It’s about 7pm on September 10, 2010. I’m sitting on a hard steel chair at another mega-airport looking for ways to kill some time and charge the laptop. Last night, I spent my 50th night in a hotel room this year.
Two hours ago, in a series of coordinated hand foot movements I took the entire contents of an Apple store, a dozen chargers and cables including a folding power strip, clothes for almost every occasion, and countless other items past security in two, neatly packed TSA-approved bags. And I didn’t even have to take out my toiletries or my laptop. It was like a scene from Up In The Air — complete with the disdain for all those civilians with the Dora the Explorer bags holding up everyone else.
Before the end of the year, I’ll have spent almost three solid months on the road. And the road has taught me many lessons. I’ll list 5 practical ones here.:
Lesson #5: Memorize this sequence of taps like you memorized Control-S: Wallet, phone, laptop bag, carry-on, boarding pass.
Just before I check out of my hotel room, I tap each of these: W-P-L-C-B. Just before the cab leaves me behind: WPLCB. This helps me to never forget the vitally important things I need at every checkpoint. It’s like saving the game at a save point. Remember: Wild Pelicans Like Canned Beans.
Lesson #4: Before starting a routine, confirm that it is, in fact, routine.
I spend 95% of my time renting from the same rental car company. The remain 5%, I just mistakenly assume that it’s the same company. It’s really hard to get an Avis bus to pick you up from the Hertz rental center — especially if you’re running late to an important meeting. Routine is the enemy if the routine doesn’t contain safety checks.
Lesson #3: Book once, check the timezone twice.
If I accept a meeting request for 10am in SF while I’m in Chicago with my calendar timezone set to Eastern time, did it get added correctly? Today, I showed up to a meeting at a TV studio 3 hours/timezones early. Yesterday, I accidentally made it on-time to a bus because a meeting was cancelled, saving me from being an hour embarrassingly late because I forgot Indy is in Eastern, while Chicago is in Central. Whew!
Lesson #2: Take the pill you intended to take.
Clearly separate pills if they look remotely similar to each other and take them one at a time. Not many frequent travelers talk about this, but I usually carry a small pharmacy’s worth of pills. A couple of types of allergy pills, sleeping pills, zinc, vitamin C and various cold-fighting remedies, etc. I don’t use a pill-box. I put them in ziplock bags since they take up less space and when pills bounce around in a hard container, they tend to crack and powderize. As you can imagine, mixing up the sleeping pill with the allergy pill can wreck havoc on anyone’s schedule.
If you think all of this is overkill, or I have some kind of obsessive compulsive behavior, just wait until you show up at wrong rental car center looking dazed and confused because you took the sleeping pill (instead of the vitamin C) on the plane by accident. And then you realize that you’re missing your wallet because you left it in the bathroom back at the airport. Why? because you rushed there to pee since the flight you though was just an hour was actually a 2-hour flight (timezone change) and by the time you woke up (sleeping pill) and realized you had to go, the flight attendants wouldn’t let you. (This, uh, happened to someone I know.)
And the final lesson?
Be polite and exercise a little courtesy. Share the arm rest and power outlet. Let others get on or off the plane before you. Don’t tell the kid in sneakers and a t-shirt to move out of the First Class line. He’s probably me. And I’ve got more miles than you.