Monday, July 16, 2012

Travel for work

Now in the first blog post that launched this travel blog I stated that
There are 2 stories that did not happen to me personally, these exceptions are marked as having been told to me, but are included as they are stories I believe really happened and can show some of the potential problems that can occur when traveling for work.
So here are those stories.

 It all started when I accepted a new position and was informed that the Thursday before I was starting, they were going to have a 5 year anniversary party, and that my wife and I were invited to attend. During the party they had skits and such from different departments. When it was the travel department's chance to present they chose to go with truth as it was stranger than any fiction that they could offer. They offered 2 examples of experiences that had happened to people in the company around travel.

Now keep in mind that I live in Israel, thus many of my co-workers over the years have been among those who only eat Kosher foods.  This fact will appear in a few of the following stories.

First of the Travel department's tales:
  1. It seems that the company had won a project to deploy software at a telecommunications carrier in India, and one of the engineers going kept Kosher. He was being sent on a 2-4 week trip for the installation and training. He did not know what food would be available in India so he packed his own to bring with him. Unfortunately, when he got there he found his bag had been flagged by security (not even customs) as it was leaking an off-white liquid.  When he opened his bag it turned out that one of the cans of corn he had packed had exploded due to the pressure difference in the airplane hold - leaving all his cloths covered in creamed corn. - Warning here is to always make sure that when you pack something that can leak make sure it is in a sealed bag just in case.
  2. There was a running gag at work that you had to be careful when you went to get a cup of coffee Apparently there had been multiple cases of people going for coffee who were waylaid by someone who need them to travel as they were the only one who could (solve the problem, present to the prospect, install the software, etc.). By the time that they had returned to their desk they had been convinced in the necessity of their traveling and were in the process of ordering tickets.
Now I have never carried canned corn, so I was not worried about that, but I can say the second warning was all too true.

One Saturday night I was called at home by a coworker from our New Jersey office. Seems that there was a big meeting in Texas Tuesday morning, and he would not be able to make it, and I was the only person in the company who could present the product to them. I explained that I could not travel that week as my wife was flying out in the morning for a conference and our kids could not be left home alone. He spent 20 more min trying to convince me to no success.

The following morning my wife left as planned. By 2 pm my VP was convinced that Ii needed to be the one to travel and eventually convinced me of it. I spent some time working with my in-laws to watch the kids for a few days and at 7 pm I had tickets in hand and went home to pack. By 9 pm I was at the airport, and by 11:30 I was in the air. So even though I do not drink coffee, the waring came true. I will tell more about that trip in a future blog post.

Now one of the things I hate most about traveling for work is how it can feel like all trips look the same:
  • Airport
  • Flight
  • Hotel
  • Conference room / Trade show floor
  • Hotel
  • Airport
  • Flight
  • Airport
Somewhere in there you find uninspired food and minimal views of the city from your taxi or bus window (less if you use a subway or underground transportation).

NowI hate that kind of trip and will tell you my many stories about traveling for work where I  found time to have a little fun and to see some of the sites while there. So to give a small tease here are a few headlines of up coming work related travel stories: (I will come back and add the links when the stories are posted).
  • Istanbul - The Blue Mosque and Medusa's' head
  • Moscow - Being asked for directions in Red Square
  • London - Building a conference booth while on Hop-on Hop-off bus or the too tall executive in the too small bed
  • Stockholm - Over lapping with my wife
  • London - 24 hours, 4 meetings, and no air conditioning
  • Barcelona - How Gaudí almost made me miss my ride

But back to Kosher food.

It is important that if you have special food restrictions (religious, allergy, diet, etc.)  that you do a little research about where you are traveling and what you can or can not eat in the local language.

On two separate trips my coworkers failed to take this simple rule into account, and I found myself acting as food translator for them.

The first occurred in Atlanta, Georgia. We were visiting a customer to work on the design requirements for the project and were authorized to take the 2 customer representatives out to lunch. This was a big thing for us as we don't usually get to expense meals, and it was big for them as they did not usually get taken out as they were engineers not managers.  Their preferred restaurant served assado, or if you are unfamiliar with it Portuguese barbeque. They bring skewers of different kinds of meat to the table and carve you a piece right in front of you. My coworker only ate Kosher style, meaning he would only eat things that could be Kosher even if they were not prepared in a Kosher kitchen. Thus beef, chicken, veal etc. are all permitted while pork is forbidden. It came down to me telling him what each dish offered was, and which he could or could not eat. Now as I understood his restrictions and speak English this was not a problem, so we all enjoyed the meal.

On the other hand, working a conference in Barcelona I found myself out to eat with out whole team of 15 people, some of which also would only eat Kosher style. So when it came time to order they were willing to eat fish if it was a Kosher fish. Since my high school Spanish was more than a bit rusty, I had a little trouble understanding what the name of the fish would translate to in either English or Hebrew from the Catalan the waiter used. Since none of them knew what the fish should look like when whole and raw, I got to take a trip into the kitchen in order to look at the raw fish being offered. It turns out that they were offering Grey Mullet,which happens to be Kosher and thus was ok for them to eat.
 So with that I leave you with this though, just because you have to travel for work it does not need to be boring.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome, Nice Story i Like the post and thanks for sharing this Stories.