49 pm (UTC)
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( 27 comments — Leave a comment )