Planes, Trains & Automobiles
No, I’m not talking about the incredibly funny and somewhat uncomfortable movie involving John Candy and Steve Martin, but it does have an interesting parallel. Just the other day, I was in Chicago and proceeded to take my own John Candy / Steve Martin day trip through the amazing “Windy City”. As I began my day, the beautiful weather lady on the local Fox channel explained that the day would be one of the most beautiful days that Chicago had seen since last year. To be honest, she was right!
As I ventured out to my vehicle from the hotel, the sun shown so bright that I immediately needed my sunglasses. As I crawled into the rental car (this is the second one from Avis in two weeks where the steering wheel was sticky to the touch – what on earth are they cleaning their cars with, or better yet, are they truly cleaning their cars? – note to self, always travel with Wet Ones – it makes the car rental / travel experience more hygienic and less of a concern that one might contract leprosy or some other strange disease because the rental company has decided to hire people who seem to care less about their job and more about complaining that some colleague has taken more than 15 minutes from their scheduled break!) - Okay, minor rant! Back to the day at hand…
So, I’m off to my morning meeting and discover that everyone else in the entire city and surrounding suburbs of Chicago have exactly the same meeting at the exact same time as I do! Now, I do realize that is not altogether realistic, but to be fair, the traffic certainly seemed that way! Holy Smokes! I’m not sure a single person had arrived anywhere – they were all on the road with me. It’s not like I’m from a small town. I grew up in Houston and have lived in Dallas for the last 20 years. I’ve even driven in downtown Manhattan (yes driven – but, that’s definitely a story for another day) during rush hour and it did not compare to the onslaught of traffic all heading in my same direction that morning.
Following my morning meeting, I began thinking it was a good thing that I was heading back in the “reverse” direction from which I had come. So, good news and bad news. Good News: Not everyone had decided to get back on the road. Bad News: It would seem that half of the people heading in my direction first thing in the morning were now also heading in my direction back the way we came. How is that possible? I mean, I am just visiting so it should be okay that I’m driving on the road at mid-morning. But, what about all of these other people?
Regardless, I was in a great mood! I had been in meetings the last few days with some great clients and great people. It was a good trip and I was wrapping it up with a trip to a day game at Wrigley Field. What could be better? The easiest way to Wrigley? Well, Trains of course!
So, I jump on the “Blue Line” Train to Wrigley. Before going, I asked the Bell Man at the hotel for a few directions, since this was my first time to take this specific trip. He explained that I should get off at Addison and then the stadium is “just down the street” (for those of you who live in Chicago, you probably are screaming out loud at your monitor that I’m an idiot and that Wrigley is a 3 mile walk from Addison Station – you would be correct!). As my colleague and I jump on the train, we recognize that we have chosen the wrong car. It was headed in the correct direction, but the gentleman sitting to my left had decided to talk to everyone on the car. He had an opinion about everything! I’m not sure of his final destination, but I’m pretty sure it was somewhere 40-50 opinions down the track. Having a conversation with my colleague was difficult, to say the least. While we were not engaged with this random individual, we were forced to remain silent or speak loud enough to be heard over his conversations with other unwilling social participants! Needless to say, Addison did not come soon enough. Now, back to the Bell Man’s directions. If you are the Bell Man at Hilton Rosemont and you are reading this right now, Kudos: we skipped the bus line and went straight for the “short walk” down the street. One hour later, we could finally see Wrigley in front of us and were excited that we were finally going to get to enjoy the game, in person. In case you were wondering? Yes, we took the bus back to Addison station. It was a much easier trip back. Chalk one up to experiential education!
When I returned to the Hilton, it was straight to O’Hare for my flight back to Dallas. For those of you who travel often, I can hear you chuckling as you read this! First, I needed to return my rental car. The lady who checked me out was quite friendly – a nice relief to what I was expecting to greet me based on my original “check-in” process. Speaking of checking out at Avis, I mentioned earlier about the “sticky” steering wheel. I forgot to mention the toll tag case that had fallen down due to lack of adhesive. When I asked the lady who is in the booth when checking in if she had extra adhesive, her response was a very quick “no”. When I asked if she would mind getting me some? “No”. When I asked if she knew if they had any that I could get, you guessed it: “No”. She did give me a “helpful” tip to just leave it on my dash and it would be fine. She failed to mention that every time I would take a turn in my vehicle, the unit would slide “to and fro” and having a toll booth actually read it might make for entertaining video in my attempt to grab the unit while driving and hold it in the dash window at each booth. Regardless, I did survive.
This brings me back to O’Hare: my flight was delayed. Surprise! A delayed flight at O’Hare. But, the folks in the American Airlines Club were fantastic. “Hats off” to Maria, the bartender. She is an amazing person and constantly finds ways to stay positive with a great smile and excellent customer service. The flight attendant on my flight was fantastic as well. At the end of the day, I returned home at 2:00 am on Saturday morning.
The point of all of this ranting is the general discussion about Planes, Trains and Automobiles – otherwise known as our daily commute!
It’s interesting that much of our life is spent in transit. From commuting back and forth to work, to traveling across the country for meetings, presentations, etc., our lives exist in motion. When speaking to executives and/or other individuals in the workforce, I've noticed a very common theme: “How do I increase happiness in my job through spending more time with the people who are important to me?” Having a solid work/life balance is something that more and more people are striving to achieve. For those organizations attempting to recruit millennials, be prepared to address this questions: “does your company support a work/life balance or do you offer flexible work hours and an opportunity to work from home occasionally?” While I know many of the executives reading this are gasping at the thought of an actual “work from home” policy, it is inevitable. Just as cell phones are now commonplace in meetings, having a flexible work schedule and work/life balance is just around the corner.
So, in order to avoid the terrible trek of John Candy and Steve Martin (if you haven’t seen the movie, you should, it’s very funny), millennials will begin to reshape how corporate America views a flexible work environment. We had better get on the plane, train, or automobile (choose your own metaphor) – or be left in the dust covered tumbleweeds of the cities that stood their ground and wouldn't let the train come through their towns less than 100 years ago!