Tuesday. LA to Chicago and being scared witless
5:30 a.m.: Normal gym/shower/breakfast routine before checking in with our UK and French team. Hit the road to see a customer by 8.30 a.m. On site for a further lengthy meeting and head back to the airport for another two flights: LA to Phoenix then Phoenix to Chicago.
9.00 p.m.: get my hire car in Chicago, after a delayed shuttle bus journey to the rental pick up. I try to use the same car rental company, in the interest of loyalty privileges. It means I can select the car of my choice. I find one, a nice shiny Grand Cherokee. I pop the automatic boot. I jump back in horror, and then disbelief.
I am staring into the darkness of the boot, eye balling two small bodies. They can’t be human…surely?
You can relax now…
Upon closer investigation and gathering composure, they aren’t. They are ventriloquist dolls seemingly left in the vehicle by the previous renter. For a split second I expect a candid camera to pop up.
I reach into the boot, attempt to lift the less serious looking one of the two. Bad move. As I do, the other one’s head moves about three inches to the left. That does it. Boots closed and I seek out another vehicle, one without the spooky accessories
Wednesday. Chicago, chaos and a suitcase that moves on its own?
7:30 a.m.: leave hotel after the standard routine. After my first appointment manage to get a nutritional lunch at one of my favourite road-side chain’s Panera Bread. Then onto another productive meeting with a client and back to Chicago airport.
Discover the flight is delayed by 1 hour and 20 minutes. Not too bad, except it turns into 3 hours.
Bad turns into worse as the flight then flashes up as cancelled. The next available flights wouldn’t get me to my destination until 11 a.m. on Thursday. But I have a meeting at 10 a.m. After kicking up a little fuss at the American Airlines help desk, my bags are promptly removed from the hold. I have no other option but to drive. For 9 hours.
I start at 7 pm and pull in at a motel 6 hours later, one of those places that are typically seen in American horror films. To put it politely, it’s rough. Should I sleep in my clothes? – Yes, that rough. Halfway through the night, I’m convinced I see my suitcase move across the floor. Maybe I wasn’t alone in the room after all.
Thursday to Friday. Syracuse, New York and a sigh of relief
6 a.m.: complete the drive. Rather pleased with myself to reach the potential new customer on time, the meeting certainly made the pains of travel worthwhile. I’m going to win the business. I’m convinced of it.
After a second appointment with another client I feel invigorated. Not even the 8 hour drive over the course of Thursday evening and Friday morning can dampen my spirits.
After a final meeting outside New York, I head back to JFK. I start to feel a little weary. Drop off the hire car. Breathe a big sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge I am on the homeward leg. I’m looking forward to seeing my little boy and my family.
Manage to get a few hours’ sleep on the flight home. Touch down in the UK at 6 a.m. on Saturday. Reach home comforts at 11 a.m, having had time to reflect on what was a tough, but rewarding week.
Ventriloquist dolls. Vegetable deprivation. Why do we do it?
Simple. We want to.
Gary: “It’s a privilege to be on site with customers because it means they trust us with their IP. And the feeling of satisfaction is worth every hour spent travelling, when we get to use our expertise to help. Like suggesting you increase the ramp-up time of your furnaces and give your ceramics more time to get to working temperature. Which means they last longer and crack less. Or replacing that problematic steel part with a ceramic version, that you had no idea was a possibility.
“I love seeing the improvements and end results that come when we work with customers long term. And all because I walked through the door three years previously. That is really rewarding.”