The trip to San Diego was nearly perfect. US Air Flight #581 PHL to SAN was uneventful. I had exit aisle and my seatmates were forgettable (that’s good!) Landed in reliable 72-degree sunny skies and headed over to Coronado where I scored an early check-in. I was meeting my former relationship manager Donny for lunch, which is also a fairly reliable good time. Donny is born and bred California and is an A+ tour guide. There was the Napa tour where we did some damage at Taittinger. There was Beverly Hills day where we shopped for new designer bags and then headed over to Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
Unfortunately, today wasn’t going to be a San Diego tour day. Donny had rear-ended another car on the bridge over the bay and was having a bad day. He has this cute little Infiniti convertible and he was doing his best to swallow tears that were beginning to choke at his throat. Watching a Californian get upset is like watching a Pomeranian run at the doorbell. I mean, yeah, car needs work and yeah, he’s out some money, but it’s still 72 and sunny. After yapping with AAA while simultaneously running in circles, he grinned and jumped in the car. We hit the wine bar for some goat cheese and something blanc.
Seeing Donny reminded me of a travel lesson that took me years to learn. It’s a hard one, particularly hard for female corporate travelers with children: When possible, stay the extra day. We tend to hurry home. Dinner has to be made. Laundry done. Groceries bought. And we miss having a little extra time to have fun and enjoy the one part of corporate travel that we really should capitalize on: seeing some of the local sights.
So later that day I was in a pretty good mood heading into the conference dinner and found myself next to a young, freshly minted college graduate who also happened to be a member of the Press. The Press in this case is the 401k Wire – not exactly the New York Times – but it can do plenty of damage in its own right!
Turns out, Lannie was a professional ballet dancer who had hung up her toe shoes for journalism and recently moved from Santa Barbara to New York City. She was charming, smart and gorgeous. But, she was tired. “How come?” I asked, “Didn’t you sleep on the plane?” Here she confessed that no, she hadn’t and she never does and she doesn’t know how anyone can.
My maternal instincts kicked in and I said, “I can teach you!” It’s one of my talents. That, and reading the newspaper on a treadmill. I showed her some trustworthy positions, explained the benefit of eye masks, and the value of not reclining. She confessed she’s a stomach sleeper and that surely makes things more complicated. “You’ll have to employ the tray table then,” I offered. “Just wipe it down first.”
Then last night on the final evening of the event I was reminded of another problem that pops up occasionally in the life of a female corporate traveler. The pass. On its own, the pass is usually easy to dodge, especially when it’s the full fledged, easy to spot, pass. Like ages ago when a broker asked me if I wanted to read my book in his bed. I think I’ve mentioned that one before because, I don’t know, because it was just so strange. I mean, “Yeah, of course I do! How did you know?” Another time a bloke basically asked me if I wanted to come to his room and fool around.
But this night’s pass one was subtler, if no less creepy. He simply kept squeezing my knee and then my thigh. He starts in. I’m athletic. I don’t look my age. I couldn’t possibly have a daughter in college.
I honestly wasn’t worried because I knew what to say when he would (and then did) ask me what I was doing after dinner. “Going to my room to call my family.” Young female corporate travelers, take note: that is the answer. It is always the answer. And with that, I got up and hit the dessert table and made a beeline for Andy (my boss) while looking around to see if I could find Lannie. I had another lesson for her.