For the last five years my job has required a LOT of travel. As in, my mother usually asks "so where are you?" when I call her because it's likely I'm NOT at home. Traveling for work is a mixed bag and there are times I really like it and times I really, really hate it.
This weekend was one of those trips where I think, "OK, this is actually a totally awesome thing to get paid to do."
I had to make a quick trip to Chicago for a little guerilla marketing project we are doing (the one some of you helped me with recruiting!) and was scheduled to leave first thing Friday morning. I stayed up way, way too late on Thursday night (trading messages on Facebook with a guy who used to date a now married roommate of mine and was curious about "what went wrong". The internet. Proudly wasting my time since 1994.) and arrived at the airport early Friday morning to find that I was seated in a middle seat AND the flight was delayed for two hours. So this was shaping up to be another great weekend lost to The Man.
I finally board the plane and I see that I am seated between two middle aged guys who appear to know each other. One of them offers to help me put my bag in the overhead compartment and because it is heavy and I have about four things in my hands, I let him. I'm busying myself getting comfortable when I look up to see he is still quietly struggling to stuff my slightly overpacked bag into the space so I feel bad that I'm behaving a bit like he's the hired help. So I hop up, help him push and offer my sincere thanks for the help. As we sit down it's clear that yes, he's with the guy on my left so I say, "oh I'm sorry, are you two together?" and Mr Left, who I discover has quite a charming South African accent, says "we know each other but no, we are not together." I laugh politely but I'm thinking, "oh boy, three and a half hours with a couple of jokers, can I get my iPod out now?" So I pull out a book, turn off the air conditioning and put my water bottle in the pocket in front of me. Mr. Right says, "geez, you move really quickly." So I'm getting the sense these gentlemen are going to be talkers. I fly so much that I just don't always want to get into awkward conversations with my seatmates and my experience with overly friendly middle aged men is that they usually want to hit on young single females and pretend they aren't wearing wedding rings. So I'm not super excited about getting into it with these two but figure maybe if we get it over with before we even take off they will doze off or read the paper or something. I ask them where they are from and they say Detroit. I know next to nothing about Detroit except you know, they make cars there. So that's my lame response-"oh, are you car guys?" Well it turns out they ARE car guys. Volkswagon guys. I happen to be one of those people with a sort of unreasonable attachment to my VW so I get all excited to be meeting members of the family.
I will spare you a bunch of boring conversation details but I ended up talking to my new friends all the way to Chicago. They were funny and cool and we talked all about their wives and their kids and jobs and Detroit how it's time for me to upgrade to an Audi (VW also owns Audi). The flight flew by and I was really glad I hadn't just slipped on my iPod and retreated into myself. We all exchanged business cards (I promised shoes for their wives and they offered a great deal when I was in the market for the upgrade) and I headed off to the rental car shuttle.
I get on the shuttle and it's just me and the driver-another friendly, talkative guy with an accent I try to place. We talk for a bit and I ask him where he's from originally. He says, "oh it's a tiny little place in Switzerland that no one has ever heard of. It's called Neuchatel." Yeah, well, anyone who served a mission in Geneva knows that city so I answer him in French that I have indeed heard of Neuchatel. The guy breaks into a huge smile and responds in rapid fire French that sounds so beautiful to my ears that I almost start to cry. Turns out he had also spent some time in a totally random city in France that was my first mission city. I never ever get to speak French anymore and it's sad how much I am losing but we had such a lively conversation that I was sad when we finally got to the rental lot.
I bounce off the shuttle, all a twitter after so many delightful interactions, and find myself in possibly the most animated rental car office on the planet. There are probably eight good looking guys working that day and all of them are talking and laughing and having way more fun than I thought you could at such a job. I go up to counter and in a sort of funny turn of events, the guy offers to let me take an Audi A-4 for the price of the compact. I take him up on it and soon I'm speeding down I-90 in a car that is ridiculously fun to drive.
Chicago is in my top 3 favorite cities and has quite a bit of personal signifigance for me. I spent a good chunk of a summer there as a nanny in college and I still feel a special connection to it. Driving in always makes me a little emotional anyway, and on a clear beautiful day that has already been pretty fun, it definitely got to me.
The rest of the weekend rolled on without a hitch, I ate delicious food, talked to a ton of women about my brand, walked all around Millenium Park, drove back and forth on Lake Shore drive a bunch of time with the sunroof open, taking advantage of the fantastic sound system in the car. I had an entire row to myself on the way home and managed to actually fall asleep for most of the flight and catch up on some much needed rest. I was back in time to meet up with an old coworker in town for the weekend, attend a GREAT church meeting today and even squeezed in a nice sunset bike ride at the beach.
I've been doing a little too much complaining recently so I'm not even sure I deserved a nice reminder that life is good but hey, I'll take it!