I used to travel a lot. The best part of that sentence is the "used to" part. It gets old pretty quickly, especially when there are kids at home. We used to have jobs all around the country and I would often spend weeks at a time trying to get all the bugs out of some system. Some of the places were glamorous like Hawaii and others were Podunk towns in the middle of nowhere with a single Motel 6. On some level it didn't matter much. Wherever we were we worked ungodly hours often getting to in at 8 or 9 and working late into the evening. So, the biggest difference between Van Wert, OH and Denver was the food. Seriously, all we did was work, eat and sleep. Most of the work sites were the same, and it's hard to care much about your hotel room while you are asleep, so food was the make or break differentiator. The local Bob's Big Boy for breakfast, lunch and dinner was hard to take.
There were some exceptions. I once of found myself in Tampa attending a Dry Cleaning Convention (don't ask). I realized that Orlando and Disney World was just a short drive and I had a free day, so I went to Disney World - by myself. You might think this was strange, but I had a blast. It was empty, so I could go on rides multiple times, sit down and relax for awhile it was fun. Standing in lines was a little weird, but I soon found that if I talked a bit to someone else in line, I didn't look do alone.
Working in Hawaii wasn't as much fun, but did have its moments. The first time I went, I stayed at the airport Holiday Inn. The people at the refinery were appalled. They asked if we were charging them for expenses. When I confirmed that they were, they told me to move immediately to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, which is where I stayed from then on. Even the one time that Scott and I had to spend a few weeks leading up to Christmas when everything was booked except the most expensive rooms. We had bathrobes that trip.
There were other nice things. Since we had to wear blue nomex fire suits in the plant, we didn't need anything but T-shirts and shorts. Easy packing and the Smurf Suits weren't too bad to work in. Also, Hawaiians don't work the crazy hours that we usually did on jobs. Each day at 4:30 we stopped. That's it, no negotiation. That left a lot of evenings to hang out on the beach or wander the streets of Honolulu. Got old pretty quickly, but it beat the heck out of Pocatello, ID.
The laid back approach to all things in Hawaii did lead to some conflicts in culture. There was one time in late January 1990 when I was on a mission to get the job done and get home. I kept pushing Lorrin (finally remembered his name!) to leave me behind when he went to lunch, and to stay late. He resisted this, so I told him that I had a deadline and really had to finish the job. Lorrin says, "What, are you having a baby?". To which I answered, "Well, not me, but my wife is!". They stayed late, worked long (well, longer) hours and I was home three weeks before Kevin was born.
The strangest thing about working in Hawaii was this correlation with major medical events in our family. After Kevin's birth, my next trip was scheduled for April. I flew out although Pamela was a little under the weather. I landed in Hawaii about noon and was met at the concourse by Lorrin who told me that Pamela has had emergency gallbladder surgery. I never left the airport, instead, I caught the next flight home. Must be close to the worlds record for the shortest stay in the vacation paradise.
But, the job was still waiting for me. And, in their incredibly laid back Hawaii way, the folks at the refinery kept asking when I would be able to travel. Everything seemed to be settling back to normal at home - well as normal as it can be with two small kids and a mom who is recovering from the last non-laparoscopic gall bladder surgery performed in the United States. I scheduled a flight out late on a Sunday and also Mothers's Day. I figured if I get there the evening before, I'll get an entire Monday of work and that would get me home sooner.
But it was Mother's day and Kyle had a stomachache and then threw up all the junk that he had eaten at brunch. We were worried about him, so we took him to the doctor who agreed that it was nothing to be worried about. We were relieved but, I had already missed my flight. There was another flight that we could just make. So we loaded the kids in the car and off to the airport.
When we arrived, I jumped out of the drivers seat, grabbed my bag and started sprinting to the ticket counter. Pam pretty quickly realized that I have the car keys in my pocket and that I am about to leave her stranded in the white zone forever. I heard calling my name and turned around to see her making the universal car key sign (I guess that is like turning on the air-ignition). So, I grabbed the keys out of my pocket and threw them to her. Luckily this worked, but it could have been a disaster on so many levels.
Anyway, it turned out that I missed that flight anyway, do I spent the night in the city and flew out early Monday morning. I think that this single event led me to developer a "never run for a flight" philosophy that I still adhere to to this day. I don't run for a flight. If I miss it, I was meant to miss it. It I make it, I was meant to make it. Period end of story. Unless, of course, I was headed home. Then wild horses couldn't keep me away for 1 minute longer.
But, I digress. Back to Hawaii and that Monday morning when I arrived in Honolulu. Since it is only midday, I went straight to the refinery where I was handed one of those huge Motorola cell phones from 1990 and told that I had to call my wife. Turns out that Kyle did have appendicitis and has already had surgery. All while I was over the Pacific. He's in his room in a hospital gown for children that Pamela thinks shouldn't exist in the world.
At the hospital the next day, Dr. Mucci chastised Pamela for carrying Kyle so soon after her surgery, so she said, "Well, YOU carry him, then." So, he did. It was during that part, when he was burning up with fever that he kept asking for water, if he was good.
When I got off the phone Lorrin said, "so your son had his appendix removed and he's fine, now, do you can stay, yea?" The other Chevron folks are slowly packing up the tools But, Pamela has told me to get the damn job done, so I stay 3 days and come home to a recovering Kyle and Pamela and a very young Kevin.
About the only good thing about traveling a great deal is the perks that come with being a 100k flyer. For 3 or 4 years most of my flying was in first class. Nowadays when I try to upgrade, my name appears on the list at the bottom. You know, an aircraft with 8 first class seats, and I'm number 25. That bottom. But not back in the early days. I was even seated in economy once and they came and got me because of a no show and moved me. I enjoyed that.
Once, on my way back from Hawaii, I asked how much a first class ticket cost. I got one of those, if you have to ask, you can't buy one looks. Turns out that my little $800 ticket was more like $4,000 for first class. It made me appreciate the free upgrades!
One time that I wasn't upgraded was on a redeye flight leaving SFO and headed to JFK. I ended up sitting in the very last row that didn't even recline on a full flight. It left San Francisco bout 9:00pm do I had been able to spend the whole day with the family. By this time we had two kids and were building our house.
I wasn't happy about being on the flight and put out my best "don't talk to me" vibe. The woman sitting beside me was a writer for Vogue Magazine and she started up a conversation anyway. The flight was dark and quiet and we spoke in quiet tones for most of the flight. I told her about the frustration of not being home and the toll that travel was taking on everyone. She told me about her unsettled life shuffling between offices. She had a boyfriend in San Francisco and one in New York. Neither knew about the other.
At some point, she decided to sum up our situations:
Wait a minute. You are bummed and frustrated by your place in life, but look where you are. You are happily married to a woman who is obviously wonderful. You have two kids who sound awesome. You are building your own house and doing a lot of the work yourself, AND you have your own business with employees and everything! All of that and you are only 30! I, on the other hand, am 35 and can't even figure out which boyfriend I want to be with. Get a clue, you are living a charmed life!
I don't remember if it was get a clue, or buck up, but the meaning was clear. I think about that conversation when I get disheartened or overwhelmed. A random flight: a random person: and a perspective for life.
Speaking of random beautiful women, here is my favorite travel story. This one happens before the Vogue encounter, but it is another late night long travel day. I get off the big plane in Boise and head over to the regional terminal where all the puddle-jumpers depart. It's probably close to 9pm and I've been traveling for hours and still have one more flight to get to some tiny town that is about 90 miles from the Chevron pumping station that I have visit.
I'm hungry and not in a great mood when I walk up to the United Express ticket counter. The lighting is subdued at this time of night in this small terminal, not the glaring brightness or the main terminal. Behind the desk are two beautiful women; one in uniform and one out of uniform, but dressed to kill for a night on the town.
There is nobody else around as I checked into my flight. Just little chit chat going back and forth, when the women out of uniform leaned over the counter and said in a sultry, low voice, "If you miss this flight, I will buy you dinner.". I was stunned. This sort of thing never happens to guys like me. Yes, I am married and have kids at home but, seriously, this has never happened to me.
As these thoughts are going through my mind and I'm working my way back to the "Wow, thank you, but I'm married" response, I can see her expression change as she realizes how I have interpreted the situation. She stammers and says "ah, I'm sorry, ah. I would buy you dinner, but I wouldn't be with you, I just want your seat on the plane to go visit my boyfriend."
Sigh, these things just never happen to guys like me! Someone else must have taken her up I her offer though because she sat next to me on the flight. Her boyfriend sounded like a great guy and, yes, she only had one.