A Matter of Perspective
By Peter L DeHaan
the publisher of a trade magazine, I travel to conventions and
industry shows. And as a consultant, I travel to my
clients’ offices. Therefore, it may surprise you
that I don’t like to travel, especially to fly – the
unpredictability, the impersonality, and the loss of control.
I am a homebody, perfectly content to stay within the comfort
of my home – my castle – which is also my office. It’s
not that I am people adverse, because with the telephone, email, and
IM (instant messaging), I am always in communication. It
is simply that I enjoy being home and anything else, including travel,
pales with the comfort of home sweet home.
any traveler, I have many stories. One time,
awaiting a connecting flight in Detroit and anxious to return home, I
sat at the sparsely occupied gate, immersed in my crossword puzzle.
Suddenly, an announcement interrupted my focus, “Now boarding
all rows, all passengers for flight 3512 for Kalamazoo; this is the
final boarding.” Strange, I mused; I had
apparently tuned out all the previous announcements. Grateful
that I heard this one, I walked alone to the gate and handed the agent
my ticket. “We wondered if you were here,” she
smiled. Perplexed at such a strange comment, I
smiled back and inanely replied, “Yes, I am here,” and proceeded
through the doorway. The door shut behind me.
Walking down the empty jet way, I stepped onto the plane; the
flight attendant informed me that I was the only passenger.
She asked if I would be needing beverage service. I
thanked her and joked that she could take the night off. Later,
as I deplaned in Kalamazoo, I inquired if this thing happened very
often. “Occasionally,” she replied. “Once the
plane was empty. But we have to fly anyway, because
it needs to be in Kalamazoo for an early flight the next day.”
So, for the price of a normal commercial ticket, I had a
private flight with a personal flight attendant.
time, while anxiously waiting for my flight to Chicago – where I had
a tight 40 minute connection – there was an announcement of a delay:
30 minutes, then an hour, then more. Finally, two
hours past the scheduled departure, we had boarded and were ready to
taxi. Then an unusual announcement has made.
This was to be the captain’s final flight for the airline, as
he was retiring after 22 years of service. To
celebrate, several members of his family were on the plane with him.
As was tradition in these cases, we would taxi past two fire
trucks, which would spray a canopy of water over and on the plane.
As we proceeded, parallel to the terminal, I noticed the
windows lined with airline personnel, waving their goodbyes.
Soon, passengers irrepressibly began waving back. Then
came another surprise announcement, “Because this is the captain’s
final flight, ground control has given us priority clearance for
departure; we are next in-line for take-off.” Never
before had I witnessed such a speedy departure. The
runway even pointed us towards Chicago. In
seemingly no time, there was another announcement, “We have enjoyed
a strong tail wind and we are getting ready to land in Chicago.
Because this is the captain’s final flight, air traffic
control has given us priority clearance to land.” Again
it was a straight shot to the runway and we quickly landed.
Then a third unexpected announcement was made. “Because
this is our captain’s final flight, ground control has given us
priority to taxi to our gate.” “Could it be,”
I wondered as I glanced at my watch. My departing
flight left on time – and I was on it!
my final story, I was traveling with two co-workers. We
were headed home, again connecting in Chicago. It
was winter and we landed only to learn that our flight home, the last
one of the day, was cancelled due to weather. As
the more savvy travelers snapped up all the rental cars, we sought
other options; alas, the only one was to spend the night in Chicago
and fly home the next day. That was the last thing
I wanted to do. I anticipated sleeping in my own
bed that night and anything else would be second-rate. Plus
one of my associates was ill and the other was beginning her vacation
the next morning with an early fight out for a cruise. If
we delayed until the next day, she would miss her flight and part of
the cruise. There were no more flights, no buses,
and no rental cars. We were 150 miles from home.
It was a desperate time, which called for desperate measures.
Outside, a city employee was orchestrating cab rides.
“What would be the possibility of getting a cabbie to take us
to Kalamazoo, Michigan?” I inquired. “We really
need to get home tonight,” I desperately added. Glancing
at our discouraged and tired faces, she responded positively, “Let
me find you a good ride.” After putting local
fares in the next five cabs, a nice new cab, with a competent looking
driver, pulled up. “This is your cab,” she
smiled, with a grand wave towards our coach. She
had a preliminary discussion with the now bewildered cabbie.
Once I assured him that I could provide directions, we were
off. Four hours later he dropped us off at the
Kalamazoo airport. I paid the $380 fare and we each
headed home. Later the airline refunded our unused
tickets, so the net cost of our 150 mile cab ride was only $30.
there were other stories I could have shared, remember I don’t like
to fly, I picked these for a reason. Each one is
positive: a private flight, a priority trip, and an accommodating
cabbie. These represent the perspective I have when
I fly. I call it travel mode. To
successfully travel, I need to be in travel mode. There
are three aspects to it:
a plan: If you don’t have
a plan to occupy the idle time when you fly, you will be bored and
irritable. My plan starts with magazines to read.
I don’t take ones I want to keep, as each one gets thrown
away when it is finished, making my load a little lighter.
Magazines are for sitting in gates, standing in line, and
before take off. Naturally, there are crossword
puzzles in the in-flight magazines to occupy the actual flight.
Movies, another favorite pastime, are a welcome offering on
longer flights. Plus there is the added benefit of
the more objectionable material being edited out of the film.
Finally, there are the rewards I give myself at each hub
airport: food; frozen yogurt or popcorn are much anticipated treats.
My plan beneficially fills my travel time. (I
have another comparable plan for hotels.)
realistic: I used to have
the expectation that an airline schedule was an accurate
representation of what would happen. The fact that
airlines begin padding their schedules to boast a higher on-time
arrival, did little to erase my frequent disappointment. Then
I realized that a more reasonable attitude was to assume the plane
would be late and to rejoice with an on-time or early arrival.
Here’s why. Let's say a trip has two
flights there and two flights back. If one flight
is late, do your remember the three that were on time? No,
you dwell on the one that was late. Now look at it
mathematically. Assume that each flight has an
on-time arrival of 70%. That means that for the two
flights to get to your destination, you only have a 49% chance that both
flights will be on time. To include your return
flights, you only have a 24% chance of all four planes being on
time. And if you have three flights (two hubs) in
each direction, your odds of all six being on time drop to 11%.
With proper and realistic expectations, your chances of being
disappointed are greatly reduced. This isn’t
optimism versus pessimism; it’s realism.
the most of it: Is business
travel something to be endured or an experience to be relished?
If your perspective is one of tolerance, then you will
gravitate towards the negative. If your perspective
is one of adventure (I’m not quite there yet), then you will
remember the positive – like I have done with my three stories.
And there are many more. You meet people by
chance whom you will never see again, yet a lasting impression is
made. A simple kindness to another traveler uplifts
one’s spirit. Even spending time to check out the
airport architecture or infrastructure is not without its rewards.
have just shared my prescription for travel, the perspective I need
for a successful trip. However, this can be applied
to any task or endeavor in order to realize a positive outcome: have a
plan, be realistic, and make the most of it.
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