Life at 30,000 Feet

For a decade, I lived in a world surrounded with pubescent children with intense behavioral disorders. What I didn’t realize is how consistent my days were. Sure, each day came with new meltdowns, new interventions, new moods, and new celebrations, but for the most part, it was consistent. I knew where my classroom was. I knew who was next door. I knew my kids and their parents. I knew their disorders, their favorite foods, their triggers, and I knew all of the people I would interact with on a daily basis. I lived in a world that I thought was wildly inconsistent, but then I started a job where I travel for a large portion of my time.

I know what you are thinking- you live the coolest life! You go to New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas and Chicago to name a few. You are right, to an extent. I live an amazing life. The reality of it is a bit different. I do go to these towns; however, it is typically a flight to said “cool” city, an Uber ride to the closest Marriott, a few hours of sleep in a white sheet laden bed shared by humans from all over the globe (gross),  only to wake up and Uber to a corporate office nearby and then scurry out to a flight that I nearly miss to get home and hug my munchkins one hour earlier.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE MY JOB. If you don’t know this, you don’t know me, but I want this blog to serve a few purposes:

  1. To make people laugh.
  2. To document the interesting people and things we experience as traveling business men and women.
  3. To keep me grounded when I am normally 30,000 feet about the ground.

When I think about my working days, the photos and stories I send my friends, the people I meet that leave me looking like the little emoji guy scratching his chin, I realized, it was time to start a blog. That being said, www.dirtytraytables.com was born.

This blog will serve as a place to share stories about the interesting world we live in via Uber, airplanes, subways, hotels, etc.  Be forewarned, my postings will be inconsistent (I’ll blame the sales cycle). It will be stories, one-liners, emotional rants and more.

Safe Travels My Friends and ALWAYS CLEAN YOUR TRAY TABLES!

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Beach “Bars” or Lack Thereof

Where do I begin? A family emergency (don’t worry, we are ok) forced me and my daughters to vacate our house in Atlanta with 30 minutes notice. I hopped in the car to head to the only place I knew to go, my parents. I headed up to a small town called Carolina Beach, NC where my mom and dad were. This isn’t your ordinary beach town. This is an old-school, nostalgic 1940’s beach town.  This is the kind of beach town where the traveling mall parking lot amusement rides set up shop from Memorial day to Labor day.  The kind where grammatical errors are common on professionally print signs (see below). The kind where the cigarette buds out number the grains of sand. My parents stay in the upstairs portion of the old beach cottage. When I say old, I mean old. I am talking 1919, asbestos-coated, 1 window AC unit, old. I am talking wouldn’t even come remotely close to passing a home inspection old. I am talking plug my hairdryer into the ceiling fan kind of old. As I arrived I set up my office in a nook in the cottage. I assumed my hotspot would carry me through the next 48 hours. Boy, was I wrong. I relocated to a corner closer to the motel, yes motel not hotel, next door to see if I could tap into their WiFi. I got one bar on my cell… one measly bar. This wasn’t going to cut it.

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In a panic, I called my boss, and he reduced my stress by telling me to grab a hotel room to hold my two meetings- brilliant! During one of these meetings, I was going to present to the field…a 400+ person audience alongside the CTO to boot. This was something I couldn’t mess up. I checked into the local Microtel which was covered in 1990’s primary colored printed bedspreads, Formica counter-tops and an envelope holding a VIP card for 10% off of my total food bill at the local meat and three next door. I fired up my laptop to check the settings and Wifi. As soon as I refreshed my WiFi, it hit me. This local hotel also did not have WiFi. Sheesh! What does one do? Immediately I called my problem-solving friend in tears. “What do I do? You always solve my problems. Help?”

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Often, I work on my hotspot with no problem. Clearly, this was going to be my solution. Then I realized, I couldn’t use my hotspot, and mirror my phone and talk on the call through the same phone all at the same time. Also, I still only had one bar because I was on a barrier island. Quickly, I Googled Verizon cell towers nearby to find an area that had a better signal. I found the spot, grabbed my dad’s iPhone 3 and headed to the spot that had service. As soon as I parked and started to setup to do this meeting from the driver’s seat of my car, I realized that this old-school phone needed the old-school style headphones. Off to CVS I go. Corded headphones in hand, I headed back to the spot with the good cell service.

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Let me explain this place that I found to settle into for my meeting.  We will call it “my office.”  My office was a run-down strip mall parking lot littered with pot holes, multiple shades of decrepit concrete buildings and, well, actual litter. The parking lot lines had been eaten by the patched asphalt long ago.  I stopped my car right smack in the middle of the parking lot, abandoned movie theater on one side of me and hulking concrete shell of the vacated grocery store on the other, but I had found five bars of cell signal!

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I did a few test calls using dad’s iPhone 3, ran the Zoom meeting on my hotspot and mirrored my phone. As far as I could see, this was going to work!  I tested once more and it was working. I took a deep breath of relief before my nerves of the demo set in. Everything was working out and the sun was shining….for a minute.

The session started. We were up and rolling and the meeting was on! My nerves set in a little, and I started to take deep breaths and chug water while continuously checking to ensure I was still muted on my iPhone, dad’s iPhone 3 and my PC. I started to settle in and then the clouds rolled in. I am talking pitch black, dark thunderstorm clouds, and they were rolling in fast! Joe passed the ball to Mike so I knew my part was getting closer. It began to pour, I mean pour down rain. You know those heavy raindrops that sounds like water balloons busting on your windshield. The lighting was striking non-stop accompanied by continuous booming thunder. What are the chances? There was truly one pocket of thunderstorms on the entire eastern seaboard and it was hovering directly over my “office.”  This is not an exaggeration. Crying, I called my problem-solving friend to see if he could hear the rain or the thunder. He said the sound was fine until it thundered. BOOM! He definitely heard that.

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In the meantime, two 1950’s prison school buses roll up into my sketchy “office.”  They park 20 yards from me. Knowing that with inmates typically come police officers, who might be curious as to why I was loitering in this parking lot, I crafted a note to show an officer through the window should they approach my car during my presentation. I knew they would still rap on the window but it was worth a try and gave me a little peace of mind that maybe my demo to 400+ wouldn’t be interrupted by “Ma’am, please step out of the vehicle.”

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With two minutes to spare, the torrential downpour and bone rattling thunder let up, a little sunshine came out and I was on the air. After 10 nerve-wracking minutes of demonstration, I passed the ball back to Mike, took a long deep breath, finished the call and shut down my PC. I am not sure how I pulled it off, but it all worked out in the end. As an SC, you learn to do what you gotta do to make the demo fly and always expect the unexpected.

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Miami- 1, Meredith- 0.5, Uber Driver- 0

Miami is a world of its own. I grew up in the South and I have lived all over the country. Typically, cities have a few things in common to bring the American City feel out, but Miami simply doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong Miami Lovers, this is not a bad thing. It’s simply an observation: Miami is different y’all.

I have been there several times with no bloggable moments; however, when it rains it pours. I was headed down from Atlanta for a quick in and out meeting. I had planned to arrive around dinner time on Tuesday and leave around dinner time on Wednesday. Easy peasy I thought.

Let’s start at the beginning of the 24-hour debacle. Flight went as normal. Easy on, easy off, limited turbulence, one wine. I was starting off on what I thought looked like a non-eventful trip but when I landed this started to go sideways – fast!  I made my way from the gate to the baggage claim on the world’s bounciest moving sidewalk.  Anyone else know what I am talking about?  For some reason the walking sidewalk feels like a padded trampoline.  If it wouldn’t have taken me 90 minutes to get from one side of the airport to the other, I would have tried to avoid it; however, I am impatient and always in an unnecessary hurry, so I opted in so bouncing along I went.

As the end of the World’s Softest transportation facilitator, I ordered an Uber. I consider myself a pretty competent traveler. Last year, I spent the better part of 140 nights in hotels. Since moving from the medium enterprise space (shorter sales cycles and more frequency) to the large enterprise space (longer cycles and less frequency), I have gotten rusty. As I looked down to my phone to find the hotel I booked, I noticed that I hadn’t booked a hotel. Ugh! I am notorious for booking hotels in the wrong city or for the wrong night, but simply not booking one at all is new to me.  I jumped on my SPG app and booked what looked like a swanky and trendy Courtyard called Element. I locked it in just in time. Confirmation received and Uber arrived all at once. It was like clockwork and I was back in my groove. I loaded my bag into the trunk of the Uber and slipped into the back seat. As I always do, I turned on my map to my hotel and I realized was 13 minutes from my destination. I took a deep breath to relieve myself of the last 11 minutes of anxiety (sure do wish there was wine in Ubers) and I popped in my Airpods to call my bud who is always willing to chit chat while I commute. As I was chit chatting I was also watching the map. It was rush hour and I was 3 straight ahead minutes from my hotel when my driver looked in the rear-view to see if I was paying attention and cut across 3 lanes of manic Miami traffic to get on the wrong highway and rack up his bill. Immediately my map went from 3 minutes of green roads to 17 minutes of red road gridlock.

“Hold on one second.” I said to my bud on the phone.

“Excuse me sir, what the hell are you doing? Wait. Don’t answer that, I know exactly what you are doing. You think I am not listening or aware of the situation and you are trying to take advantage of me and my company’s dollars. You know damn well we were one mile from the hotel and you whipped across three lanes to increase your bottom line.”

“Um, uh, um, I don’t understand. You say you go to airport, right?” he mumbled in his fearful tone.

“Dude you just picked me up FROM the airport, why would I go there? I know what you are doing. I am smarter than I am tall.  How long to get me back to the airport?  Take me back there so I can get a new Uber.” I demanded.

“12 minutes” he trembled.

“Drop me off now. Here. Right here. Pull over.” I screamed.

“We are on the middle of a busy highway” he said. All the sudden he spoke perfectly fine, coherent and correct English.

“I don’t care. Stop.”

He dropped me and my little baby suitcase and backpack off right on the highway. I was wearing business attire and it was 88 degrees which in Miami’s humidity is equivalent to 137 degrees.  With instant monsoon sweat flood gates opened and no regard for what area of Miami I was demanding to be deposited, I didn’t think twice about this course of action.  Proving my point was more important than anything else.

As I got out of the Uber and grabbed my suitcase, I opened the passenger door and said, “Sir, you messed with the wrong blonde girl. You poorly stereotyped me and this will come back to bite you. This is not the end of this.” I slammed the door and found myself on the side of a busy highway. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Within 15 minutes, I was able to wrangle in another Uber. That was just the beginning of my adventure.

After a collective 90 minutes from airport to swankyish, Courtyard-esque SPG property, I got out and looked forward to a nice wine at a quiet bar with my laptop and headphones. Then I walked in the hotel door…

I am a Marriott-First girl, so said hotel was new for me. Upon entry, at 4:30 pm, I walk into a sea of men.  I am talking 50-60 of them, in suits with Stellas or trendy whiskies in hand.  What are they drinking these days Buffalo Trace? Monkey Shoulder? Some kind of ‘Rye’? It’s like “Gamification” of drinks. Whatever happened to the days of just ordering the most obscure and bitter IPA beers?  Anyway, I looked and tried to eye a seat where I could fire up my laptop, slap some headphones in and chit chat and have a high maintenance dinner order. It was at that moment that I realized, this dream was fiction if I stayed here. What did I do? I bailed. Literally!  New Uber, new hotel, new dinner. I waited 10 minutes for an Uber to cart me to my comfortable, yet also extra average but familiar airport Marriott.  Yep, I ended up back at the airport!

By the time I checked in I was hungry, wiped out and a tad bit grumpy. I ordered a salmon meal – clean- no butter or oil, just clean salmon and veggies. The food came smothered in butter and oil – oh and with some creamy sauce on the fish. Gross!  I’m a purist and, at that moment especially needed such some purity, as so far my trip was laden with greasiness.  Knowing I am a pain in the ass, I just broke it up and pushed it around in order to not make a scene. Well, the bartender was smarter than that. He knew I didn’t like it. Much to my dismay, he removed the food from my countertop and my bill, causing a bit of a spectacle. The gentleman next to me, we will call him Manny Soto, was interested in what was wrong with my meal. I explained to him that it was me, not the salmon.  It’s always “it’s me not you” with me.  After hearing about my salmon plight and this day, which kept getting not so good, 75 year old Manny and I decided to hit up a high class, well-known nearby restaurant that was recommended by a friend.  Place is an institution – predictable and quality.  How could this go wrong?  For those who know me and dine with me they know that I have to scope the scene before committing.

At this point, I am done with Uber, so I asked the valet if there is a shuttle. They tell me no, not for where I am going, but a cool $40 in cash convinced him otherwise. Bad, bad, bad financial decision. The driver pulled into the parking lot and Manny  instinctively knew to take charge on the restaurant recon mission so as soon as the car stopped he hoped out to scope the joint out.  I feel like Manny and I have known each other forever!  When he returned to the car he said “Smells good, nice and dark, good bar to use a laptop, 3 people in the bar, no one sitting AT the bar.” Nope. We are out! We buckle right back into the insanely overpriced shuttle ride and head back to the hotel.  When we returned, I ordered the same meal, from the same bartender, with the same specifications and this time, at 11pm, something was finally right with this trip.  Manny and I had a good laugh and a few wines while I scarfed down my food and then I looked at Manny, thanked him for the company and went to bed in my comfortable little Miami Airport Marriott.  As Will Smith said; “Welcome to Miami

 

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Christmas in Daytona Beach

I spent the last 2.5 years getting to know the guys and gals I worked with on my accounts. As of February 1, we had an org change. With this change, came a new team, a new boss, a new Regional Sale Director, and five new reps to support. This is exciting but also intimidating. The folks I have worked with for the last 45 months know me. They know I am controlling, willing to listen but not afraid to talk. They know I don’t rent cars and only use pencils for my notes. They know I tell fictional stories to my Uber drivers out of boredom. They know I’m always on time but that means an hour early for our meeting so I can create the room. They know I am obsessive with prep. They know I expect them to go first in the revolving door and I won’t stay in Courtyards. They know that my dinner order will for sure be a Russian River Chardonnay and a super modified steak off the menu (hold this, add that, no oil, clean, no starch, extra veggie…).

That being said, my new team doesn’t know me at all. I have no credibility with them, expectations or, more importantly, warning indicators of how much of a royal pain in the ass I really am. Sure, I warned my new boss. I told him he should talk to my old boss about how difficult I am. He said “you can’t be that bad.”  After this statement, I told him that every time we passed, I would share something really weird about me so he could understand.

First Three Passings:

“Fred, I make my bed up in hotels every morning before I check out.“

“Fred, I love hard cheese but I refuse to eat and hate melted cheese.”

“Fred, I refuse to wear jeans on a plane because I am convinced that denim attracts more germs.”

After these three passings, he gets it. I am weird.

I still have a Regional Sales Director and five reps that don’t understand or know me. This is where the story gets fun.

I am working with a new rep (not just new to me but new to our company) on a long-time account. We meet in the lobby to plan our meeting around 7:00pm when I arrived in Daytona Beach, FL. I am staying in a Residence Inn. For those who know me, this is a normally off limit hotel due to the lack of bar and rooms that are uncomfortably big for 24 hours. However; this one had a bar and was on the beach. From time to time, I’ll compromise. This was a “time to time.”  Beach and bar are some of my favorite things.

The new rep (who is lovely by the way) and I decide to go to dinner. Dinner includes a few apps and two Russian River Chards for me. This puts me right into my unnecessarily social money zone. We chit chat a bit and get off to a great start on getting to know each other. When we finish, I climb my 5 foot 2 self up into his giant truck and we head back to the Residence Inn. As we walk in, we decide to have one more wine. We turn to the bar and see that the bar is closed. Let me remind you this was criteria #1 in booking and it was only 9:15!

As we walk back to the elevator, I notice a great group of folks, sitting on coolers of beer in the lobby. As much as I wanted to judge, I was super impressed at the planning that went into this. I invited us to the party (you read that right) and we were immediately welcomed. Here we sat, two software sales friends interacting and getting to know 20 fleet drivers for a large food distribution company. At this point, we were just friends, enjoying Natty Lites and each other’s stories.

A few stories later and we decided to play Party Phrase, which is a mobile version of Catch Phrase. It is the perfect game for a group of 6-8 adults. We had 20, four of which were so toasted they couldn’t say their names, much less describe words and remember whose team they were on.

I am hyper competitive.  Whether it is about the account I want to win, the tennis match I am playing or the game of Party Phrase in the lobby of a Residence Inn with a bunch of fleet drivers in Daytona Beach, I WANT TO WIN.

At this point, everyone was committed to play because the loud blonde chick who won’t let us not play said so. Let’s stop here for a second and think about what my new workmate was thinking. Long story long, we all agreed to play. The first round, no one could remember who was on their team. I am a problem-solver. I had my handy- dandy backpack on me. I reached right in and found two stacks of sticky notes. This allowed me to identify each team with a color. They loved it. We went on to enjoy a great night with our new friends in Daytona Beach sporting colored post-notes on our shirts. Jason, Santa Todd, Hippy Mark, Little Jeff and Boss Man Bill, who I of course called Billy.

It moments like this where you realize traveling for work is exhausting but it creates memories with kind-hearted strangers that can never be forgotten. Cheers to making friends in the lobby.

Remember Always Clean Your Tray Table!

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We Now Interrupt This Blog for a Word from My Guest

I love when people share their travel stories with me. My friend Becky has lived everywhere and traveled everywhere. She is an incredible blogger and photographer, and I will admit to often living vicariously through her for the past decade.

What enticed me the most about sharing this Guest Blog is that she incorporated my style of writing and speaking in her story.

Enjoy and remember, Always Clean Your Tray Tables…

I love to travel. And I love (almost) everything about airports. I travel often. Not for work but because currently I’m taking a year off from teaching to travel as much as possible. I don’t fly first class, I don’t get upgraded, I don’t have an airline I’m particularly loyal to. Basically if the flight is a good deal, the plane doesn’t have duct tape holding critical pieces together and it’s going somewhere I’ve never been…I’m game!

That being said I found myself with an annoying 12 hour layover in Seattle in route for 3 weeks in Hawaii in February. I know, I know. Poor me. Anyway , what does one do with a mere 12 hours? I’m too cheap to pay for a decent hotel just to shower and sleep in but also wasn’t excited for 12 hours in an uncomfortable terminal seat. Enter the good ole world of Facebook and Google searches. Within minutes of landing (and $45 dollars later) I was comfortably lounging in the Alaska Airlines Terminal C Lounge. No doubt I was the only person in the lounge who hours before had eaten her home packed PB and J sandwich on the flight. But now I was in the world of unlimited alcoholic drinks, soup, salad, cookies, cheese, hummus…what more does one need?!?

I quickly calculated how many glasses of wine I’d need to drink in order to “break even”. 4 was the magic number! No. Problem.  I found a seat, got comfortable and immediately began my favorite airport activity of people watching. The crowd was a mix of business men, regulars that got greeted by name, solo travelers, a single mom and her young daughter and low and behold..let’s call her Bubbles(bc I have never seen someone down that amount of champagne in that little of time).

When I sat down, Bubbles was deep in conversation on the phone with her Mom. Bubbles, I would later find out was about to turn 50 but could pass for 40 any day of the week! She had just been to El Paso for the weekend but lives in Alaska. Anywho, I was trying so hard not to eaves drop…ok that not true, but in my defense when one talks loudly, holds champagne and flips their hair and head  back with every “omg!” You are bound to take a listen. Turns out Bubbles was in Texas sending a “friend” off for deployment. She went into great detail how much “exercising” they did together before he left. After giving her Mom lots of overshared details of their favorite “exercise routines” she hangs up the phone and strikes up a conversation with me. I despise small talk.

As an introvert it’s literally painful for me to engage in such tasks but when traveling, I’m a little more game for chatting and when there is wine involved…I’m usually always up for chit chat. I quickly learned Bubbles is recently divorced. Her husband was cheating on her with her boss. Her boss arranged for Bubbles to get a year long job transfer in Alaska. Bubbles took the job only to learn of the affair shortly after. Over sharers make me uncomfortable, but at the same time, I tend to find them refreshing. Maybe it was the champagne talking, but this lady ,within minutes of meeting me decided to share very personal details of her life. She went on to tell me how it’s actually turned into a life changing, positive, and happy year for her. I admire her outlook under less than desirable circumstances. And apparently she was having sex and lots of it. This she also shared. You go girl!

A few more downed glasses of champagne, and she was off to catch her flight (she got a notification it was boarding but stayed to finish her bubbly…I respect that). The rest of the time in the lounge was quite boring in comparison to the tornado that had been Bubbles. I succeeded in drinking my 4 glasses of wine (and perhaps more) and then was off to sleep on the airport floor for a few hours before my flight left.

Cheers to travel, small talk, and seeing the champagne glass half full!

Doctor’s Orders

Often times, I find myself trying to do as much as humanly possible in any small pocket of time that I have. Let’s be honest, not often times, all the time. Not too long ago, I was headed to Dallas to share a few ideas with some of our newer Account Executives. My flight was around noon which meant if I got up around 5:00 am, I had a little time to attend to my domestic duties and still make my flight. Clearly I was going to do this. 5:00 am rolls around, and I pop out of bed. I knew I had a small to do list of things I wanted to knock out while I was home. Weeding my flower bed was one of them.  Out I go to grab some pesky weeds. As I head back in I noticed that my hand was really itchy; however, there was no indication of any kind of sting or bite. At this point I ignored it, hopped in the shower and went on my way.

Over the next hour or so I, as made my way to my flight, I noticed my hand becoming increasingly more swollen. What is normally a veiny and boney hand quickly became a hand that looked like a latex glove that some 7 year old blew up like a balloon. When I landed, I knew I had to see a doctor. I truly couldn’t bend my fingers. Being in an unknown town, I decided use Google to help me decide which Urgent Care to go to. I found what I thought was the perfect one.

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I jumped in an Uber and headed to the doctor’s office. I walked through the door with my huge hand trying to grip my suitcase and awkwardly open the door for myself (if you travel you know the exact awkward, door and suitcase situation I am talking about).  As expected the door hit me and my suitcase on the way in. I walked up to the receptionist.

Upon check-in there was a note on an index card taped onto the counter “Ring Bell for Service.”  I was all in at this point. I rang the bell.  A few minutes later an older man came to the reception desk and asked how he could help. I showed him my hand and began to tell the story. He said “let’s just check-in and you can explain that to the nurse.”  As I am in the waiting room filling out my clipboard, I hear the man ask me again what the problem was. Only this time, he yelled across the waiting room. Granted, I was the only one in there, but there has to be some sort of HIPAA violation for asking for medical ailments from across the room. Rather than shouting, I walked back to the desk and quietly explained my massive hand. He again redirected me to the nurse. At this point, I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have minded my Uber coming back, getting door slapped again and heading to a new Urgent Care. Instead I forged on.

Upon completion of my paperwork, the receptionist asked me to be seated and told me the nurse would call me back. I waited approximately 15 seconds when I hear “Mrs. Foster?” in a tone of question as if there was anyone else in this establishment. The voice was familiar. “That’s me,” I said as I walked back to the open door. I was shocked to see The Receptionist. He walked me to the scale and said “we will be in Room 4.” He weighs me and asks for my height and then escorts me to Room 4. I sit down, decently confused. He says to me” what seems to be the problem?” I glance over my shoulders wondering if someone was playing a trick on me. He just stared at me waiting for a response. After I realize that he was genuinely waiting for a response, I said, “didn’t you want me to save these details for the nurse?” He said “I am the nurse.” Rather than inquiring more, I decided to go with it. After all, I work for a company that sells HR software than handles multiple position employees very well, so who am I to judge? I just wanted a stinking steroid so I could get the full value of my apposable thumb again. I explained to the nurse what happened. He jotted down a note or two, and told me the nurse would be right with me. He took his notes and my clip board and left. I could hear the clipboard go into the file holder on the other side of the door. You all know that noise. It’s the same one you hear when the doctor is grabbing it and asking the nurse what is going on before they walk in and consult you.

I wait about 10 minutes. Let me remind you, I am the only person in this place, and since I had been back in the room, there was no bell ringing indicating a new patient walked in. I hear the clipboard pick up and in comes the doctor. Get this y’all- it’s the same guy! No lie. I giggle a bit, but he is stone cold serious. “My notes tell me you may have been bitten by something making your hand swell. My jaw is dropped, but at this point, I decide to play along. “Yes, I was telling the nurse that I was gardening this morning and then on my plane flight, it just blew up. Do you see how big it is in comparison?” I showed him my hands side by side as if it were the first time I had done so. He analyzed them and then asked me what my sign was. I clarified, “as in my zodiac sign?” This was what he wanted to know. After telling him I was a Pisces, he got very theoretical about my life and choices and relationships and on and on and on. I reigned him back in, “so about my hand.” Eventually he determined that there was a 90% chance it was a spider bite, and I would be best treated with a steroid. He left the room and told me I could proceed to check out for my prescription.

Check-out and check-in were the same window. I waited patiently for my One Man Wonder to show back up with my script. As expected, he met me at the window with the bell. He said “I noticed you have a suitcase. How will you get to the pharmacy to get the meds?” I explained Uber. He was not comfortable with this so he demanded he drive me to the pharmacy. THIS IS A TRUE STORY.

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Well, for those of you who know me, I tend to just go with things. After a little push back, I agreed to ride with the “Docurseceptionist”. Semi-nervously, I follow him to the back of the building. We load up into his minivan. It had seen better days, and he had SpongeBob rubber floor mats. I would like to think they were for his children, but he was well into his late 50’s. I went to sit in the back. He insisted on me being in shotgun. At this point, if he was gonna kill me, my minivan placement wasn’t going to prevent that. On the 7 minute ride, he went back to the zodiac breakdown of me.(This is where I secretly snapped the photo). We pulled into CVS where I attempted to say my goodbye. The One Man Wonder said he would wait while I got my steroid and then drive me to my hotel. Hmmmmm… This is probably where I should have drawn the line.

You guessed it? I went with it. As I go to fill my drugs, I make quick friends with the pharmacists. As she checks me out, I quietly ask her if the drug she is giving me seems to align with a spider bite or one that may make a female go comatose. Refreshingly, it was the former. The One Man Wonder drove me to my hotel, wished me luck with my hand, and sent me on my way. I was fairly certain he was going to turn up in my hotel closet when I checked in, but he was just genuinely taking care of his patient. You simply can’t make this stuff up.

Until next time, it’s Flu season so, Always Clean Your Tray Tables.

A Business Traveler’s Resolution 2018

A dear, dear friend of mine gave me the great idea of creating a Top Ten list of 2018 Traveler’s Resolutions. Some of them will be specific to helping me grow, and some will be beneficial to all of us who travel on a constant basis. I have learned in my life that it’s the little things in life that go the longest way.

As I always do, I will start with a story.

As I was travelling to Dallas on Thursday, I forgot my new Bath and Body Works lotion was in my in my check on bag (such a rookie move). Ugh! As I saw my little, unnecessary suitcase get pushed off to the rubber gloves attendant checking line, I was so frustrated. I knew what it was. Couldn’t I just take it out and chuck it and move on? Nope, I had to wait and wait instead. As I stood there waiting my turn to have the rubber gloves run all over my undies, I watched as people lost perfumes, lotions, wrapped gifts and hair products that were clearly expensive. Some would shrug their shoulders, some would beg, some would be rude and some cry. It was interesting to watch, as  I sincerely love watching people. The gal just before me was kind of an eccentric chick. You could tell she didn’t travel often, but she didn’t suck at it. She took off her boots knowing that that had the steel rods in the heels, and she didn’t wait until waved into the scanner to go through knowing it was meant to be a fluid flow. Rubber Glove Guy frisked her floppy, little, hippy-looking bag only to find a little, tiny body spray. You could tell it was cheap, and it was mostly gone anyway. He held it up to her and she smiled and said “Hey man, thanks for doing your job and keeping us all just a little bit safer in our times of travel.” She went on her way.

Clearly, it’s this kind of thing that makes me take my AirPods out and attempt to engaged in a conversation. I rushed through my frisking, and did all I could to end up next to her on the train. Seeing as I normally get my way,  this happened. I put my AirPods completely away, and I told her, “Hey listen, I am in an airport about 50% of the days, and I really admire the way you handled losing your spray to security. I have seen so many rude reactions to people who are just doing their job. After all, the rules haven’t changed in about a decade, right?”

The hippie chick went on to tell me a story, albeit short, it was quite inspiring. Immediately when I heard it, I thought to myself, this is awesome. There are only a few people in the world who care enough about other people to do something like this for someone else. I have a handful of friends who fit this category, but not many. I know in 2018, I want to be one of them.

She said, “I didn’t used to be that nice, but you will never believe what happened to me. I was traveling to see my sister in Austin last month because we were working an exhibit. We are both artists, and we were working on a project together. It had been forever since I had traveled, so I absentmindedly, packed my art supply in my large carry on. There was approximately $400 worth of NEW paint in there all of which were over 3oz. in volume. As soon as I saw my bag go in for checking, I knew what I had done, but  I couldn’t miss my flight to go check it because of the exhibit. My heart sunk, my stomach turned over and my eyes filled with the biggest of tears. The man found the paints and asked what I wanted to do. You could tell he felt terrible. I explained that all I could do was leave them. I know for some business travelers, $400 isn’t much, but for me it’s almost a month’s rent, and big hit in my budget.” I stood quietly listening and honestly, I was fighting back tear for myself as she told the story. All I wanted was to have a stack of Amazon cards to dump into her hemp bag.

She went on, “I returned to Atlanta early Monday morning, and saw a TSA gate attendant with a brown grocery bag waiting at the top of the escalator with my name on one of the white boards. As soon as I saw it, I knew. He handed me the bag and smiled. Not only did the agent save my paint, but he went the extra step to find out my return time and wait on me to return them to me. Ever since then, I simply find the best in each situation and realize that they are just doing their jobs. Anyway, this my stop.” Jaw dropped, I said “I am Meredith. Merry Christmas. You just made my day.” She said “Bye Meredith. I am Iris. Merry Christmas to you too.”

Meredith (and hopefully Other Traveler’s) 2018 Travel Resolutions

  1. Carry a stack of $5 Starbucks Gift Cards to give to service men and women and exceptionally caring flight attendants.
  2. Give up an aisle seat for a middle when I can tell it would make the flight extremely more comfortable for them.
  3. Find an opportunity to take a First Class selfie with everyone in it and post on the blog.
  4. Compliment three fellow travelers on every trip, but make them authentic. I know if I take off my AidPods and look and listen, there are plenty of compliments to give.
  5. Sing a song with a fellow traveler in a plane, a train, an Uber or a hotel.
  6. When I see someone crying from leaving someone they love at the airport, remember for a minute, that the airport isn’t always a place of business, but for some, it’s goodbye to their friend, spouse or parent. Perhaps it’s a trip to say goodbye to a lost loved one. Perhaps it’s for a joyous occasion to see a new baby or a wedding, but maybe from someone who can’t conceive or who has been looking for “the one” for years. Take time to look around and be willing to hand over a tissue, be more patient in security or just simply make eye contact and say hello to them. In a nut shell, just slow down for a second.
  7. Snap a photo with a pilot with the cockpit in the background.
  8. Don’t eat more than one pack of Biscoff cookies per week.
  9. Pack my backpack with a small toy or fidget for the crying baby or toddler and give it to them when they can’t be consoled by a parent’s love. When the parent’s look at me and apologizes, simply say “Don’t worry. I get it. You’re doing a great job at the hardest job on Earth.”
  10. Always leave an individually wrapped Lysol wipe in the seat behind me for the next person so that they may “Always Clean Their Tray Table”.

Cheers to great trips, fun people, time with girlfriends on the weekend, new stories, and clean tray tables in 2018! Thanks for following!

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A Major Award- Miss Universe

Hotel Bars: This could be a blog all on it’s own. I do hotel bars completely opposite as I do life. For life, I am extra social. I don’t really need or desire “me time”, and I believe “me time” is also referred to as sleep. In social situations, I am normally the organizer and planner, and there is no shortage of wine intake or fun. For some reason, in hotel bars, I am the total opposite. There are several reasons I think that I am this way.

  1.  I love watching the night unfold as others come in and out and slug martinis and cabernet after work. Over the course of four hours, that gets pretty funny.
  2. Typically, I have work to do that I would prefer to knock out when I am on the road rather than at home.
  3. I don’t want to be one of the stars in the show mentioned in #1.

With all that being said, when I am in a hotel bar, I always find the corner either next to the service bar or on the opposite side. Whether or not I have work to do, my laptop is ALWAYS in front of me and my earbuds are always in. I don’t know why, but it’s just the way I roll in hotel bars. Sure, I could do room service and work in my room but I have a screaming aversion for popcorn ceilings and ambient light. More on that on www.MeredithisExtraWeird.com (kidding, that is not a website, but a true statement nonetheless).

Now on to the story… When I travel to Pleasanton, home of my work’s corporate headquarters, I always stay my last night in the SF Marriott by the airport. It is my favorite airport because they have great food and the best views of planes taking off and landing over the bay. It has a HUGE lobby bar full of corporate workers, families and international travelers. It kind of reminds me of the SkyClub on Terminal E in the Atlanta Airport. It was a Thursday Night, and I was settled in to my corner. Well on this memorable Thursday, my normal “I have no desire to talk to you social clues” were not working. I spotted this guy from across the bar looking my way, and then he started to stumble over. Unfortunately my corner seat had an open bar stool next to it. Ugh. This dude was smashed.  I am not talking about chatty and liquid confidence smashed. I am talking about offensive and sloppy smashed. This is probably better for me because I am much better at being mean to sloppy drunk people than chatty drunk people.

“Hey thereyoulooksbeaubeautiful in your flowugh dress,” he said to me while leaning into my space. “Letstalktoeach other and close work top laptop.” He then shut my laptop. Bad move Sloppy Joe. I bowed up a bit, and verbally keyed him into my social cues. I was quite abrasive, and if you have ever crossed my condescendingly raging path before, you’ll know it’s not a fun place to be. Sloppy Joe continued. The situation escalated. I put my headphones back in, grabbed my laptop and moved to the other side of the bar. He followed. I chose to ignore him from here on out. He didn’t choose to stop. The bartender took his drink and closed his tab. Sloppy Joe hated that. He went off the handle. He screamed to the bartender “Are you seriously taking my drink? I am just trying to talk to this hot bitch.” Of course I chimed in letting him know that he needed to work on his charm. He didn’t like that either. He reached over and grabbed my wine, letting the bartender know that if I took his, he was drinking mine. At this point, all I could do is laugh and the huge bar was all engulfed in this scenario. Moments later, the cops came and he earned a nice escort back to his hotel room.

Whew! When this ended, the bartender inevitably brought me a new unSloppy Joed chardonnay, granted me 2,500 free Marriott points, and I attempted to slip back into my reclusive hotel bar world. No such luck.

I turned to my left and there stood the nicest man, Chris Kyriaki. After some research I have found, that he is a legit dude who crowns people around the world for random reasons. Feel free to find him on social media. He is a stud. He had experienced the whole situation with Sloppy Joe, and he said that based on my response, I had earned “Miss. Universe- Kyriaki,” and with much ceremony, he presented me a sash and a crown to recognize the new honor. As much as I wanted to smash my face into my  laptop, go upstairs and fall asleep staring at popcorn ceilings, I decided the world was telling me to reload. I shut my laptop, loaded it in my backpack and enjoyed the evening with my new title and my new found friends. It was nice to feel like a wildly undeserving and made up princess for a day. Oh the people we meet and the things we do.

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Cheers to hiding behind laptops, but also shutting them down from time to time. Remember, always clean your tray tables. Happy New Year my friends!

 

Gettin’ Drunk on a Plane

I am going to start this blog off by saying; I am not innocent to drinking in the airport. In fact, I normally have a wine or bloody on every flight that is not on the way to a prospect meeting. That being said, I also don’t get rip-roaring wasted when I am traveling. Today marks the second time in six months that I have experienced someone who is truly wasted at the airport. I’ll tell the stories individually.

The first one was in Dallas at Dallas Love Field. I finished a meeting and headed to the airport about 2 hours early to knock out some work and grab a salad of some sort. As I settled into my spot, I noticed a table of friends around 25-30. They were knocking them back one after another. The gal in the group, probably only weighing in at about 120, had three empty shot glasses in front of her and a glass of red wine. Their volume continued to increase collectively by the half hour. I excused myself to the Ladies Room to slap some new curls in my hair and kill some time. As I was curling, Little Miss 120 stumbled in. I knew this was going to get good.

I tried to keep to myself, but all I could hear was hurling noises coming out of stall one. What do I do? I am a big helper to people. I know when I am in a mess, I want help. On the other hand, I knew she was wasted, and I was flat out tired. After about three rounds of what I am sure was hot, acidic and painful barfing, out she comes. “Wow! You have great curls. Great dress. You are so pretty. I love you,” she said. “Heavens for Mercy, “I thought. I went with it. She had vomit in her hair, tears in her eyes and ketchup on her shoes. It was a mess. We worked through it, cleaned her up and got her some water. I went on to finished my curls and load up on the plane. It was 11:45am on a Tuesday.

Now for drunken experience round two. It is actively happening right now. As per norm, I arrived at the Baton Rouge airport only to discover my flight was going to be delayed. In Baton Rouge, they like to delay in 30 minute increments until the grand total exceeds 4 hours, and then they start doing hourly delays. It is awesome. I arrived at 7:30 and went to “The Restaurant”. There is only one. The bar was closed with the lights off, but I sat there anyway because I needed an outlet to charge my laptop. I was plugging away at work when a gal stumbled upon me, literally running into my back as she plopped down in the seat next to me (right next to me). Mind you, there were 18 other available seats, the lights were off and the bar was closed.

She began talking/slurring to me with a sideways mouth. “Where is the Fu@%ing bartender?” she asked.  “Well, its 8:30, so I think they may not be open. I grabbed a coffee and grits from next door and decided to sit here to work and use the outlet,” I said. She continued to rant about Delta being late and there being no booze. She explained that she knows how to make drinks and was thinking about whipping one up. For entertainment purposes, I sarcastically encouraged her. Without any verbal notice, she got up and walked away. I thought she was going to mix a drink, but instead she just left. She left all of her stuff on the bar; phone, purse, suitcase, boarding pass, passport, all of it. I will say, I was entertained, but I was also busy and not in the mood to make a new drunken friend at 8:30 am in Baton Rouge.

Five minutes later, she returned. Get this, the chick went a found a bartender. Lights on and here we go. It was the same gal who made my breakfast, and she was just as sweet as could be. Drunken Monkey ordered not one but TWO double Titos on the rocks. Strong breakfast order for sure. The “bartender” looked at me and asked what I would like. I passed seeing as my coffee was still hot, and I knew I had a long day ahead. Drunken Monkey’s response to the “bartender” was “This woman is all professional, not wanting to get wasted this morning, sitting around doing her work on her fancy laptop with her fancy little dress on and her professional little phone. She probably even has business cards. Work work work.” The “bartender” looked at me and smiled. I just winked and continued working. For the next 4 hours, she never left my side. She called me “professional woman” by name for the entire day. When we finally boarded a measly 7 hours later, she quickly passed out and went on her way.

Remember, Always Clean You Tray Tables.

Traveler Question’s

1. They make such a big deal about not smoking on planes. Why do (even on new planes) have ash trays in the bathrooms?

2. What do you think about when you are landing? I think about how many snakes are in the woods? I also think about why businesses don’t sell their blank rooftops for marketing purposes. 

3. Do people really still read newspapers, like that home, or is that just an airplane thing? I’ve never understood newspapers on plane. It’s such a large and awkward reading material for such a small area. 

It’s Not You, It’s Me.

One day I realized that my blog posts might actually be more about me and my personality (um how do I say this nicely) ”quirks.”  So a friend offered to pen an autobiography.  We’ll call her Debbie because she nailed it like Dallas. I can’t believe how well she knows me or maybe I am just that obviously weird.

I follow my own (kinda crooked) arrow.

I started this blog because I notice things like how Holden was observant to the world around him.  I find humor and wonder in the goings on of every day.  I love people and their nuisances.  However, I’m also self-aware enough to know that my “observations” could also be a by-product of my OCD. I think I’m a bit OCD but not the kind where people say they have OCD instead of just calling themselves what others call them; anal.  Is asking for an airline blanket to be able to put your backpack and shoeless feet on anal or OCD?  Sure, some people make their hotel bed (only on an upper level floor – not a bed in a ground level room with exterior doors and definitely not in a room with adjoining doors) before the cleaning crew visits but do they also clean the shower, wipe down the toilet, recreate the first tissue box tissue pretty poof and then check all that three times before leaving the room?

So here are a couple of details about little ‘ole me.  Yep, I’m kinda little.  Sometimes I need help hefting my suitcase into the overhead bin.  I’m strong but, well, not tall.  And I’m not quite that ‘ole yet.

I was raised in the south, close knit family and all which accompanies that.  I think nowadays it’s called dysfunctional.  My people owned a meat and three in Bodunk, North Carolina.  My waistline didn’t like it but the primary recipe ingredient growing up was Crisco, we are talking white gravy-white biscuit-deep fat fried southern.   I grew up with what I like to call three brothers but technically only one pain in the neck of a brother and two similar cousins, so I was a bit of a tomboy.  “Hey watch this! Ouch!” was my motto growing up. I still got that attitude. By the way when you lose at anything in my family you will get heckled by goat sounds coming from the mouths of all of them so I’m now a tad bit competitive.

I used to be kinda big, um lb number started with a “2” at some point, but I’m not anymore.  That experience has shaped me (smaller dresses means more of them, neatly, in my suitcase next to my travel steamer) and gave me insight into the adage, “everybody’s going through something.” So I like to think it also helped me to develop, at least my old weight’s worth, in empathy awareness.

I’ve been lucky to have a bunch of life experiences from surfing on the coast while getting a couple of college degrees to being a ski bum in CO.  That has helped me become a gal who likes steak tartare and Russian River Valley chards (I do like the wines) as much as chicken wings.  But I don’t eat chicken wings so much anymore because we have some chickens in our backyard at our house, you know the kinda house with the fence in the front yard?  I love my chickens but I also love that we are five minutes from a metropolitan area where I can play tennis in a competitive league and whoop some stay at home mom ass.  My friends give me a bit of grief every occasionally.  I buy cute tennis outfits and then get on the court and grunt when I serve.  But, in my defense, it takes a lot of might for a short gal to get the ball over that net.  Some of that grief from my friends also comes from belting out Patsy Cline tunes when I get a little tipsy. “Tipsy” is what us Southern gals call drunk.

My favorite TV show is Jeopardy.  I kinda got a thing for Alex Trebeck, c’mon who doesn’t like an ageless, witty, sometime mustachioed Canadian? I love being able to answer all those questions in the comfort of my own home where people don’t think I’m showing off by being a smarty pants, I just like the game of it all.

While I used to be all about hemmed jean shorts, some kind of athletic sandal with unnecessary amounts of Velcro and shaved bangs (thank Heavens I was funny otherwise I would have had zero friends) I’m now as comfortable in an Ann Taylor Loft suit in a boardroom as I am getting spider bites planting peonies in my yard.  One day, I’ll write about the time my finger swelled up so big from a spider bite I had to visit an urgent care directly after getting off the plane and the 67 year old urgent care doctor insisted on giving me a ride in his Subaru to my hotel all the while explaining to me the virtues of dream catchers and zodiac signs.

My work takes me all over the country where I give presentations to a bunch of guys in suits in boardrooms but I also have audiences of people with their “feet on the street.”  My favorite parts of my job are working with my team and helping to try to craft creative, audience specific, presentations and messaging.

I travel so much I’m referred to as “Norm” in the Sky Club, Baggage Claim Carousel B Restaurant, every Marriott lobby bar,…….you get the point.  My life experiences and my desire to escape a little bit, I don’t have the attention span to read novels, compels to me write this blog.

And remember, ALWAYS CLEAN YOUR TRAY TABLES.

Backpack on a blanket- come on!

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