DD flew to Beijing on Sunday night. His flight left at 10pm (Sydney time) and he finally laid his weary head in a bed again at around 3.30am this morning (Sydney time).
I don’t know how he does it, but somehow he manages to find the energy to spend about 12 weeks a year travelling for work. It might sound fun and glamorous to be flying around the world and sleeping in fancy hotels, but the reality is the opposite: it’s lonely, disruptive and gruelling, with very little down time and “normal” work piling up from back home.
During 2015, DD’s headed to Florida and San Francisco on separate trips; Japan, China, Korea and Melbourne numerous times; and Singapore. There may have been other destinations, but it’s a bit of a blur.
During one of his endless cab rides in Beijing yesterday, he wrote me his very first blog post. He’s been threatening to write one about the trials and tribulations of dating a blogger (there have been quite a few of those), but instead he’s decided to vent about the hell of work travel.
Here goes, his “Tired and tattered postcard from Beijing” …
Work has taken me to Beijing this week. I flew China Eastern Airlines via Hangzhou but directly into a new travel experience. My flight landed at Hangzhou at 5.30am, however the local immigration officials don’t start work until 6.30am (apparently capitalism hasn’t reached all parts of the new China economy), so breakfast was served on the plane while it sat at the gate.
Disembarking with hand luggage, we cleared immigration, then were herded into a gate lounge before boarding the same plane, sitting in the same seat, with the same crew (stifling a few yawns ) on the 2.5 hour hop to Beijing … and were served another Groundhog Day breakfast – this time at 35,000 feet, while I tried not to think about the pilots’ lack of sleep as we ascended and then descended into a relatively smog-free Beijing. i.e. partial visibility.
Alana frequently observes (politically correct term for “complains”) that I do not plan ahead – however on this occasion I had – and had arranged for a driver to whisk me from the airport straight to the hotel. At least that was the plan. After a whisk-like exit from the car park – we came to an equally non-whisk-like dead stop in the face of the first of the day’s many Beijing traffic jams. I find it incomprehensible that the population of Australia live in or and around Beijing (and apparently visit the airport expressway most days), so the perpetual traffic congestion is not unexpected but does make the frustratingly slow stop-start journey to the hotel feel like the longest part of the 16-plus hour journey.
So, after waking at 4:45am on the plane, my day finally kick-started at midday as we arrived at the hotel. It went something like this: hotel check-in, locate room, locate wifi service, attempt connection to wifi, wonder why the connection is taking so long, try again, locate phone, call front desk, get told “the internet is broken for a while”, decide to hot-spot the mobile phone because some emails really needed to be sent, go “la la la” about the roaming costs, locate iron, wonder why iron temperature dial just spins around and around, swear as iron spews water instead of steam, find reading glasses, curse middle-aged need for reading glasses, realise iron temperature dial is indecipherably in Chinese, decide ironing front of shirt is good enough when wearing jacket, order room service lunch, start shower, realise can’t read impossible small toiletry bottle labels, damply retrieve glasses from near iron and successfully avoid shampooing hair with body lotion, change (into slightly damp shirt), retrieve glasses from shower, start teleconference, eat lunch, remember to mute phone, meet colleague in lobby at 1pm, continue teleconference, get in taxi, endure 75 stop-start minutes to a inconveniently located client, watch unread emails climb over 150, continue to ignore roaming costs, regret tuna panini lunch choice as taxi warmth, stop-start juddering, jet-lag, guilt about unread emails and traffic fumes combine in a very unpleasant way, stumble out of over-warm taxi and almost catch hypothermia while trying to locate a very small client office in a very large anonymous business park, almost hug client with relief when they appear to escort us the last 50 metres, surprisingly have very positive client meeting (i.e. didn’t throw up in the meeting), almost catch hypothermia again waiting for taxi which despite having two functioning GPS devices can’t locate us on a main road, understand why as within 30 seconds we are almost rendered unconscious by the in-car exhaust fumes, discover that the taxi ride back to the CBD is even slower and more juddering at peak hour (and no, that was not a carbon monoxide induced hallucination), rescheduled the second client from 5pm to 5.30, to 6pm and finally 6.30pm, killed time by drafting this guest blog (possibly carbon monoxide induced), watch unread emails climb higher, exit taxi and inhale relatively fresher air from kamikaze motor scooters, enter office and grumpily work with client until 9pm, decline client’s gracious offer of expensive dinner, noting it is already midnight my time, observe client fail to correctly set office alarm and endure high decibel “warning, warning” sounds that are clearly designed to send security rushing … soon … any second now … develop new form of nausea and headache from piercing, screeching, sounds-like-a-wailing-baby-please-please-make-it-stop-alarm, note the client is relishing the extra (free) time with us and is still talking about work, admire the client’s ability to focus under extreme aural pressure, decide the client may be a little too work focussed, realise that I probably am too given I have just finished work at 9pm … but then remember the 200 unread emails in my inbox and decide I can resolve that incongruency later (in a quieter space), become sure that there are only two possibilities – there are no security staff or they are deaf – while my colleague frantically tries to call someone who knows what to do, conclude after three calls that no-one does, and then finally someone finally does and … it stops. Although the ringing in my ears doesn’t.
After that, the day – or rather night – slowed to a more pedestrian pace – literally – as I almost caught hypothermia walking back to the hotel. Where I am now safely ensconced and the internet is working again. Now for those 200 unread emails …
Song of the day: Crowded House “Better be home soon” (though that probably wouldn’t be his choice, he’s more a Springsteen man)