I would be lying if I said these trips were always a wonderful experience. The factory tours, training seminars, and dinners at local restaurants are usually quite enjoyable — especially one particular barbeque joint in Springfield, Missouri. I’d like to retire in the apartment building right next door to that restaurant. If I did, my heart would only hold out for six months tops. But their brisket is so good, it still might be worth it.
Another aspect of these factory trips is the likelihood that one of my guests will suddenly decide he is not a 49-year-old Project Manager with a large contracting company, but instead is once again the 21-year-old fraternity brother he was in 1992. Which means his new mission for the next three days is to see how much alcohol he can consume without throwing up. (He usually makes this determination by indeed upchucking and then muttering, “OK, 19 shots of Jack Daniels is one too many. Tomorrow night I’ll only have 18.”)
When the pandemic halted most business travel back in March, I felt a bit relieved that I would get a break from these factory trips. But now that it’s been many, many months without a trip — and it looks like they won’t resume anytime soon — I recently realized that I miss them. I miss the camaraderie and the adventure.
I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the traveling part of it, too. I miss dragging my suitcase two miles from Gate C-12 to Gate M-22 at O’Hare. I miss being startled when the guy in front of me suddenly leans back in his seat and turns my kneecaps into guacamole. I even miss those spacious airplane bathrooms. Obviously, this pandemic has had an adverse effect on my ability to think rationally.
No one is looking forward to our society getting back to normal more than I am. When I’m finally able to schedule another factory trip, I’ll start grumbling like always, but with a smile on my face.