If you have spent any time in an airport at all you have seen my co-workers and I. When I say co-workers, I don’t mean the people I work with at Jump. I mean every poor bugger that has to fly across three time zones countless times a year. Even if we are not all working for the same company, we are co-workers in spirit. We are the people moving at a brisk pace down the concourse with a jacket slung over one arm, pulling a piece of luggage with another arm, a cell phone is attached to our heads with duct tape, and we are cramming a $12 slice of $1 pizza into our chattering mouths with a third arm.
Yes, the glam world of business travel. After that third airport in one day, those Sandwich Artist jobs at Subways are looking pretty damn good.
This essay is a public service announcement for the non-business flying public, or as we refer to you, civilians. In the summer travel season, the names become considerably more pointed. On a recent run of airports, meeting rooms, crappy hotels and incoherent taxi drivers, I got to listen to a person on the way back from Yuck-a-puck, AZ vigorously complaining about; “why do all these people have to use their cells phone in public? No one is that important, they can wait until they are in the office or at home. It just makes them feel special.” I would have responded directly to her, but I was busy turning my cell phone up to drown out her whining.
There are of course many nuances to the argument, not the least of which being that if I was indeed at home or in my office, you would not be listening to my business calls, and far better, I would not be blasting my eardrums drowning you out. For all those that find people in airports and airplanes conducting biz on their cell phones annoying, I tell you now: if all the cell towers suddenly crashed to the ground, there would be a small panic for a few minutes. After that, you would see a wave of rolling luggage head to the airport bar for a quiet toast to those that made this little vacation possible.
For better or worse, when you are in an airport or on a plane, you are in my office, not your living room. Business travelers account for the majority of airline revenue. Hell yes we get the perks. If you complain about having to fight you way through security for your once a year vacation, many of us do that 3 times a week and sometimes 2 times a day. Many jobs today, particularly knowledge sector jobs require extensive travel and close contact. That person sitting next to you that whips out the cell phone the moment the plane lands may well be making or returning the first of several calls that they have to make in a 30 minute window while running through the airport for the next connection. No one likes living this way, but we do it because for better or worse, the reality of today’s business environment demands it.
The next time you find yourself annoyed at the array of phones beeping to life the moment the wheels touchdown, remember that you are headed home or on vacation. For a lot of us it just means catching up on our delayed work day. And if you should find yourself blocking the aisle in the plane, and no place to put you bag, ask for help from the person in the disheveled three day wrinkled suit behind you. Chances are pretty good it’s a pro and will be happy to help you get sorted out. Then you can both sit down and look forward to three or four hours away from the cell phone.