'Keep it Cool' When Facing Mother Nature
It’s been a dozen years, but I can’t shake the memory of having flown from Madison, Wisconsin to O’Hare, where I stood wondering if my flight home was going to make it out. It was dangerously close to Christmas Eve. I know I’m not the only business travel jockey who’s been in this situation: wondering whether force of nature or force of fellow traveler would somehow keep me from getting home for the holidays. Having been in this situation too many times to remember, I’ve come up with the following coping mechanisms:
Keep it cool: you’re not in the middle of a life-and-death transaction, even though it definitely feels that way. You know what’s in your control and what isn’t. Now is the time to keep calm – it will help you weigh your alternatives as they arise. It’s easy to say something as trite as “keep it cool,” but the reality is that it makes a profound difference.
Be the nice guy: the gate agents will have no shortage of angry customers when there’s a delay. Even if the snow is piling up on the tarmac, there will be (more than) a handful of people demanding a flight. When weather is the problem, you just don’t have many options. Where this tactic is useful, however, is when a flight is close to being oversold. If you “demand” anything, make it a middle seat at the back of the plane. And flash a smile when you do it. By asking for the least of all possibilities, you just might get it … or better!
Stay in touch: the whole reason for wanting to get home is your family, right? Hey, you have a cell phone: use it. Get on the horn with the kids; talk to your spouse. Keep them up to speed, and just generally talk. It’ll help all of you pass the time, and it will make you feel closer.
Don’t count seconds: I was guilty of this for a long time. I used to know the fastest way through the airports (departing and arriving), and the swiftest way from arrivals to home. Every last second counted … and it wound up driving me insane. Understand that when you’ve been home for a bit, that extra hour will be forgotten. It always is.
Know when to bow out: see someone in uniform? Give him or her a break. Chances are that person needs to get home more than you do.
Life as a road warrior isn’t easy. You never feel like you get enough time at home, and during the holidays, it’s easy to talk yourself into madness. Well, succumb to this urge, and that’s exactly what you get. The holidays are stressful enough; don’t make it worse.