Travel Ninjas


A Day in the Life

Travel Ninjas



The rain pounds down.  A cold wet hammer.  This storm has dumped snow all across the plains states and is now beginning its assault on the Great Lakes.  An advanced guard of rain now but soon a cold front reinforcement will sweep in with ice and then snow.

Tomorrow the news will be filled with pictures of contorted tractor trailers twisted into snow-bound heaps and death totals of poor bastards who met their makers at the business end of a shovel full of wet snow and a heart attack.  Thanks for playing.

Not me.  I’m outta here.  Travel ninjas do not get caught in blizzards in the Midwest.

I roll out of my hotel bed, some cheap suite hotel at O’Hare. The alarm on my cell phone dancing some insincere manic tune to rouse me back into this world.  4:30 Am local time.  That gives me a half hour to shower up and catch the shuttle to the airport.

Now I’m happy that I went to sleep instead of going to the bar at midnight for a burger and beer top off.

My overnight bag, a cheap duffle that I bought in a fit of desperation somewhere when the holes in the previous cheap duffle began to hemorrhage toiletries, has one clean shirt, two pair of briefs and two pair of socks, and of course my running shoes.

I can make it fit in any overhead configuration. Frankly, I don’t even need a bag.  All I need is my corporate credit card and my will to live.  In 15 minutes I’m cleaned and suited and out the door. The adrenal switch is pushed to the ‘on’ position.

But there is one thing.  I have in my possession – a Christmas tie with frolicking, happy snowmen.  I don’t have to wear a tie today to ride on planes and fight the travel hell-sucking-vortex making my run from this storm, but I will wear this one today.

This ridiculous holiday tie; it is my middle finger to all the cranky amateurs who will be shoving their big butts in my face and their oddly-shaped packages into the overhead bins.  You morons have to do this.  I choose to do this.  I’m going to get compliments and free drinks all day from an industry that suffers you, but enjoys me and my attitude.

Yesterday we made a deal with the client to finish what we had to do and flee the approaching storm.  None of his people were going to show up anyhow.  No Point in being Martyrs.  My guy did a yeoman’s job of showing up and getting the stuff done.  He’s a stud.

We don’t call in sick.  We don’t show up late.  We don’t leave early.  We go.  We do. And then we get the heck out.  Just like we’ve done hundreds of times before.  Just like we’ll do next week and the week after.  Until the planes stop flying.  Until the world stops turning.  We are the grist in the mill of commerce and we love what we do.

It’s the week before Christmas and things are weird in the travel world.  The lines are extra long.  The people are extra confused and cranky as Grandma and Junior and all the newborn babies on the planet decide they want to get onto planes for some unexplainable reason.  They wander about like zombified and cranky lemmings, brains long jellified and non-functional but bodies automatonically trudging on.

The airport in Chicago is filled with dazed wandering coeds in skinny jeans dragging cheap luggage.  They sip lattes and send text messages.  They wonder how they are going to break it to Dad that instead of studying for finals they spent the week with their manic-depressive boyfriend who is in a band, has tattoos of cryptic lyrics and bad acne.  $50,000 in tuition well spent.

At 5:00 AM the line at security is already snaking out along the concourse towards the door.  The huddled masses huddle.  I walk to the front of the pre-check line, toss my bags on the belt, walk through the metal detector and I’m through and done.  Time to find a Starbucks to dump a little caffeine on the adrenal glands.

Last night, once we knew we were free to head for the exits, we dropped into ninja travel mode.  On the cell phone in the rental car dialing special airline numbers that only we travel ninjas have the codes for.  I know more about routes and hubs and airport codes than any travel agent.  I tell them where I am and where I need to go and we see what can be done.

I can drive south and skirt the storm, sleep over and be on a plane out in the morning before the shit hits the fan here.  Done.  Rebooked. Credit card on file.  Make it so.  Time for dinner.

Sushi.  In Wisconsin? Realy guys? You sure you want to do this? What’s the special Walleye shashimi and Perch nigiri?  It really doesn’t matter I’m always game.

When we sit at the sushi bar I want to regale them with tales of my time Tokyo.  Wandering jet-lagged and blurry in Ropongi and Shinjuku. Fending off painted Philipina prostitutes outside Yakuza strip joints.  Senses viscerally assaulted by Pachinko parlors flashing lights and noises.  Those were some awesome business trips.  International travel takes life’s adventures to a new level.  Fear and loathing for the suit and tie crowd.

I can tell no one wants to hear my stories.  I try speaking Japanese to the chefs but none of them understand.  Sushi in Wisconsin is made by South Americans.  It’s a funny world.

I catch a ride to Chicago to hunker down and jump the next flight out in the morning.

Tonight no doubt the news shows, that I don’t watch, will show long lines of stranded travelers in Midwest airports.  Crying children sleeping on dirty floors. Irate and crazed they will shout their hate of the travel system.  They will hunker down with their shipping container quantity of travel luggage. And I; I will be home.  I will be hugging my kids and taking my dog for a run.

I didn’t push them out of the way.  I showed no ill will or lack of grace.  I slipped through the bedlam smiling and mostly unseen in my snowman tie like a ninja.  A travel ninja.


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