For about a month I’ve been planning to go to London for one day. That’s right. One day. The plan was to fly yesterday, at the end of the day, this for two reasons: 1) the way things are going it’s madness to be out of the office for very long and 2) people fly to Europe in the evening so they can hit the ground in a state of complete dementia, pretend it is daytime in their minds, work like beavers until they are seeing little pink wazirs everywhere, drink and eat like crazy people at what is actually the early part of the day back home, go to sleep in what should be the afternoon, wake in what feels like the dead of night, go to the airport and fly home in time to still log in a couple of hours at the office. Fun, huh? Welcome to Businessland.
At any rate, I was really looking forward to my crazy day. We have several cool operations there and I was really anticipating a good time talking to those folks, seeing what they do, discussing how we at Corporate might be able to help them, and eating prawns. For the record, I don’t much like prawns, but it seems to me that whenever I have been over there people are constantly eating them. Prawns with eggs in the morning. Prawns on crustless bread and butter at noon. Curried prawns with dinner. A couple of prawns before bedtime. Like that.
Anyhow, the day of our trip dawned bright and early as all days do right now, with a peek at the BlackBerry — which is better than a bucket of cold water over the head, believe me — a nice long shower and off to work. Work work work. Lunch at the desk. Back to work. Paper. Phones. More paper. More phones. A couple of face-to-face chinfests. Back to the phones. Yak yak. Buzz buzz. The usual sack of nuts and bolts.
And then? Before I ever knew where the time went, it was 3:30 and time for the Town Car to take me and my associate, whom I will call Young McTavish, to the airport. “Let’s see,” says Young McTavish as we grab our bags and saddle up. “I want to make sure I have my passport in easy reach.”
Then it all went dark. A gooey, swirling sensation took away my sight, my balance. My face grew hot and flushed. My legs felt like strips of undercooked calamari.
“Your… passport,” I choked out. And in my mind bloomed a very clear picture of my passport, safely tucked into a drawer in my night table… in California. I, of course, was in New York.
And that is why I am now writing this to you from my desk back home, at lunchtime. In London, where it is coming on evening, I imagine all the folks that had set up a strenuous day for me and Young McTavish are breathing a long sigh of relief and saying to themselves, “Well, that Bing. What a wanker. But it sure made for a more relaxing day!”
I wish I could tell you that I had forgotten my passport, but that would not be true. Never in my mind did it every occur to me to think about a passport. I’m a business person. I fly all the time. I come and go as I please. Sometimes I fly on the corporate jet, where you don’t even have to go through security nonsense. There develops, over time, a sense of entitlement that deludes you into believing, in a way, that you sort of float above the rest of world. Passport? Hm?
In addition, there’s the fact that we’re always everywhere. In the last month I’ve been in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Hawaii, some other places, too, and I didn’t need anything but a driver’s license for any of those. The fact is, I never really know where I am, or what time zone I’m in, or what day it is, really. I go places. I work. I try to goof off as much as possible. I live on two coasts, with stuff both here and there. So… London? Why not London? It’s not another country! It’s business, right?
And finally, there’s the fact that after a couple of decades doing whatever this is for a living, I am very slowly and inexorably losing my mind. It’s partly stress — the effects of five life-threatening crises a day for a dog’s age. It’s the constant travel and ubiquity of electronic intrusion, too. There are no weekends anymore. No nights. No summer, really.
And so, on the Wednesday before Labor Day, in the city of New York, I am where I was not supposed to be, and have one whole day with no meetings, no lunches, nothing on my calendar at all.