By Kelly Hagan
I know that the first column I can recall writing for the Prairie Independent, I wrote about how I was a stay-at-home dad, and how great that was. What I neglected to mention since then is that I went back to work. Sorry, had to be done.
I blame Congress. Most people do.
Now, outside of these lovely columns I write for community newspapers in my neighborhood (in my neighborhood, in my neigh-bor-hoo-ood), I have two jobs in communications and I write freelance. And anytime anyone asks me what I do for a living, it ignites a 32-minute explanation. Too much, I do too much.
One thing I do now, which I am still not used to doing, is attending work conferences across the country. Professionals in the same lines of work. We all gather in the same place to strategize and educate each other with PowerPoint presentation upon PowerPoint presentation. It’s a different kind of behavior.
Conferences and conventions create their own class of traveling professionals. You’ll recognize them in the airports. They dress nicely, they have exactly the right kind of luggage, they read newspapers and portable electronic devices with the greatest of ease, not a worry in the world. They casually tell stories about canceled flights, airplanes being struck by lightning, turbulence that rearranged their internal organs, drunk passengers, drunk flight attendants, snakes on a plane, etc. They’ve seen it all. They are very cool about it all.
I am not a traveling professional. I’m not at all comfortable with airplanes. Almost dying isn’t really something I want to be nonchalant about. I read recently that time could collapse and end at any moment, leaving us frozen in place for eternity. So my new nightmare is for time to quit while I’m up in an airplane, frozen forever in my own personal hell.
I don’t sleep much, these days.
When I business travel, I purposely try to look as uncomfortable as possible. I grow out a half-beard, I dress like a laundry hamper, I carry a messenger bag that clearly wasn’t meant for flying. I fumble with my boarding passes, walk around in circles, mutter to myself. I wasn’t meant for this world, and I need everyone there to know it.
Traveling for business means most of your costs will be covered by your employer. They’ve got a term for it, “per diem,” which I believe is French for “our dime.” And “our dime” is awesome, because everything is better when it doesn’t cost you anything. Hotel rooms are a little brighter, cheeseburgers taste a little punchier, airplane flights are still terrifying, but at least they’re not inspiring financial insecurities.
I’d never ridden in a cab until last year. Did you know you’re supposed to tip cab drivers? I’m really sorry to a cab driver in San Antonio, if he’s reading this. I didn’t know.
So that’s what business travel is doing for me. It’s teaching me all these new little nuggets about life outside my tiny sphere. Every conference, each convention, I’m getting out, getting things done. I’m seeing the world, one Hilton convention center at a time.