Telecommuter Travels

The point of telecommuting is that you don’t have to commute. You work where you live and live where you work which is, for the most part, awfully convenient and comfortable. It certainly does save on gas expense and vehicle maintenance, not to mention the wear and tear on your brain having to navigate busy highways full of other commuters.If you’re telecommuter, working at home sometimes brings with it some travel excursions. I’ve been lucky enough to have the need for travel (with someone else meeting the expenses incurred) three times over the past couple of years. On one excursion I got to take the whole family with me, which was thrown in as a special Christmas bonus. How awesome is that?!

My most recent foray into the world of travelling led me to New York city. I’d been there once before when I was 18, not that I care to give my age away, but it was quite a long time ago. I left my home on a Monday morning and returned on a Thursday night, spending every day in between either in transit or in New York attending meetings (rendering me almost too tired to make my way around the big apple at the end of the day). Just for fun, I thought I’d share a bit of my experience with you…

The flight to LaGuardia went rather well, although I was a bit surprised when I went through the door to board the plane only to discover a flight of steps leading me down to the tarmac (or whatever it is you call the paved area where planes lay in waiting). Climbing the set of steps that they had rolled and locked over near the plane, I had to duck my head to enter the aircraft and found only one seat on my side of the aisle. Determined to pretend that I’m a seasoned traveller, I tried to not let the size of the aircraft frighten me. And all went well, with only slight turbulence on the flight which actually took off an landed ahead of schedule. …

The cab ride from LaGuardia to the hotel was another story. Did you know that the tolls there are like $4.50 each way?! I know because the cabbie adds that to your bill. I also discovered that cabbies must have nine lives because they don’t appear to be afraid of losing one. And evidently there’s a special New York law that says that yellow cars do not have to choose a lane because the cabbies seem to linger in the middle to ensure their ability to take the faster of the two at any given moment.

The hotel I was afforded was huge and nice – with quality soft linens, down pillows and a down comforter; none of which did anything to help me sleep through the noise of the city. I live in the country and am conditioned to hearing the neighbor’s odd rooster sometimes confuse the middle of the night with dawn and the occassional barking dog disrupting my sleep. Evidently in New York, it is common practice to handle all major construction work at night, banging and buzzing by the light of every building that’s still operating as though it were mid-afternoon. The view out my window looked the same whether it was 3pm or 3am which blew my mind. The local diner here opens at 6am and closes by 2pm (or whenever the last customer leaves the lunch counter).

Escalators are also different in New York. There’s an escalator in the mall that’s about a forty minute drive from here. Folks there step on and then ride their way up or down when needed. In New York, it is not acceptable practice to stand still on an escalator at all. New York escalators are simply faster stairs – not a way to stand idly by and let the stairs carry you up (or down), but a way of climbing stairs faster. My apologies to the guy behind me on my first trip up the escalator!

The other apology I owe New York is that I’m sorry for waiting at crosswalks for the little white image of a person walking to appear before jumping across the street. I think it must just be a suggestion there.

On the day my flight was scheduled to leave, New York was blessed with a small snow storm. The snow was beautiful and I enjoyed the look of the city before deciding that it might be a good idea to get myself over to the airport and check on earlier flights. The very helpful information desk lady at the hotel indicated that LaGuardia would probably be having problems towards the end of the day, so I checked out of the hotel and waited in the cab line to catch a ride.

The cab I climbed into had an inch of standing water on the floormat which I assumed had come from folks who’d gotten in and had the slush and water from their shoes pool up on the floor of the cab. However, within a few minutes I discovered that the cab roof was actually dripping water down onto the back seat and onto the floor. Protecting my laptop in its case on my lap, I prayed silently for safe travel as this cabbie (also an apparent cat with eight lives left to go) sped and slowed at rapid increments until arriving with an abrupt stop at the airport.

Entering the airport, I learned that human interaction is a thing of the past. I wanted to go to the airline counter to talk to someone, see what other flights might be available and switch my ticket for earlier passage. You can’t do that – there are people there – but they make you use the little machine and punch buttons. Fifteen pages later into the process, I had secured an earlier flight boarding pass (with no receipt of the transaction costs) and evidently alerted the guys behind the counter to come and put tags on my luggage. I waited for the people – the ones that were there watching me throughout the entire process – to tag my luggage for the appropriate flight and was then told to bring my luggage over to the x-ray machine. Having done that, I got myself ready to go through the security check. I took off my shoes and put them in one plastic bin. Then my coat and gloves went into another plastic bin. Then my carry on bag holding my purse and a few last-minute purchases got its own plastic bin, as did my laptop (removed from the case) and the lap top case. Finally ready to walk through the metal detector port I entered the terminal only to be pulled aside for special “additional” security. Turns out if you’re lucky enough to have an “S” on your ticket, you get this priveledge. The guy behind me also had an “S” on his ticket so at least I had company.

While I stood in this little roped-off area, airport security personnel removed all of my things from all of those plastic bins and placed them on one of the many large tables at the end of the security area. Rumaging through my things, they evidently found no contraband and called me over near my possessions. Standing there cold, having already taken my shoes and outer garments off, a rather disgruntled woman began putting on a pair of rubber gloves and offered me a private screening room. Since she was donning gloves, I considered the private room for a minute, but gave way hoping that the “special search” would not be invasive enough to require privacy. Luckily, she simply padded down every inch of my person and felt up my pant legs and into my socks. While she was busy with her job, a security guy came by and she handed him my laptop (which he promptly carried off to go and check it out in some special laptop place that must exist). When she was satisfied that I didn’t have a fingernail file hidden somewhere on my person, the man with my laptop came back and laid it amidst all my other papers and other crap that was now proudly on display on the table. Then they kindly informed me that I could put it all back together. I guess they had other patsies to pad.

Luckily, I was early enough to have time to re-pack my belongings, grab a quick cheeseburger from the McD’s in the airport and still make my flight. Had I known how long the flight would be dealyed, I’d have had a milk shake with my burger. My 3:10pm flight finally boarded at 4pm. We sat on the ground at LaGuardia waiting in the de-icing line (we were fifth and they only had one de-icing truck working out of the three that were out there). There’s NOTHING comparable to sitting in a small plane full of New Yorkers who are upset about a travel delay.

When it was our turn to be de-iced a utility truck drove around the plane as the guy in the bucket (poor man) shot de-icer and anti-icer fluid out a fire-hose at the wings and sides of the aircraft. Then our pilot went to wait in line for take-off and our plane left the ground precisely at 5:35pm. Not bad – only 35 minutes after my original flight was supposed to have left.

As we neared home, the pilot informed us of the current time and weather conditions. I’ve never been so glad to hear “72 degrees” in my life. I raced down the set of stairs at the plane, across the tarmac and up the set of stairs leading to the gate arm door. After a quick bathroom trip I was off to collect my luggage. Shedding my coat and gloves, I grabbed my bags and had to wake the shuttle bus driver to get a ride back to long-term parking. I loaded up the car, rolled down the windows, paid the parking booth attendant and was finally on my way home.

I got home just in time to tuck the children in for the night and tell my husband about the fun I’d had. I unpacked the car only to discover that one of the wheels had been broken off my suitcase somewhere along the transit line but I was just too tired to care. I slept for 12 hours, waking up late Friday morning and to begin catching up.

Without a supportive husband to take care of the house and kids I’d have never been able to make the trip. Personally, it was a refreshing change from my every day life as a work-at-home mom and professionally it gave me a renewed sense of accomplishment, confidence and pride. Although I love not commuting, I’d recommend a trip every now and then to anyone who works at home. If nothing else, it can certainly reinforce your decision to not commute on a daily basis.

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