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On the Road to Planet Me
Thursday, July 13, 2017 -- So this happened today...
I got an early E-mail from a member with a pithy message: "It's a shit show here [Chicago/O'Hare] today, but it seems you usually only update East Coast." That was followed by an E-mail from a second member who'd been communicating with me yesterday about a miserable Newark-to-Miami flight that had been severely delayed by everything from on-board illnesses to missing passenger bridges. "What happen[ing] today?" he asked sarcastically. "Rain in Chicago? Big whoop."
In point of actual fact, O'Hare today was neither a "shit show" nor a sarcastic "big whoop." It was just like you'd expect O'Hare to be on a rainy day that also featured some dramatic cloud-to-tarmac lightning. In point of actual fact, yesterday was a genuine nightmare at O'Hare, with more than 700 cancellations and 1,500 delays.
But neither the member unhappy with my not alerting him to the weather conditions nor the couldn't-care-less member is wrong. As I have said about a billion times before, business travel is an extraordinarily personal thing. Selfish even. Only what happens to us on the road really matters. And that, I think, is how it should be.
A dozen years ago, I had a somewhat difference approach, though. This is what I wrote then:
Welcome to life in the bubble of business travel. For an entire day, my life was consumed with my own flights and my own connections and my own cab rides and my own hotel rooms. Life and death matters were being decided, the earth was literally moving beneath our feet again, but nothing penetrated the bubble of business travel. We all live our lives in the bubble of business travel when we're on the road and I hate it. It makes us selfish and hard and concerned only about the menial details of our own lives. It is the price we pay for the life we lead.
Today's (and yesterday's) woes at O'Hare weren't nearly as dramatic as the events being missed when I wrote that a dozen years ago. After all, I don't think anyone died in the flash floods and rains that deluged Chicago's two airports and parts of Illinois and Wisconsin. Flights were delayed and cancelled, sure. Schedules were busted, of course. And life was crappy for my unhappy member and lots of other travelers, both leisure and business travel.
But if a dozen years ago I worried about the bubble of business travel that consumes us on the road, today I say: Welcome to Planet Me. Only what matters to me on the road is important. It's all about my flights and my hotels and my schedule.
Really, that's okay. It's not ideal to live on Planet Me. But the airlines and airports and hotel companies don't care about you, so who's gonna watch your back if not yourself?
Business travel is selfish. Embrace the self-interest. In a world where Marriott wants to charge you if you cancel a room reservation within 72 hours and United Airlines is preparing to resell the seat out from under you and the travel industry spends its days inventing new fees and new annoyances, the selfish business traveler is the enlightened one.
But being a selfish business traveler does cause a problem for me. Not me the business traveler, but me the editor, publisher, webmaster and chief bottle washer for this site. I am constantly agonizing over when to invade your E-mail with URGENT alerts that may, in fact, be useless to you. I'm also aware that my news judgment is constantly open for debate. I get that if you don't fly Alaska Airlines today's lead item in Tactical Traveler may not seem like a big deal. And, why, it is fair to ask here on Planet Me, should you care if the news only affects some other business travelers?
I have no answers to that question. I really don't. I've spent my entire adult life as a reporter, columnist and editor and I've always thought of my work as public service. But that existential question--What matters?--is eternally vexing. In case you haven't noticed, I'm no J.D. Salinger, who locked himself away in a cabin and wrote for decades and showed it to no one. I write to be of help.
But, again, how do you help people who all justifiably live on Planet Me?
I don't have all of the answers. I do have some thoughts, which is why we accept no advertising, don't write click-bait crap, don't try to be too broad and, thus, generic. I won't chase every point or mile and claim you need to have every last one. I won't treat every "new" innovation as earth-shattering or life-changing. I'll try to tell you things when they matter to your life on the road, not before you can do anything about it or after it's too late to adjust. I will assume the travel industry is trying to screw you until proven otherwise because it has been proven that they are trying to screw you. I will not clutter your life with endless debates over which carrier offers the best Champagne in its club because, really, if you're making flight decisions based on wine in a lounge, you're doing business travel wrong regardless of which planet you inhabit.
So today I reaffirm to you what I said when I started this site as a one-month placeholder two weeks after 9/11. I will tell you the truth as I see it about what matters to us as business travelers. I'll put in front of you other writers and business travelers whose work I respect and whose judgment I trust and insight I admire. And we'll do it all as volunteers, travelers talking to each other, not talking heads delivering tracts of truth from on high. We won't write for anyone but ourselves because only business travelers understand the chaotic and complex lives we lead.
I'll write up travel deals in context and try to explain why the deals actually exist. I'll negotiate the members-only discounts solely for your benefit and won't take a financial stake so you know I have no vested interests. There'll be no kickbacks or commissions masquerading as links.
We won't track hits. Even my wife doesn't know where I keep the members list. I don't see your credit card information when we do our annual membership transaction, so I can never be hacked. And when I invade your E-mail with "breaking news" missives, it's because I think I can add insight to the travel decisions you need to make.
Since we all live on Planet Me these days, I'll get it wrong now more often than I get it right. And I certainly let down my unhappy member waiting out the rain at O'Hare this morning. That bugs the hell out of me because I take this personally. I write to help. Otherwise, what's the point?
But I'm trying. I'm working it. And the day I can't work for what I think is your best interest, I promise this site will cease to exist.
This column is Copyright © 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.