Late Friday afternoon, with several hours to kill, I did what I impulsively do when I have spare time - I called my mom. She asked what I was doing and was surprised when I told her I was just waiting for my flight home. Despite multiple phone calls and emails throughout the week I had neglected to tell her that I would be in Tennessee on Friday. I had flown in earlier in the afternoon and was already back at the airport waiting for my flight home.
Friday morning began with dark, ominous clouds that warned me I should have taken an earlier flight. I had a hearing I needed to attend in Nashville at 3 pm. My 1220 flight was scheduled to arrive at 145 which gave me more than an hour to get to the courthouse. But flying out of New York in the rain is a tricky endeavor. I attended an early morning breakfast meeting at 830, stopped by my office to gather the work that would entertain me on my flight and prepare me for the hearing and headed out to the airport at 10. Before I arrived I received a phone call that kept me outside the noise of the terminal for 30 minutes or so but I wasn't worried since my flight was over an hour ahead of me. Then I saw the security line. Honestly, I have no idea what was going on but the line ran nearly the entire length of the terminal. But not to worry, my flight was already pushed back and running late. I made it through security with plenty of time to sit and wait for my flight. I was a little confused standing in line looking at my ticket with seat 6B and "FIRST" stamped across it. My secretary had made my travel arrangements with our travel agent and believe me, I do not get scheduled on first or even business class. Initially I assumed it was just a small plane which would explain my close seat, you know the commuter jets that only have coach. But as we were boarding I realized with a little bit of excitement (and some regret for wasting it on such a short flight) that I was indeed in first class! It really is a different experience riding up there.
First of all, I had a wide leather recliner for a seat with a fluffy blanket tucked in the seat back in front of me. Before I could stuff my rain coat in the overhead bin, a flight attendant swooped in and hung it up for me! We were 35th or something for takeoff and it was nearly 1 pm so I should have been panicking about missing my hearing. But somehow sitting in first class lowered my anxiety and I just read through my work materials and enjoyed myself. Shortly after takeoff the flight attendant returned, greeted me by name and gave me a Diet Dr Pepper (way to go American Airlines for having DP!) and a cup of warm mixed nuts. After I finished my snack, she was back with a warm towel. And shortly thereafter she was serving lunch! That is right, lunch on an airplane! They still serve that in first class, who knew. I was a bit disappointed that both of their lunch options were beef but I tried the roast beef sandwich and mainly just ate the bread. All of this was served on real plates, glasses, linen napkins and cutlery. Just as I was about to start stressing over the time I picked up the unmistakable scent of chocolate chip cookies and was soon handed a warm chocolate chip cookie to take my mind off the delay.
We landed at 2:30 and I discovered another advantage to first class - I was about the 6th or 7th person off the plane and I was able to run through the terminal, past security, down the multiple escalators and out to the taxi stand and I was in a cab by 2:45. Unfortunately the south doesn't move at quite the same speed as New Yorkers. The cab driver slowly climbed in the driver's seat after I explained I didn't have luggage and gave him my destination. He commented that I seemed to be in a hurry and I told him I had a hearing at 3. He took his time to pull out of the airport and talked incessantly the entire drive about the court cases he has been involved in and how he should have been a lawyer. He also made a number of offensive remarks about foreigners and said something about how I shouldn't have any trouble crossing the street because I was attractive - WHAT? So strange. H reassured me that he would get me there around 3 and didn't judges usually start late? I wanted to be back in the leather recliner on the plane. I just nodded and tried to discourage any more talking as semi-trucks passed us on the freeway.
I arrived at the courthouse at exactly 3 pm and the judge walked onto the bench just as I opened the door to the courtroom. Not having met my local counsel previously, my late arrival resulted in an awkward moment of trying to determine which of the 15 men in the courtroom was expecting me since I had somehow beat the one person I had met before to the courtroom. I proceeded to plaintiff's counsel's table and the lawyer there greeted me as the judge asked us to be seated. The hearing went well once my ear adjusted to the drawling accents that seemed exaggerated.
The hearing lasted about an hour and I was immediately driven by co-counsel back to the airport. My flight wasn't until 8 but one of the other lawyers had a 5 pm flight he was trying to make so I thought I might be able to get an earlier flight. I wasn't.
So I spent some time on the phone, tried the ribs at the airport restaurant while watching the Red Sox game at the bar, had a chair massage at the little airport spa (I think every airport should have one of these) and bought a book. When I finally arrived at my gate I was disappointed to discover my travel luck was continuing - my 8 pm flight was pushed back to 845! I was not going to get home before midnight.
I was tired. Tired of wearing a suit. Tired of wearing heels. Tired of carrying my overstuffed purse full of court papers, my rain jacket (not needed in sunny Nashville) and my book. Just tired. As I passed the first class rows and walked back to my coach seat I wondered if it is better to have never flown first class than to know what you are missing stuffed in the back. As I took my seat, no one greeted me, no one took my coat and there certainly was not a warm cookie at any point on the flight home. There was, however, no one sitting in my row so I had the blessing of three seats to myself to stretch my legs and dive into Love in the Time of Cholera.
To those of you who have ever thought work travel was glamorous, I don't want to shatter your illusions but . . . it isn't. It is exhausting and stressful and all business trips do is give me a greater appreciation for my own bed.