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Work/Life: Back Up There

Okay, I have a confession. For the past several months I have been a "virtual" road warrior. Like many of you I, too, have been affected by corporate travel restrictions. As a result, today I crossed the jetway threshold for the first time in a long time. Even with the intentional emphasis on hyperbole here — it was a very interesting experience.

First, I didn't realize you could lose 'packing mojo' after a layoff. In the past, a typical one-night business trip had been a packing no-brainer. I have my standard carry- on bag and my go-to mix of slacks, shirts, and blazers that gives me at least three possible outfit combinations.

But last night, being out of practice, I must admit to staring at my Tumi for a while, a bit unsure of what to throw in.

Second, when I arrived at Fort Lauderdale International Airport it was quiet, TSA security was efficient, but I also have to admit to needing a refresher on the new laptop rules, i.e., which laptop carrying bags are okay, and which are not. (Watch this space for updates on that topic.)

My 7 AM flight on a major U.S. carrier was booked solid — a result of recent flight reductions out of FLL. The flight crew was as expected — they just seemed shocked that all 140 of us would disturb their morning by boarding their plane. Their evident discomfiture at our arrival continued throughout the flight as they seemed equally appalled that they would have to provide each passenger with a small beverage ... apparently the reversal in this airline's free drink policy was not sitting well with our two flight crew professionals.

Beyond that, I'm not sure if it is because the technology hasn't caught up yet, but I find it surprising that the airlines continue to struggle in giving passengers who are travelling together seats that are next to each other. I will use row 7 as a small and unscientific example.    

There were six seats. Two individual travelers (including me), and two groups of two -— a mother and daughter, and a husband and wife.   Neither group was in adjacent seats. Due to preferences, neither of the two couples was able to be accommodated in seats that they wanted. (This of course will bring up another future blog topic regarding the circumstances under which you may change your seat to accommodate another passenger.) In this case, it would have likely required an puzzle master — or perhaps a simple computer program — to design a seating configuration that would have worked.

But their seating was not really my worry — or so I thought.

My seatmate in 7E — now separated from her daughter — felt that I would now become her new best friend for the three-hour flight. Indeed, she was undeterred by the noise-cancelling headphones around my ears. On several occasions she felt compelled to ask me my views on world politics, airline procedures, and even wanted to know "Isn't it true the French hate Americans?" I have to confess that this was not exactly my kind of early morning conversation. The separated couple, now in the adjacent aisle and window seat in my row, decided that this flight would be an ideal time to share the Sudoko puzzle inside the inflight magazine, which required passing the book back and forth, and back and forth, etc., some half a dozen times.

We landed in D.C. early, thank goodness!, and I made it to my meetings with time to grab a conference call and a cup of coffee.

Ah, it was good to be back in the air, back up there.

Sort of.

Road Warrior • Miami •