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An Installment of the Occasional Tales from the Front

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Since reading Requiem for the May Company over the holiday weekend, I have been more mindful of my particular time with that now defunct organization that could simultaneously illicit both consternation over how clients and staff were occasionally treated and fond memories of good work done by good people. I’m remembering the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend back in 2004.

Project Directors and consultants in the May Company’s world were a special breed of road warrior [aka Frequent Flier], instantly recognizable to one another in any mid-size to large airport in North America or Hawai’i. This elite team flew hither and yon about the U.S. and Canada to begin and maintain multiple consulting projects, simultaneously. On the client’s nickel, of course. 

Burdened with a laptop and a full week’s clothing crammed into something just larger than an overnight bag, frequently found standing at the car rental counter, we were immediately recognizable, wearing the firm’s trademark travel attire: dark suit with dress shirt and tie. It stands out a bit at Honolulu International Airport. I have stories.

As a consultant from the company office in Las Vegas, I was “on loan” to the company’s Chicago Headquarters.  I was to report a Senior Executive, called a SenEx. 

My Project Director and I had just closed a one-day project in northwest Mississippi with an extraordinarily well-run aircraft service and repair firm that really didn’t need us. My Project Director had been ordered to Chicago to await what he called his Tuesday morning “ass-whoopin’ at the Ridge.” He had, after all, just led three consecutive projects that closed the same day they opened. The nice folks in Park Ridge took an exceedingly dim view of Project Directors who were unable to keep the hourly billing-meter running as long as there was still a modicum of working capital left in the client’s bank account.drivi through the nightng

For my part, I was told to drive on to down to Jackson where the travel department would arrange for me to fly from Mississippi to California, presumably. As the afternoon passed, it started raining progressively harder and the countryside took on a deep green dreariness with intermittent lightning bolts all around.

I arrived in Jackson about 3:45 pm and was told that because it was a holiday weekend, the travel wizards couldn’t get me any flight out and that they’d have to “park me” there for the long weekend. Hopefully, they would have a project to send me to on the Tuesday morning. In the parlance of George S. May International, being parked meant hanging out in a modest hotel room until further notice. While it was common to travel and spend 270 hotel nights per year as part of that position, I still didn’t relish the prospect of passing a long rainy weekend alone in Jackson, Mississippi.

Since this had never happened before in my experience, I phoned my SenEx in the company’s Las Vegas office. That office informed me in no uncertain terms that they (the Las Vegas office) didn’t treat professional staff like the Ridge did.

Las Vegas told me to have no further conversations with anyone in Park Ridge and to drive immediately to New Orleans and get myself a hotel room for the night. The Las Vegas office travel department would have a flight home for me early Saturday morning.

The rain eventually subsided and the fireflies seemed particularly bright as I crossed the Louisiana State line and skirted Lake Pontchartrain approaching Slidell in the dead of night. I checked in to the Holiday Inn at the airport about 11:30 pm and quickly decided to make a brief exploratory excursion down to the French Quarter, as I’d never before been to New Orleans. Given the late, or early, hour and my road-weary state, I just drove through the streets of that famous destination, content to watch the revelers retch on the sidewalks from the comfortable confines of my nicely appointed Ford Explorer rental unit.

At 6:50 am, I was on a jet headed back to California. Such was life as a road warrior. It was, for both good and bad, a time like no other.

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About William Waite

  • http://tmackorg.com/ Tommy Mack

    Frequent flier miles, automatic Hertz and Avis upgrades that put you in a Cadillac for the price of a Dodge Neon, accumulated hotel nights and upgrades were all nice, I suppose, for a while. But it was the driving that got me, more than the air travel.

    Working (and billing) a 10-hour day, 3 to 4 hours’ worth of airport from and to, and then driving in the dark for another 3 hours made for some pretty long days. I think I calculated once that the average amount of sleep time a Project Director could expect was less than 5 hours.

    And loved ones at home would wonder why we did not want to go out to eat when we got home. Being a former road warrior, I will look forward to your next installment, Bill.

    Tommy