I travel quite often for work and have always been pretty lucky. First and foremost, my flights have always landed and, really, what else do you want? I remember years ago there was a funny show on Comedy Central called Dr. Katz. I don't remember much from the show but 2 quotes always stuck with me and one had to do with travel. In it, someone was talking about how airlines are always late and what a pain in the ass it is to travel. One of the other characters made a point that, frankly, we should all be happy if we take off and land safely. I guess we do take that for granted... The quote was something along the lines of, "The Airlines should just say, XYZ Airlines, We can Fly!". Anyway, notwithstanding the amazing fact that something like intercontinental business travel exists, I digress...
I made a trip to Europe with one of my co-founders, Larry. Larry and I were looking into the potential for our services outside the US. That's where the fun began...
Before the flight, I loaded up my laptop with tons of work. Few things are more peaceful than a nice long airplane flight. You can rest, relax, work, watch movies, whatever... On this flight, I had downloaded a few movies onto my computer and was planning to watch them and work. I made an embarrassing mistake of leaving my books at home. 1 hour into the flight, the woman sitting next to me spilled an entire glass of red wine onto my laptop. Right onto the keyboard. I immediately reacted by moving the laptop, unplugging my headset, shutting it down and trying to wipe off my clothing. It took me a few minutes to do what you're supposed to, flip it over! By taking a few minutes to actually flip it over, the entire thing was destroyed. So there I am, red wine on my pants and a broken laptop on my tray. Terrible. To make things worse, the woman sitting next to me didn't say a word. Crazy, right? I don't mean that she said sorry but wasn't adequately apologetic, she didn't say a thing. It was insane and, personally, I found it a little scary. I could understand someone who did that saying "oh my God" or "Holy Sh*t", but not saying anything was a little bit psychotic. A few days later people asked my why I didn't say anything to her, confront her for destroying my laptop and not apologizing... Frankly, I found her behavior psychotic. Something is wrong with you if you can do that to someone and not say a word about it. Better to just keep my mouth shut. So there I was, 10 hours in the plane and a week of travel ahead of me without my laptop. THANK GOD FOR BLACKBERRIES.
By the way, for those of you wondering, if you try hard, you can read 15 magazines in 10 hours before you want to claw your eyes out. I know. I didn't have anything else to read.
Laptop destroyed - Strike 1
Then we got to London and I decided to Fedex my laptop home to hopefully salvage the data. I filled out every form in the world so Fedex knew exactly what I was sending back to the office. This is important because there are a lot of import laws about electronics. I wrote everywhere that IT WAS MY BROKEN LAPTOP and I was SENDING IT BACK TO MYSELF. Of course, the package was delayed in Memphis for 2 days and I had to speak with 5 people before it was eventually sent back to my office.
Shipping problems - Strike 2
Two days into the trip, Larry and I were getting out of a taxi to head into a meeting with a big potential client. Sitting in the lobby, I noticed that I'd left my mobile phone in the taxi. I am pretty good, I really never lose anything, so this was a shock. I called the phone 50 times and finally the taxi driver picked it up. 1 hour and $100 later the phone was back in my hands and I was 30 minutes late to the meeting.
Phone lost, found, $$$ lost - Strike 3
Oh, did I mention the terrible heat wave hitting London during our trip? I really hate the heat, but a heat wave in a city without air conditioning is unbearable.
Really hot - Strike 4
The same customs problems that plagued my laptop on its way back to the US struck again with my replacement laptop. Instead of getting to me in time, the computer was stuck in customs and spent 3 days following me around Europe. Eventually it was returned to the office and got back the same day I did.
Fedex problem #2 - Strike 5
The hit in London caused a power outage in our hotel, for 6 hours. This was really great, no computer, no television, no air conditioning, cell phone battery dying, BlackBerry dying and no power. On top of that, it was the night before we were set to leave London. I had to pack, in the dark. When I was a little kid my grandfather told me to always travel with a flashlight and I still do. Its probably the only piece of advice he ever gave me and I never had a use for it, but this really worked out nicely. Thanks Grandpa.
Power out, cell dead, BlackBerry dead - Strike 6
I don't even want to detail the rest because it is making me angry. Larry was almost crushed by a heavy falling object on his Birthday, the taxi we took to the airport broke down and we had to get out, in the rain, and into a new taxi, the video system was broken for our 11 hour flight home so we couldn't watch movies and many many more...
Luckily the meetings were great and we made it home safely so can't be too angry...
Important business travel lessons you all need to learn...
- Always backup your data. Use iBackup or something like that. What happened to me could easily happen to you.
- If someone spills wine on your computer and doesn't say anything, be afraid. Don't confront them. Nothing can be gained from fighting anyway and something must really really be wrong with someone like that.
- Always travel with a flashlight.
- No matter how much you live on your computer with iTunes, YouTube, email, blogging, games, etc..., always, ALWAYS bring actual books for your flight.