Save yourself the time if you're expecting a comedy with this one. Just a story about a bad week on the road.
It was a repeat occurrence on a Sunday night before an early flight out, but this week was supposed to be easier than the last eight. Nothing was on his schedule for the week that should have elevated his stress level. "Here we are again" he thought. He looked towards the glowing red digital image on the night stand, closed his eyes again and rolled his face into the pillow muttering "Fuck", as the word was muffled by his down pillow. It was 3:00 AM. Agitated and constantly tossing in his bed covers, he tried to force the onset of sleep knowing the small battery-operated alarm in the bathroom would awaken him at 4:00 AM in time for his long drive to the airport.
Bob watched the last digit of red numbers transition from four to five, from five to six, and six to seven. The night stand alarm was set for his wife at 6:00 AM, so that she could get the kids off to school, while he waited for his own high pitched beep a room away. He thought about how much he was willing to pay for that extra two hours of sleep and also for not having to fly anywhere this day. Nine to ten, ten to eleven, the minutes counted on and Bob closed his eyes again hoping for a few minutes of added sleep.
The price tag was climbing. At 3:30, Bob was willing to pay $1000 for the extra full half hour of sleep realizing just after that non verbal declaration, that the elusiveness of the commodity of sleep had just made him angry, or was it "something else?" Recent memories from the weekend crept back into his head where after another 90+ hour week on the road put him in a position to forget his wedding anniversary. It had been logged into his calendar and he had even thought of restaurants he wanted to take her, but the enormity of the week and the 14 hour days had overwhelmed him. Though it had been agreed that they would celebrate their 20th at a nice restaurant that weekend, and Bob hadn't returned to his hotel room until after she would have gone to bed, he had forgotten to call.
She was understandably angry. So much so that she had refused to allow him to buy her some jewelry on impulse to make up for the flub. Bob turned over again and flipped the pillow over to the cool side. Bob was steaming.
4:00 AM and the digital noise started creeping past the closed bathroom door and into the bedroom, enough so that Bob could hear it but not enough to wake his wife. Bob dressed and combed his hair in silence, turning the lights off in the bathroom as he entered the dark bedroom to grab his suitcase, efficiently packed the night before. He went down the stairs but stopped when he heard the faint jingling noise of a dog's collar and tags. "Jake" appeared from the girl's bedroom and trotted towards the first landing of the staircase. Burying his face into the back of Bob's leg, Jake hoped for a scratch or maybe even a whole week of this strange visitor being home for daily play time. But "Bob the Alpha" needed to start the hour drive to Detroit Metro for this week's trip to Chicago. Jake received his healthy scratch behind the ears and turned back towards the girl's bedroom towards an errant tossed comforter laid on the floor.
The drive was uneventful just as it should be and Bob entered the off site parking facility for his weekly shuttle ride to the terminal door. "American this week", he said as he grabbed his ticket from the parking clerk at the entry. She directed him to row "I as in Ivan" for pickup by the shuttle. 25 minutes later, Bob was at the American Airlines Security Gate Checkpoint.
Maybe it was an omen. He didn't recognize at the time, maybe it was just fate, maybe it was the fact that his tickets were issued at the very last minute over the weekend for this flight, but sleepy Bob Borman was flagged for security search. The contents of his briefcase were dumped out for thorough inspection, all the laptop cords, flash memory drives, pens, pieces and parts were taken from their neatly stored little places and spread all over the table. The security agent then tried to dump it all back in, unsuccessfully.
American flight # 2173 was held at the gate because of Chicago O'Hare inbound traffic, and Bob sat with his eyes closed and his 37 inch inseam legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. Bob was luckily able to change his seat to an exit row window, just for the extra 6 inches of leg room, which was good for his 6 and a half foot frame. Ultimately the flight took off and was only delayed 45 minutes. While he rested, he did not sleep but spent his time thinking about all the technical documentation changes needed this week in order to satisfy contract agreements with this customer. "It will be a hellish week" he thought to himself. But, he knew he could work within the safe confines of his corporate office, a place to think, focus, and avoid any confrontation.
Bob arrived onsite at his company offices in Westchester, Illinois, found the local convenience store and grabbed some banana walnut mini muffins and some cold carbonated caffeine. From there he found the conference room that had been set aside for his team on the ninth floor and he plugged his laptop in to begin a long day of typing.
People started to arrive from other cities with staggered flight departure times, and the conference room quickly filled with familiar people as well as new faces. Everyone had different expectations on what was to be accomplished this week, and everyone seemed to be empowered to move in their own direction. The trouble was that Bob was being assigned as the primary contact for different work streams, or at least the question and answer man for many of the topics being discussed. Late in the morning, he was pulled from the conference room by one of the customer's program managers, the product director and the account executive. Bob took a seated position in the mini lobby outside the conference room in a comfortable chair against the back wall. The three managers pulled their chairs in a semi-circle facing him and blocking his only exit..
"We need you to go to New York to help the international team with their budget numbers due this Friday". "When", Bob asked. "Tonight" was the answer. Bob found out that the plan had been made for him, without even the courtesy of checking with Bob's boss whose office was just down the hall. "You'll be there for two days through Wednesday, then you'll need to be in Dallas on Thursday/Friday for other meetings with the program manager and the CTO".
"What about our deliverables?" Bob asked. "You'll need to work on them in between meetings and phone calls… you should be able to get it all done, right?"
Bob had been counseled before in his annual performance reviews, that sometimes he wears his emotions too easily on his sleeve, and facial expressions often told the world just how he might be feeling… This time he worked hard to remain expressionless, nodding his head up and down from time to time as if to imply agreement. There was simply nothing else that Bob could do but absorb whatever additional work was being put on his plate. "OK, I'll make the arrangements" was all Bob said in reply while returning to the conference room to finish out the work day.
The call to the travel agent went well, except for the calculation of the price tag for this last minute three-legged trip. It would start at O'Hare, go to the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, NY that evening. Two days later, he would fly from Westchester County to O'Hare, and connect into Dallas. A day and a half later, he would return home Friday from Dallas Fort Worth to Detroit. All for only $1600 in addition to the $1300 he paid for his original tickets and now defunct flight schedule for this week.
Last minute ticketing meant once again, everything but a strip search. The O'Hare security detail pulled Bob aside for the "not so full Monty". No clothing was actually removed, but the shoes came off and the belt has to be opened and the inside of the pants buckle needs to be manually checked for hidden objects. Another stranger's hand found its way inside Bob's pants and lingered this time to check behind the metal snap of his wool dress slacks. The contents of his neatly folded clothing was once again tossed about inside his bag for no apparent reason, and his computer bag was dumped again just for shits and giggles. "It's not too late to turn around and go home, tell them all to stick it." He thought again. "I could be sick." he tried to convince himself of the lie that would never be. "Duty, honor, integrity and other words intended to get you to do shit you don't want to do". He grinned, shook his head and packed his things for the third time this week.
Ominous weather patterns were brewing in New York, but the gate will never tell passengers these things especially with pre-paid tickets. As the minutes passed by the scheduled time of departure, the sign above the gate was changed from "ON TIME" to "DELAYED" . Bob Borman quietly looked down at the herringbone pattern in the carpeted floor, not surprised, but not pleased. It was after 9:00 PM Central time.
Minutes became hours, hours crossed into the next day and the plane actually departed after Midnight tom conclude another long day. Arriving in Westchester at 2:30 AM Eastern time, Bob picked up his rumpled body and dragged his feet to the Hertz counter. He found a map, and some idea of where to find the Marriott Renaissance hotel in White Plains. Bob had taken the precaution of printing Mapquest directions so he chose not to ask the Hertz agent for local directions. It would be another mistake.
He wanted nothing but sleep, but finding the hotel in the dark on roads surrounded by hills and trees and absent street signs, proved overwhelming. Bob finally called the hotel asking for help and the friendly desk clerk told him that he never should have trusted the web maps. "Most people can't find us the first time." Sasha said. You need to double back and find the highway. Sasha went on to give directions but Bob couldn't write them down without stopping on this two lane twisted road. He had to call back twice to find the right driveway, which was buried up in the hills of another tree lined road whose sign was hidden by branches at the top of an apex in the road. Bob caught the name out of the corner of his eye, slammed on the brakes and backed up into the apex at risk of getting rear ended, just to find the Hotel Entrance.
"Thank you Sasha" Bob said with a smile as he approached the front desk. "I had to cash in my male gene that isn't supposed to ask for directions, but I appreciate the help getting here."
3:30AM Tuesday, Eastern time. Bob Borman can't sleep.
His head was filled with the events of the day and the promises of arrival times to the Valhalla, NY office this same morning. "8 AM came early", Bob pondered as he planned how early he would have get up and iron his clothes and make his way to the office.
The alarm went off at 6:00, and Bob wondered when he actually nodded off. He figured it had to be sometime after 4:00, but a short nap was preferred to no sleep at all.
Hot water felt good on the back of Bob's neck and he thought of home and the kids and the still angry wife. Bob shaved in the shower, dried off in 10 seconds (Bob had a system for drying off), and grabbed the ironing board from the closet. 15 minutes, he was dressed and ready to go.
With the sun up, Bob studied the complimentary map provided by Hertz which didn't go beyond White Plains on the detailed side of the map. The more general map on the reverse side, showed a complex road infrastructure, but very little in the way of "grids" throughout the area. He had another Mapquest map in hand and Bob started the supposed 15 minute drive to the Valhalla office.
Roads were closed for construction at the dam over the reservoir, detours were confusing, highways and parkways provided no way to turn around, and 10 minutes into his commute in a strange town, Bob was lost. Cashing in his male "direction gene" for the second time this week, Bob found a gas station with an actual American citizen behind the counter. The man named "Vic" smiled and offered friendly and helpful advice and looked as if he counseled lost motorists all the time.
Arriving late, the local customer office staff laughed at the ordeal, and agreed that you just had to figure it out once on your own, and get through the indoctrination. Bob was indoctrinated, "ass raped" he thought, but because of all the doubling back, was still unsure of how to get here from the hotel.
The day dragged on, but the meetings were helpful both for Bob and hopefully for the international team at this customer site. Lunch was just about average, based on Bob's experience with customer cafeterias, and he enjoyed a few minutes out in the sun as the clouds cleared away long enough over his lunch hour. Despite all the hype associated with Bob's last minute trip out to New York, the customer seemed accommodating and the topics for discussion were reasonable and anti-climactic, but formidable enough to fill out a 10 hour day. He began to think about a tiny reward for the trip, perhaps a bit of room service instead of a burger grabbed on his way back. He thought watching a little cable TV to wrap up this very long and arguably wasted trip. Bob thought about some favorite lyrics to a song from a few decades ago by the Who, "This ain't no social crisis, just another tricky day for you…. Fella". Just about then, his cell phone rang. It was the global CTO for his customer calling for a meeting that started at 7:00 PM.
Bob Borman started to feel the weight of the day, the weight on his feet and the sticky feeling you get when working in an office on a hot day after the automatic ventilation system shuts down. Bob found his way to an open office and started the two and a half hour call. No one seemed friendly on this impromptu conference. It was attended by about 8 senior managers, some of whom Bob had never met, but everyone had critical feedback on a particular document Bob authored about a week before. It was brutal at times with comments thrown over the phone line like "these drawings are just wrong", "this conclusion is misleading", and "I thought it was a good effort, but it missed the mark". Not sweeping endorsement, but interesting comments from people who knew nothing about the type of content Bob had compiled. Thankfully someone else was acting as scribe and Bob needed only to sit back and take the verbal assault, albeit "professional not personal". "Sure, right, you bet", Bob thought. At one point in the call, Bob found the mute button on the phone and shouted a few Detroit-based, blue collar, four letter comments back at the people he couldn't see.
It ended at 9:45 PM, and Bob sat back for a few minutes waiting for the shaking in his fists to subside. He gathered up his laptop and looked for his keys and struggled to remember where he parked his crappy Buick Rendezvous rental.
Surprisingly, the hotel was easy to find going the other way. None of the roads were closed and Bob managed to work his way through the local streets. 20 minutes later, he found the entrance to the hotel. He was shocked actually, given the amount of drive time he spent finding the office the first time. It was just after10:00 and Bob knew he missed the regular dinner menu from room service, so a sandwich would have to do. Bob ordered. Bob ate. Bob showered. Bob laid his head to rest.
1:52 AM Wednesday. Bob Borman can't sleep.
He watched ESPN news for a while, then switched to HBO but Bob wasn't paying attention to anything being said on the 21 inch screen. His stomach churned thinking about his long day ahead tomorrow and his late flight out to Dallas in the evening on Wednesday. The channel he didn't watch was the weather channel where a clue about his upcoming travel day might have revealed itself. With Bob's luck however, he would have flipped past the Weather Channel during a local New York weather discussion anyway.
Somewhere after 3:00 AM, Bob did close his eyes, but when he was awakened at 6:00, it felt like he didn't sleep at all. The routine so familiar to him now would start again. Throw the blankets off the bed, head for the shower. Kicking the boxers off with his right foot and propelling them into the open closet with the rest of his dirty clothes. "A small satisfaction to the morning" he thought, "only guys have mastered the directional tossing of underwear with their feet". Showering, shaving, shitting, ironing and dressing, the hair was last. Bob had planned to hit the streets by 6:30 this morning to arrive at 7:00 AM. He checked with the concierge to validate a better path to the little borough of Valhalla and felt a little more confident about his drive to the office.
15 minutes into Bob's journey, he missed a turn to the left. There was no street sign of course, but the concierge knew where the street was, so therefore so should everyone else. He tried to turn around, but was quickly forced to merge onto a parkway and that was the end of trying to follow the map.
Bob stopped somewhere again to look at the useless Hertz map and tried to determine exactly where he was. He spotted the sun off to his right and knew at least that he was currently headed north. He pulled back into traffic and found a sign indicating that the town of Pleasantville, was the next exit. Bob pulled over again to look at the map and found Pleasantville to the north of Valhalla. There was a gray line on the map with no marker that appeared to lead from Pleasantville straight to Valhalla so Bob tried to find the road in the center of town. It was 7:15.
Twisting around the narrow two lane road heading into Pleasantville, Bob noticed a hunched figure in the center of the street and traffic stopped in the other direction. Bob slowed to see a weakened old man trying desperately to hold up a stop sign and allow children to cross the street to a school on the left. Bob felt the scene fade to black and white for some reason. He noticed three girls approaching the makeshift intersection skipping together in unison. Bob spotted a stay-at-home dad pushing a stroller and walking with two older children towards the school. A mother wearing a fluffy summer dress and pearls was walking with her son while her elbow was extended for her son to hold on to. The boy was at least 12. The whole vignette seemed to be something from the 50's except for the stay at home dad. "Pleasantville" Bob muttered, "just like the movie". With all children gone, the old man stood there looking at both long lines of cars that had accumulated. He smiled and began his slow walk back to the curb, still doing his best to hang onto the stop sign.
Eventually, he found his way back to the reservoir north of White Plains and he knew Valhalla was on the west side of the water. He worked his way around the man made lake until he found Columbus street, and that was all he needed to find the building. After all the circling back and restarts, it was 9:00 AM. Just another short 2 hour commute to the office. "So much for starting early today".
The day went on uneventfully, although Bob picked up more work that he could complete which on the whole, was pretty normal. There was simply an expectation that he like everyone else on the project team work whatever hours were necessary to get the job done. The problem of course that everyone was working 70 to 100 hours a week including the multi state travel. Towards the end of the day, he asked a local for directions to the airport from the office. Surprisingly, it involved only three turns, but he would have to keep a sharp eye out for the road signs as the street changed names frequently. He returned his Rendezvous with the narrow seats and low ceiling and vowed he would never rent one again. "Obviously designed for women and small men." Bob continued the internal monologue and the criticism while he walked towards the terminal.
His flight was at 6:30, which would have placed him inside the great state of Texas sometime after 8:00 PM Central time. He looked for a place to sit and plug in his laptop since his battery was almost gone for the day, but there were no outlets to be had. He did find one of the few open seats near the women's bathroom, and he received sometimes strange, sometimes curious looks as the other gender strolled past him on their way to the "lounge" at the White Plains airport. He wondered if he looked like a stalker.
The minutes passed and the flight was posted as delayed, befitting the events and Bob's luck for the week thus far. Two hours went by as did the occasional updates telling the growing and angry crowd virtually nothing except that the nasty weather that had shut down most of the East to West air traffic. His connecting flight was supposed to take off from Chicago O'Hare in about 2 hours, there was still a slim chance he would make his connector to Dallas. A few minutes later, all hope was lost with an announcement that 11 PM would be the first chance the flight could take off.
Bob frantically tried to find a hotel room in Chicago somewhere, and everybody seemed to sense the same trouble because all cell phones were in use in the terminal. Bob worked his magic Gold number with Marriott, but there was nothing at the airport, nothing Downtown, nothing in Westchester, and nothing in Oakbrook near the company offices. The only thing available was a Fairfield Inn in Willowbrook, some 30 miles outside of the airport. "Yes, I'll take it… what was the address again?"
The flight eventually left at midnight, six hours after scheduled departure, and Bob could see the lightning flash through the clouds as they flew West at 33,000 feet. The storms were everywhere and the flight was bumpy. No sleep for anyone tonight. They all just held on for the roller coaster ride. 90 minutes later, hot sleepy and sweaty passengers made their way through a mostly closed and vacant O'Hare airport past terminal "L" and towards the exit. Now feeling a bit sorry for himself, he contemplated the events of the week so far, but changed his mood as he rounded a construction barrier that partially blocked a darkened hallway. Bob first thought it was odd that the lights were off here, because there were about 200 people walking through the area, but then he and everyone else noticed why. Around the corner, in the darkened hallway, he viewed a sea of folding cots with stranded passengers filling both sides of the long hallway. "It had to be over 400 people" he thought to himself as most of the people were still awake and throwing a curious glance their way while they casually strolled through their bedroom. Bob held his head down and tried to provide these good folk what privacy he could. Almost at the end of the long rows of cots, Bob spotted a scared little girl about the same age as his youngest daughter. She had pulled up the small blanket up around her neck and watched them all look at her as they passed by. She wasn't near anyone who looked like her parents, and her cot was close to a security guard station. Bob wondered if she was a juvenile passenger, traveling alone and stranded alone at O'Hare. He could do nothing else but think of his kids and told himself he would never allow the same fate.
He walked even more slowly after the scene in the hall, but found the cab stand and asked to be taken to Willowbrook and the Fairfield Inn. Passing the cab stand the car stopped and the well-meaning but non-English speaking driver said "widow bruck?".
It was an interesting ride, and they only had to stop for directions twice. The driver did manage to form the words telling Bob that it would be "time and a half" on the meter since they were leaving the city of Chicago. "Fine" Bob answered. "Whatever, just get me there". The meter ran up to $30, then $35 and Bob checked his wallet. There was exactly 64 dollars in cash. "Uh… how much farther do you think… I might need to find a bank or a cash station". "Almost" is all he got in reply.
One more stop at a gas station when the motel didn't pop up at the exit like they both had hoped. It turned out that it was just around the corner and the meter read $40. Bob paid the $60 after time and a half, and offered 2 dollars tip, leaving him 2 bucks for dinner. Bob Borman checked in, wiped the sweat from his forehead, and bought a grape juice from the vending machine in the lobby.
It was 3:00 AM Thursday. Bob Borman can't sleep.
He showered the stickiness off his body, and hoped the hot water would help him relax when he finally laid down on the medium density and not very high quality foam mattress. He set the clock radio alarm and then threw the floral comforter off the bed only to notice the blood stains that had seeped through the printed top, to the white underside of the bed dressing. "Flowered top. De-flowered top was probably more like it." The stain looked all to familiar and immediately sickened him. "You've got to be kidding" Bob yelled out loud as he kicked the comforter to the corner of the room. He checked the pillows carefully and the sheets as well, and tried to drift off to sleep finally for once this week.
The alarm went off at 6:00 AM and Bob just laid there listening to the shrill beeping pound in his head. He reached his right arm across the bed and starting pounding the top of the clock radio in a feeble attempt to stop the noise. He rolled over to focus his eyes on the nuisance and finally shut the alarm off. He gathered his thoughts and called American Airlines to find out what happened to his flight to Dallas and how he could get there this morning. The flight was cancelled after all in Chicago, so Bob would have been stranded anyway. The next available flight was scheduled for 12:30 PM that day and Bob happily took the chance.
There was no sleeping now. Bob pulled out his laptop while he listened to the sound of the traffic coming from just past his front window, he hated these motels. The curtains had to be absolutely closed tight or anyone strolling past your front door could see you in your underwear. The laptop booted and Bob tried to catch up on the backlog of work that he would never finish. It was a daily effort to figure out who to disappoint and who to complete work for. "It is what it is" Bob thought, typically waiting for his boss or a cast of others reset his priorities for him on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. The keyboard clicked quietly and the overhead light reflected heavily off keys "E R T S D F C and I O J K L N M". The heaviest used keys on Bob's keyboard, his fingers had worn the textured surface of the keys down to a glossy shine.
Ed called for a different cab this time, where he was guaranteed a rate of $24 and "Yes" they would accept a credit card. "Good… since I don't have any cash left" Bob explained to the dispatcher. It was 10:00 and Bob decided to iron his clothes before getting them all rumpled on his flight. It was a challenge working the ironing board since the iron was chained to the back of the board in an attempt to prevent theft, but it all worked out somehow. The cab ride was uneventful and Bob had plenty of time to get his boarding pass and find the gate. The cots were gone now, and Bob thought of the little girl he had seen just a few hours before. Bob wondered how his own children were doing, and felt guilty again for not being able to speak to them or his wife much that week. Bob remembered former bosses of his making statements like "You knew what you were in store for when you joined this company…", "This work involves travel… period". "Yeah", Bob thought to himself, "but I took two other management positions with this company in order to reduce the travel… but here we are again. What city is this?"
An uneventful flight led to a standard but late landing at Dallas and Bob made a bee-line towards the Plano customer offices. It was almost 4:00 PM, but Bob tried to find his contacts anyway and get as much accomplished as he could. He met the new program manager and got involved in a conference call that pushed the day past 7 PM. Bob found some of his company's technical team still hanging around their desks and asked if anyone had plans for the evening. "No.. but we were thinking about catching another Rough Riders game tonight at 7:30". "Lets do that!" Bob answered back. "I need a diversion after this week… lets go for sure even if we're late." Late it was. There are always difficulties getting out of a "needy" customer site. There is always another question. There is always another meeting. There is always another status update for the senior management team. There is always something that cuts into your personal time.
Four of the gang including Bob, headed to the hotel to drop off one of their troop and the remaining three headed off to the nearby mall that doubled as parking for the Frisco Rough Riders Double A Texas-League baseball team. "Park at the mall, take the bus to the game… I like this" Bob said. The day had caught up with him, perhaps the whole week caught up with Bob and while standing in the parking lot waiting for the shuttle bus… he doubled over in pain. "Guys" he said… "I'm sorry and I hate to do this, but I have a problem and I need to get to a bathroom right now". The mall entrance was relatively close so they made their way to find facilities.
Bob Borman did everything but die in that rest room. His head was spinning, he felt nauseous, he was sweating everywhere and his stomach felt like someone was pounding it with a sledge hammer. It took 15 minutes for Bob to get rid of whatever sickness had taken him. It was quick to incapacitate him, and just as quick to leave him. Bob Borman was still dizzy a little as he found his co-workers in the mall and they had already come up with an alternative plan for the evening. "There's a Dave and Busters one level up in the mall, let's go there and catch a basketball game".
He thanked the gang for sticking with him despite the change of plans and they were gracious in return, maybe because Bob picked up the dinner tab but it didn't matter. Despite how the evening started, Bob still needed the break from the week and it was good to detach from everything even if only for a couple of hours.
Back at the hotel around 10:00, Bob plugged in the laptop to take care of the pile of E-mail that accumulated throughout the week. Each one he opened seemed to increase the work load if not through a direct demand for his time, then through needing to re-direct the customer on poor assumptions or decisions they were making during the week. Bob's stomach started to grumble again. "Shut up" he murmured at his own mid section. "There's nothing left in there for you to churn".
It was 1:45 AM Friday. Bob Borman can't sleep.
He had put the laptop away around midnight, and gave up on the news and HBO around 1:00, but the recent pattern of lying on his back staring at the dark ceiling had emerged again. Bob had tossed around for the next hour or so, pulling the non-fitted sheet corners out from under the mattress and making a general mess of the bedding. Somewhere after 3:00 AM, Bob Borman finally dozed off, but thrashed about for three solid hours.
6:00 AM and the start of the last day of the week. Bob felt again as if he had gotten no sleep at all. The day thankfully was going to be brought to a close early as Bob's flight was scheduled for 2:30 back to Detroit. It was an exercise in back to back meeting schedules, and once again nothing much was decided. "Meetings for the sole purpose of having meetings" Bob thought. "No decisions, no take aways, no customer responsibility, nothing to indicate any forward progress at all." Bob had a quick lunch with some of his team and they all started to head for home, wherever home might be. The slow pace of Friday took Bob down a relaxed path and for the first time in 5 days the tightness between his shoulder blades eased a little. Bob finished as much of his e-mail as he could, packed his briefcase and headed for the airport.
It was a struggle to stay awake even with the bright sun pounding its way through the tinted glass of his third rental car this week. Bob fought the impulse to close his eyes all the way to the DFW airport. The lines at the airport weren't that bad and the forecast for weather in Dallas as well as Detroit was good. Bob remained hopeful. He checked at the counter for the chance of an exit row seat, which helped Bob with the leg room he desperately needed in coach. Again, another good sign. "Exit window is available" Valerie said from behind the counter.
Bob made it through security this time without any added search and he was starting to feel good for the first time this long week. He noticed on his boarding pass that the exit row people get to board first. "Group 1" the ticket said, which was good considering the gate was jammed with people whose travel plans were also interrupted this week. "I'll at least have a place for my carry on luggage". When the announcement for Group 1 was made, Bob was fifth in line and ready with his boarding pass. "Please step to the side sir" was all the gate agent had to say.
Even more invasive than the other times this week, the search station was located immediately next to the gate door without a privacy screen. As Bob's dirty underwear and t-shirts were being tossed in his duffel, the entire line of people looked on. Bob stood in front of the line of passengers 3 feet away with feet spread and arms outstretched while the security agent reached inside his belt line. He tried not to look at them, but they all looked at Bob trying to figure out why he was targeted for search. Children were tugging at their parents pant legs to ask what was happening, Bob was convinced. He found it a little strange that a 6 foot 5 inch white male, a frequent traveler and a US citizen was chosen for the search while several other men and women of Middle Eastern decent boarded without incident. He chastised himself for even thinking that way, "profiling" was not something Bob believed in, but things were definitely different now.
He boarded dead last because the search took 20 minutes, while he garnered concerned looks from seated passengers, he was obviously identified as a flight risk after all, as he passed by. This flight would be on-time and Bob started to count the minutes until he would be home. He thought about what he would be doing this weekend, he thought about his awaiting "honey do" list if she was actually speaking to him, he thought about how his kids would think of him years later after missing so much time at home. Bob remembered once introducing himself to a neighbor he had met for the first time last year, and the neighbor had no idea that Bob actually lived there. "Yeah, I figured that some people would have picked me as the weekend boyfriend" Bob joked.
The 737 leveled off at 33,000, Bob closed his eyes for a little while and tried to detach from the entire week. He thought of the cabin he hadn't seen in Northern Michigan for a while and hoped he could get there soon. He thought about hanging the hammock again now that the weather was getting warmer. He thought about some trees that needed trimming near the lake. He thought of the wind blowing through the trees and the branches over head swaying slightly in union with his hammock. The sound of the wind in the trees was in his ears now and Bob could distinguish the higher pitched tones of the smaller Birch leaves and the deeper tones of the Oaks. Bob fought the impulse to doze off knowing the flight was only two and a half hours long but exhaustion got the better of him. Bob Borman tilted his head towards the window, relaxed his jaw and felt his folded arms slowly fall into his lap.
Bob Borman, was finally, truly asleep.