Fantasy v. Reality: Work Trips

cat on a unicorn with lasers

My enamorado XFE has deserted me once again.

OK, fine, that’s a bit dramatic, I suppose. He’s travelling for work this week.

sad unicorn
(picture courtesy of Donny Miller/

It’s actually been several months since XFE has been a work-road-warrior. I’d gotten pretty comfortable with him around all the time.

Which is why it feels like total desertion.

Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s leaving the frigid Arctic of D.C. for the sunny shores of California this week.

I’m more than a bit jealous. But I do have to admit, sometimes having perspective on these things is a bit difficult.

For example, there’s what I imagine his flight and arrival are like:

After five hours of guzzling champagne and imbibing in warm macadamia nuts, XFE lands in California, picks up his convertible, and armed with a miraculously traffic-avoiding GPS, arrives minutes later at his luxury hotel, where check in is immediate and completely painless and includes an upgrade to a top floor suite complete with a 1,000-foot deck overlooking ocean waves.

XFE riding his ocean-wave loving unicorn. In his suit. 

Here’s the likely reality:

XFE arrives at Dulles at the crack of dawn, his wallet $100 lighter after his 45-minute cab ride. After a pre-dawn rubdown by TSA, he makes his way to the gate area, where he finds that his flight has been delayed. His breakfast options at this hour are Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. So he can have a scone with his coffee or a doughnut with his coffee. Did I mention that XFE doesn’t drink coffee?

Finally, his flight begins to board. Thanks to his ever-vigilant miles hoarding, he is upgraded and allowed to board in the first group. After wedging his suitcase in the overhead compartment, he settles in to his aisle seat, while the stewardess leans perilously over him and plays overhead Tetris with two other pieces of oversized luggage that ultimately will be gate-checked. Boarding continues, with XFE being whacked repeatedly by backpacks of disgruntled coach passengers passing him on their way to the back of the plane.

Upon landing, XFE will navigate the unknown airport to find the car rental garage and retrieve his lime green Chevy Spark which is a hybrid vehicle and as such, will shut off at every stop light. It also contains a GPS that is determined to drive XFE and his luggage into every available body of water along the route. There will, of course, be tons of traffic, lots of detours, and streets that are one-way between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 a.m. on all days ending with “y.”

XFE will arrive at the hotel where he will be told that yes, he has been upgraded to a suite, thanks to all his Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty, but his suite won’t be ready for another two hours. He’s welcome to wait at the bar. Or, check in to a smaller room and move all his stuff tomorrow morning before he starts his work day.

Here’s my fantasy of how his work day goes on these trips:

XFE wakes up, checks a few emails, makes a few calls back to DC. He goes to the hotel gym which he has all to himself. It’s stocked with soft, clean towels, an endless supply of cucumber-accented filtered water, and every recent magazine you can imagine. Oh, and fresh white lilies scent the air.

After a quick shower, XFE luxuriates over an amazing breakfast replete with fresh-squeezed orange juice, a perfectly cooked cheese omelet, and an endless supply of bacon. Seriously. The bacon just keeps coming.

Unicorn bacon.
Unicorn with bacon wings. No idea why the baby is there.

Stuffed, XFE drives over (traffic-free, of course) to the client site to have a meeting or two, which all go swimmingly. Everyone loves everything and laughter floats out of the conference rooms that are, of course, stocked with all sorts of snacks and refreshments. Things are going so well, the client calls it a day, and suggests they go to a nice, long lunch at a Michelin-star restaurant overlooking the beach, followed by some tennis. XFE agrees, and spends the afternoon frolicking in the California sun before returning to his hotel.

XFE sends a few more emails, including a thank you note to his client/host, and meets with co-workers to go to dinner somewhere super fabulous and fun. The wine, dry-aged steak and lobster mac and cheese flow endlessly across the table, followed by convivial joviality and laughter. Waitresses, bartenders and hostesses flirt with XFE incessantly, charmed by his easy manner and sparkling sense of humor. Naturally, he gets invited to a young Hollywood house party involving an underground poker tournament and a DJ from Sweden who isn’t even supposed to be in the country, but ever the professional, XFE demurs and heads back to his hotel for a nightcap before falling asleep.

Meanwhile, here’s the likely reality:

XFE wakes up and goes to the hotel gym, only to discover that the one elliptical machine is out of order. He’s on the treadmill for about three minutes when another person enters the gym and glares at XFE before resignedly getting on the stationary bike. The new Workout Buddy then turns the sole television to some reruns of Full House, and cranks the volume up to ear-splitting levels. XFE finishes his workout and tries to find a towel, to no avail. He also can’t find any equipment cleanser, and gives up after a few minutes of futile searching. This action appears to cause his Workout Buddy to snort and shake his head in disgust, before Buddy hops on the treadmill himself.

Rhinos are just fat unicorns.
Rhinos are just fat unicorns.

He returns to his room and has over 100 emails already, all of which are flagged as “important.” He jumps on a conference call, which goes over the planned 45 minutes and means he has to rush to get his suit on and get out the door.

The hotel breakfast includes pastries and some fruit, which XFE avails himself of while waiting far too long for his car to be brought around from overnight parking. He begins navigating his way through California traffic, navigating his way through unfamiliar parking garages, navigating his way through multiple corporate building complexes full of multiple security check ins. He spends the day going over the minutiae of some seriously complex financially-gobbledy-gook stuff that I totally don’t understand but sounds very difficult and boring (to me). Luckily, he does understand it and it’s detail-intensive enough to keep him awake. A lunch of cold sandwiches and room-temperature sodas are brought in for a “working lunch.”

Finally, the day ends and XFE is allowed to escape the windowless conference room that has entrapped him for the last nine hours. XFE and his team are still on the clock, however, and will be going to dinner with another potential client who is fond of a fried fish place halfway across town that goes by the name, Red Lobster. It’s small and smelly and very California-authentic. No beer, however, for XFE and his team, since it’s a work dinner. Even if they wanted it, this particular Red Lobster doesn’t have a license.

After downing a virgin strawberry daiquiri and an Endless Shrimp platter, XFE is struggling as the three-hour time difference catches up with him. Another hour of chitchat later, XFE and his team are able to pay the bill and say their long goodbyes to their hosts before heading back to the hotel and collapsing in the bed with half his suit on.

Alright, fine. XFE would not sleep in his suit. He’s got it more together than that. And, he’d likely want a shower to get the smell of fried shrimp off his skin.

In reality, work trips tend to fall somewhere between these two extremes. They are work, after all.

Whenever I feel envious of XFE’s work trips, I just try to remember that, at best, work trips are full of fun, nice hotels and meals and new experiences. But they’re also full of tedium, and glitches, and unfamiliar people, places and expectations.

And soon, he’ll be back in his nice, cozy home with his adoring girlfriend and overweight cat.

cat on a unicorn with lasers
That is not our cat, but it is too awesome not to use.

In the meantime, I’m going to watch all the Real Housewives and eat all the cheese I can get my hands on. (Previous post on how I cope here.)

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