Have you seen the movie Up In The Air starring George Clooney?
You should. And doubly so if you are a frequently travelling cubiclonaut. Triply so because it is that time of the year when “business travel surveys” are published.
Up In The Air is a bittersweet story about a corporate mercenary who is shipped in whenever a company wants to fire people. That year it received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
Also Read | Sidin Vadukut’s previous columns
There is a sequence in it that has stayed with me ever since. In the movie one of the important aspects of the George Clooney character is the fact that he is a frequent flier par excellence. He has thousands upon thousands of flier miles on his card.
“To know me is to fly with me,” his character speaks over this scene of Clooney packing a single strolley bag with mathematical precision, returning his rental car, and then strolling into an airport. “This is where I live.”
And then in a short, tight sequence Clooney checks in with a swipe of this frequent flyer card, picks up his boarding pass, and then processes his luggage, shoes, laptop and jacket through the x-ray machine. His movements are fluid, precise and efficient. Almost choreographed.
Unlike your columnist’s in similar situations. One of my great strengths as an individual is an ability to have my passport easily accessible at the precise moment my boarding pass is required. And vice versa. This is not a problem if the required document is in another pocket. Alas, life is never that simple. Usually if I have my boarding pass in an easily accessible place, that can only mean that my passport is in my bag, under all my clothes, safely kept near, or quite possibly in between, the shrink-wrapped ceylon parathas.
This was particularly exciting for a brief period when someone who looks like me—6 foot 3, 73kg, sinewy, a Kerala Clooney if you will—was also on a watch-list at all major Indian airports.
Officer: “Why are you going to Chennai?”
Sidin: “To meet a close friend from college.”
Officer: “What is his name?”
Sidin: “His name is Sheikh Dawood.”
Officer: “Finally I have apprehended your criminal nexus! Take this sheet of paper. And write down in full detail who will win tomorrow’s cricket match. Quickly! Bipasha is landing in the afternoon.”
I really do have a friend called Sheik Dawood. And he is an excellent power-lifter to boot.
Whenever I read a report, anecdote or story about business travel I am reminded of that scene from Up In The Air. There are online forums dedicated to decoding every element of that scene: what bag was that, how did he pack it, which shoes... On one forum someone had worked out that the bag used in the movie, by a brand called TravelPro, was actually an amalgam of several TravelPro models. And he’d worked out which part came from which model.
Hardcore business travellers take their meanderings very seriously indeed.
This week a brand new survey has thrown more light into the mind of the Indian sub-species of this creature. This one was conducted by website TripAdvisor India, who spoke to a plethora of travellers in private and public companies, and the self-employed.
One much-touted result was that women preferred to travel on work more than men. Which sounds mildly counter-intuitive from my experience. But then what about this: the survey also found that “when women are away on business trips, unattended work back in office tops the woman’s mind compared to men, whose biggest concern is their family”.
What? Wait. What??!!
This can only be true if those men who were surveyed didn’t get a chance to complete their answer: “Yes, I am very concerned about my family... going through my browser history or finding my mini-bar bill.”
At this point the survey is making you think: “Wow. Those woman professional travellers. They are so enthusiastic and professional. Why are we not hiring more of them instead of these malingering buffoons in pants?”
Just one minute. You also need to know two more outcomes from that survey. And I am not making these up.
Outcome 1: Women planned longer routes than men for a given trip so that they can accumulate more airline miles.
Boss: “Someone has to urgently go to Delhi for a meeting!”
Arjun: “Sorry boss. I am concerned about my family.”
Devayani: “I will do it and catch the earliest possible flight even if it is via Bagdogra, because sometimes sacrifices are required!”
Outcome 2: Women were more likely to create a business trip that was not really required, in order to wrap up personal work in another city, compared to men.
Sometimes in our companies, when push comes to shove in this economy, when that stock price needs a boost, when that branch office in Nagpur needs a pep talk, someone has to go to Ambala and do it.
And then afterwards quickly go to Sanjay bhaiyya’s house for Raksha Bandhan party.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at email@example.com