The Brancatelli File



December 16, 2004 -- Fifty weeks a year I am deliriously content to chronicle the realities of our lives on the road. It is my job, my passion, my duty and, I freely admit, a comforting crease in the fabric of my own life on the road.

But this is the last column of the year and, just this once, I want to write about what I wish business travel was about.

I wish we were all happier to be on the road. There was a time when we all looked forward to a business trip.

I wish you a chance encounter with your favorite movie while you are dispiritedly switching channels in some lonely hotel room on your tenth or 30th business trip of the year.

I wish we didn't have to take our shoes off and our laptop out of its case at the security checkpoint. I wish we didn’t need to have security checkpoints.

I wish we could remember to say “Thanks!” more often to the flight crews. All of them have suffered humiliating personal setbacks in wages and benefits since 9/11. All of them will have to endure more next year.

I wish the bosses of the Big Six really got it. They keep saying that they can’t bet the company by making rational changes to the way they price their product. I wish they understood that they are betting the company by doing nothing.

I wish you five consecutive flights where you are the one who gets upgraded because coach is full and there’s an empty seat in first class.

I wish you an upgrade to the Presidential Suite because the hotel is oversold.

I wish that we never forget that we are the privileged. We’re doing more than okay if the worst thing in our lives is that we don’t get the upgrade.

I wish us the strength not to look away and do nothing when we see a homeless person huddled in a doorway next to the hotel where we’re staying.

I wish you a rental car with a CD player on the day you wander into a music shop on a whim and finally find that CD you’ve been searching for.

I wish people would stop talking about the red state-blue state map. Those of us who live our lives on the road know that we’re all, well, purple.

I wish all hotel rooms had cheap, reliable high-speed Internet access.

I wish that your credit-card company would call and say, “The billing error is all our fault and we’ll correct it immediately without any more effort on your part.”

I wish you a good cell-phone signal when you’re talking to someone you love back home and you only have four minutes before your next flight.

I wish Ray Charles were still with us. I miss him already.

I wish the journey were still part of the adventure.

I wish the airlines would put first-class seats on all of the regional jets in their fleets.

I wish we all still had grandmothers who were just over the river and through the woods away.

I wish the people who ran Amtrak finally got it and abandoned the fantasy of a national passenger-rail system. I wish we had good rail service where we could use it: in the busy urban corridors where reliable trains could logically eliminate short-haul air service.

I wish we all ate better on the road. I wish hotels especially would stop stocking their mini-bars with fatty snacks. And do we really need a 10-grams-of-fat cheese or butter coating on otherwise healthy popcorn?

I wish that we figure out the solution to the cell-phones-in-the-sky quandry before they become a reality. I want people who want to use their cell phones in flight to be able to use them. And I want people who want quiet in flight to have that, too.

I wish you stroll into an art gallery or museum during a spare moment on the road and find a piece of art that truly moves you.

I wish you a year without middle seats.

I wish you great powder on your ski vacation and fair skies and sunshine on your beach holiday. I wish you a free day in Rome, a perfect evening in Paris, a dim sum lunch in Hong Kong and a cold glass of frothy guarana in Săo Paulo.

I wish that you find the perfect gift in an airport shop to bring back to your kid to make up for another missed ballgame or recital or birthday. I wish that you don't miss any of them because of a business trip.

I wish we’d stop obsessing about why this is the holiday season and what we call it. If you’re Christian, Merry Christmas. If you’re Jewish, enjoy the last moments of Chanukah. If you’re a pagan, have a great winter Solstice. If you celebrate Kwanza, have a great holiday. If you’re Muslim, I hope you had a joyous Eid.

I wish we’d remember that our strength has never lain in homogeneity, but in diversity. Celebrate what you celebrate. Believe what you believe. If we resolve to be men and women of good will, we can work this all out.

I wish you tidings of comfort and joy.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright © 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.