Friday, November 30, 2012
The working life: The last-minute business trip
Here's what happens when your boss tells you at the last minute that yes, you are going on that trip to the Middle East with him and your other colleague.
You get a ticket for not too much money, but you get a center seat. In coach.
The company doesn't even pay for the CEO to fly business class. Why would they pay that for you? Even if it is a 13-hour flight?
Oh - and the other catch? You leave on a Friday. So you can be there Saturday night. For Sunday meetings.
SH considered coming with me - he needed the 16,000 miles to get his status for next year - but his passport expires in a few months and you have to have a passport valid for six months to enter the country.
In a stunning instance of efficiency - from both SH (who finally got his passport photo taken, as had been on his list since MAY, and applied for a new passport) and the State Department, his new passport arrived two days before my departure. But it was too late to include him on the trip.
Anyhow. SH dropped me off at the airport with my big suitcase and returned home with my winter coat.
I should have kept the coat. The favorite thing to do here, apparently, is to air condition the heck out of everything.
Which makes sense. The climate here is like Houston.
That is not a compliment.
I had looked at a map and thought, "Desert. I need only two pairs of socks because I can wear one and wash one."
In theory, that is true. However, what I failed to take into consideration was that desert + ocean = humidity and my socks still are not dry, 24 hours after washing them.
Back to the flight. Thirteen hours. In the middle seat. I knew it was going to be trouble when I got to my seat and saw a big guy with spread legs. Some men are very comfortable taking all the space without any consideration for the people around them.
This guy was one of those guys. He took the armrest from the very beginning and he leaned toward me. "Lean toward the aisle!" I wanted to say. "Lean away from me!"
But no. And I didn't feel comfortable saying something to him because what do you say? "I notice you have a belly and are wide and you fill the entire seat, but would you mind keeping your arm away from me?" Yes, the arm was totally within his control, but he didn't look like he liked to be messed with. In fact, when we were waiting to take off, he had a series of cellphone arguments with someone named Beth on whom he kept hanging up and then calling again. She, too, would call him. They would call each other back just to argue.
He was one cranky dude. Who was not shy about voicing his crankiness.
He scared me a little.
Every time he got up, I would claim the armrest. Only every time he got up, I also got up because I hate bothering people to let me out, which is why I always want the aisle seat.
So we would both be up and by the time I got back, it was too late for me to have the armrest.
Then he would fall right back asleep, leaning into my space, and snoring.
I had no place to move. I finally gave up, put in my earplugs, and tried to sleep, which meant I had to pull the tray table out, put the pillow on it, and lean forward until my back and shoulders hurt too much. Then I sat up again.
And tried to sleep sitting up, with my neck pushed forward unnaturally because the airplane seats are designed for men 5'9" tall and not for me.
Which was made even more complicated by the fact that my other seatmate watched movies until 3:00 a.m. Which meant there was light.
When I got to the hotel, I couldn't fall asleep until late. Then I woke up at 3:30 a.m. local time. I finally gave up, got up, read, did some work, and then had breakfast and went to the souks.