On the road again


I’m supposed to travel regularly for my job, but have been stuck in the office for the past six months. In the past week, I’ve been to Atlanta and Laurel County, Ky.

I love being on the road. I don’t love the numerous indignities that come with business travel.

I can’t complain too much. My trips are short and infrequent compared to my colleagues who spend 100-plus days on the road each year.

But I can complain a little.

The rental car company, forced upon us by corporate contract, continues to underwhelm me. After trying to charge my rental to the wrong credit card (and almost leaving without transportation), it screwed up my order anyway.

Wednesday evening, I have the keychain as I wander the company lot in the dark, trying to find the car that had been delivered earlier. I can’t see the vehicle description on the keychain tag, so I press the buttons on the fob over and over looking for the mystery car.

Except, it’s not a car. It’s a van.

I hate driving big cars, so you can imagine how I feel about a minivan, getting blown all over the interstates for a 12-hour drive.

I climb in (yes, climb) and realize I have no key. Oh, crap, I must’ve dropped it in the lot somewhere, the very dark lot. Before I scour the ground, I realize the fob has the key hidden inside.

Press a button like a switchblade, and out pops the key. Clever, yes, but I’m sick of being the guinea pig for new car features.

For example, during the start of a Raleigh trip, I couldn’t get the parking brake lever to release. No button, no release lever, nothing. I panicked.

I went back into my hotel, begging someone to help me, before I was late for my assignment. A kind gentleman came out to the lot, hunched down to twiddle with the foot pedal parking brake, then showed me the trick: You had to push the pedal down farther to release it.

Never in a million years would I have guessed.

I thanked him profusely, then sped off to my interview.

The photog who followed me to Kentucky in her own SUV laughed at the so-called van. Kinda like an SUV, kinda like a smallish minivan. Definitely not a mid-size car as I had requested.

I joked that I was glad it had airbags, for when I drove it through the front window of the rental car office. Boo hoo, I had to drive a van for 12 hours.

Except that I always freak a little when driving rentals. It takes time for me to adjust to the handling, the mirrors, the braking, finding the lights for nighttime, turning on the wipers for rain, figuring out which side the gas cap is on. A van just adds to the unneeded stress.

We knew it would be cold in Laurel County, Ky. We knew we’d be outside for part of the shoot, in 11-degree weather. This morning, I saw that the cold was historic. The previous record for a low on this date was 8 degrees, but the new record for this area: 7 degrees.

We even drove through falling snow (no accumulation) on the way up. Crazy.

Business travel is glamor free. You put up with abuse and bad food and mishaps, and you roll with every punch. Forgotten peripheral? Work around it. Tight schedule? Eat on the run. Bad Internet connection at the hotel? Try the designated business center PC.

Grit your teeth, enjoy the scenery, and scurry home in one piece. It’s all you can do.

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