The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
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September 24, 2015 -- This is the start of the 15th year of JoeSentMe.com, something I expected to last a month until commercial publishers came to their senses after 9/11.
That we're still here all these years later is a testament to the insanity of the commercial publishers.
They ignore us frequent travelers despite our appealing demographics, our status as business influencers and our well-earned reputation as conspicuous consumers of everything from fashion to high-tech gear. And when they do occasionally pay attention, the coverage is shoddy and puerile. They talk about airplanes and hotels and the stupid stuff. They pander to advertisers, treat airline bosses as if they are SkyGods and think business travel is a joyride.
Worst of all, you almost never read or see anything insightful about us, the huge army of metaphorical road warriors who fill those planes, trudge through the airports, rent those guestrooms and drive the rental cars. They certainly don't understand what drives us, what annoys us, what delights us.
If nothing else, my columns talk about us--a lot. The joys. The heartaches. The frustrations. The loneliness. And the hard, grinding work that goes into working on the road. Our problems are first-world ones, to be sure, but they are real problems. And our reaction to those problems and opportunities is the most interesting part of business travel.
To celebrate the beginning of our 15th year together in this little noncommercial corner of the Internet, I've chosen one of my columns from each year that JoeSentMe.com has been around. I think they present a compelling portrait of us, how we live, how we work, how we succeed, how we fail--and how we survive to fly another day.
2001: THE COWARDS AND TRAITORS AMONG US
If anyone ever remembers anything I've scribbled, I fervently hope it's The Cowards and Traitors Among Us, the first thing composed for the first issue of JoeSentMe on September 27, 2001. I had finally made it home from San Francisco, where I was stranded after 9/11, and was appalled by what I found at the airport. Some of us were turning on each other, refusing to fly with each other, calling each other terrorists. It was despicable and I begged us to show our better natures in that moment of crisis. Eventually, I think, we did.
2002: WHERE BUSINESS TRAVELERS LIVE
Business travelers were among the earliest adopters of the Internet and other forms of digital communications. While commercial publishers have failed us in the years since 9/11, the Net hasn't. We lonely few, working mostly alone, found each other on the Net and we use it to good advantage now. JoeSentMe.com was still largely alone when Where Business Travelers Live was published, but it wouldn't be long before the forums and the other columnists and the bloggers arrived. The Internet gives us a voice. And a way to fight back.
2003: KING OF THE ROAD, JERK OF THE FLIGHT
As smart and as stylish as we are, business travelers of a certain stripe always lapse into boorish, arrogant behavior that is detestably similar to the attitudes too often exhibited by airline bosses. Most business travelers I know try hard to restrain their worst impulses, but there's always someone who fancies himself king of the road.
2004: STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
America decided decades ago that we'd be a nation of airplanes and automobiles. There was no room for passenger railroads and that's why we're all frequent flyers. And every time we try to replace air travel with rail travel, we are reminded that we are just Strangers on a Train.
2005: THE WILLY LOMAN IN ALL OF US
When Arthur Miller died early in 2005, it was a moment to remind ourselves that there's a little Willy Loman in all of us. We are the best and the brightest, which is why our companies send us out on the road. But the travel industry beats us down and makes us all feel like a dime a dozen.
2006: US, EXPLAINED
What do business travelers really think? Why do people who aren't business travelers think they understand the lives we lead? In Us, Explained, I took a stab at explaining what makes us tick. And it all starts will the fact that we aren't "travelers" at all. We're businesspeople working in remote locations.
2007: YOU BUY AND YOU FLY? THEN YOU'RE HAPPY
We hate airlines because they skew the fare structure against us, constantly cut our perks and make the travel experience something to be endured rather than enjoyed. But the 800-pound elephant at the airport is this: If we buy and we fly, then we're happy. As long as we keep buying tickets, the airlines have no incentive to treat us better.
2008: WHY BUSINESS TRAVEL IS STILL WORTH IT
For all of the things stacked against us on the road, most of us would agree that business travel is still worth it. Why? For most of us, it's our window on the world, our opportunity to learn, to experience and to see how our fellow human beings live their lives.
2009: LAST CALL AT THE HOTEL BAR
As I say, business travel is still worth it because, once or twice or three times in a lifetime, you come across a once-in-a-lifetime experience right in your hotel. Like watching the literal Last Call at the Hotel Bar. Not because it's closing time, but because the bar itself is changing hands and a little piece of local history is being made right in front of our eyes.
2010: WINNING THE WAR WITH OURSELVES
Nine years after 9/11, I thought we'd reached a nadir of sorts. The cowards and traitors I'd seen at airports nine years earlier had moved into the mainstream of American life. Zealots were calling for book burnings--holy book burnings, in fact. Ethnic and religious smears were everywhere. Big-name politicians were telling us to model our country's behavior on what they did in Saudi Arabia. But business travelers explained how we were, despite appearances to the contrary, Winning the War With Ourselves.
2011: A BUSINESS TRAVEL TALE FROM TOKYO
When a devastating earthquake struck Tokyo, the tale of a single business traveler and his frequent-flying wife brought a gigantic human tragedy into sharp, personal focus. And unlike feeling that business travelers live in a bubble, it's a reminder that life on the road is often an incredibly illuminating experience.
2012: THE REVENGE OF THE OVER-ENTITLED
Business travelers have been called a lot of things over the years, especially by airline executives unhappy with how much we pay or how frequently we criticize them. But when a clueless new chief bean counter at United Airlines called us "over-entitled," business travelers erupted with rage. And a righteous rage it was, even if it did take about three years for the bean counter--and his boss--to exit the scene.
2013: GROUNDED BY MY FATHER'S LIFE
Life is funny sometimes. On my 60th birthday, I found out that I might have had the same illness that made my father crazy and old before his time. Being Grounded by My Father's Life wasn't what I was planning and reminded me that so many other business travelers deal with much more serious medical conditions.
2014: THIS IS YOUR LIFE
As I said at the beginning of this tiptoe through the archives, the mainstream media doesn't understand us. They have no idea what it's like to do a first-flight-out, last-flight-back transcontinental roundtrip. They don't understand how we're often mollified by the simple acknowledgement of our annoyance. And they certainly do not understand that we are, first and foremost, businesspeople and watching airlines at work make us shake our heads in disbelief. But it's no surprise that other folks don't get us. After all, this is our life, not theirs.
This column is Copyright © 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2015 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.