Now Boarding

It sounded so cool when you were in college…. Business Travel. “You mean, I’ll get paid to travel?” you mused. That first trip was a memorable one. From the airport, to the rental car, to checking into the hotel…you were on cloud nine. “This is amazing!” you thought. On the flight home you felt good about yourself; ”Wow, my value add at that meeting must be worth the cost of all these travel expenses.” Yes, you finally made it to the big leagues…

My, how time flies and that naiveté retreats. It doesn’t take long before the mystique of business travel wears thin and the cattle car realities take over. One day, it dawns on you, as you look around the airport and pity at all those zombie business travelers with their little black roller bags, cell phones, iPods, and lattes… ..that you are one of them now. You realize this business travel thing isn’t all it was cracked up to be. You know you have been doing it a while when you no longer have to follow the exit signs out of the rental car maze, you know the best restrooms to use in most major airports, hotel rooms no longer impress you, and the free cocktails at dinner no longer turn your crank.

It is part of the job, and bearable. That is, except for those four words. Four words that strike panic into tall travelers everywhere. The power of these words is astounding. This oxymoron is uttered just after takeoff by the flight attendant…”Sit Back and Relax”. With the plane still accelerating upward, and gravity pulling at the hefty person in the seat in front of you, these words trigger a pavlovian response causing them to unconsciously reach for the dreaded button. The combination of the acceleration, the upward angle of the plane, and the pull of gravity, slam the seat with amazing force into your waiting kneecaps. There is nothing “Relaxing” about that!

Fortunately, neither the cracking sound, nor the yelp of pain can be heard over the roar of the engines as they strain to hurl the human sardine can skyward.
Some people attempt to soften the blow by having their laptop computer open. This way, when the seat is slammed backward the screen is crushed, softening the patella impact …kind of like the crush zone on the Honda Civic. Totally oblivious and disappointed with the reclining distance, larger people will often bounce back in the seat a number of times to make sure they have gotten everything out of the reclining position. These little love taps are always appreciated to help modulate the pain in the already Advil craving crushed joints.

If you are fortunate enough to be in the middle seat, you can enjoy the rest of the trip playing the Armrest Elbow Challenge. In this neat little pastime, travelers jockey for elbow position on the shared armrest. Of most interest is when this game moves to the challenge round in which participants attempt to eat or use a computer (if it still has a working screen) while in the middle seat. For extra points, travelers can board the plane late so that the overhead storage is full and your bag must be stowed under the seat in front of you. (Technically this means it can be under your seat since the seat in front of you is in your lap).

“Dong”. There it is! Finally, the long awaited cackle over the loudspeaker. The words you love to hear. The nightmare is over. ”Please return your seatbacks to the full upright position.”… Life is good again.