I’ve always been a strong believer that face-to-face communication is far better than indirect forms. Sure, phone and email are much more convenient, but words alone, combined with poor writing skills (especially my own) in the case of email, make both greatly inferior to looking a person in their eyes while hearing what they have to say. Because of this, I traveled a lot on business. Many years, I was on the road for at least some part of the week, most weeks of the year, sleeping away from home about half the working nights every year. I was often on the road for weeks at a time. I’m no hero and there are many who travel even more, but I believe I qualified for the frequent part of frequent traveler.
Like many of you, I was a million-mile flyer on several airlines and had platinum, premier, elite or other god-like status on most others. Flight attendants recognized me; the people manning the airline clubs knew me by name; hotel employees remembered my preferences; and car rental agents made sure they got me the car I wanted. I had a wallet full of travel cars and I knew just about every shortcut at every airport I routinely traveled to. If my flight was canceled, I was booked on another one before I left the gate area. If the weather was bad, I had a hotel room at the airport reserved in my name. And, when I did travel with my family, I did so freely as a result of all the miles I built up.
In those days, I would walk through the airport and scoff at the amateurs. I would marvel in how lost they were and how little they knew of the system. While they struggled in long lines, I waited until the very last minute before boarding my flight. I was a ruler of my little world. Pathetic, I know, but you gotta feel good about something, right?
Not any more. When it comes to travel, I’ve forfeited my professional status to once again join the ranks of the amateurs. My 100,000 mile/airline/year travel rate has dwindled to several thousand miles on a few airlines. I stand in lines; I’m ignored by desk clerks; I’m surprised when a reservation is correct when I arrive; no one knows my name or what I like. Very sad and very time-consuming . . . just like for everyone else. I’m no longer special.
I used to have a bag half-packed in my closet with a complete duplicate shaving kid and pre-loaded essentials. I could be completely packed for short business trip in less than five minutes. My briefcase was also ready to go. Writing instruments, glasses, notepaper, chargers for everything electronic I own, drugs, vitamins, and even food. A kiss to my wife and kids and I was airport bound. Perfectly prepared.
But like an amateur, on my current trip, I forgot my sunglasses, cell phone charger and clothes to work out in. I’m sure I’m missing other things as well, I just haven’t discovered what they are yet.
This all comes to mind as I’m sitting in my seat on a plane. The captain just came back to thank the passenger next to me for flying his 10,000,000,000th mile on this airline, or something. That could have been me, I thought, I coulda been a contenda. Of course, I don’t miss the traveling at all. I do miss the benefits when I’m on the road, though. I also hate the feeling of being an amateur among the traveling professionals around me – so unworthy. In the end, I wouldn’t trade what I’ve got to spend all that time on the road again, but it sure would be nice to get more professional benefits with my sub-gold card status.