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January 5, 2011

I was all set to take off on the daily prompt for today, and it was a doozy.  It asked if I was stressed out, and if so, why.  I had just walked in the door after sitting at my son’s football practice in the cold (for Phoenix) night air and driven home in the dark.  I don’t see well at night, so I was a little agitated.  They are “improving” the main road near our house, and the daily guessing game of “Which lane will be blocked off today?” is enough to swear you off driving for a month.  I’ve got client appointments tomorrow, with clients that are not nice, and to top it off, I came home to a grumpy teenager, a husband who is still not feeling well, and two dogs that get off on shredding up dryer sheets.

It took awhile for me to settle down, and finally fire up the laptop.

I spent some time poking around other blogs…I think I spend more time reading blog posts these days than I do ebooks on my nook.  I like to do that first, to sort of get into the “writing” mode.  I was making a little mental checklist of all of my woes, when I happened upon a post by another reverb10 participant, Geekin’ Hard.  He wrote a hilarious piece about traveling with two business associates.  His post reminded me of my first job out of college.

I went to work for an airport shuttle company.  I started out in the reservations department, along with one of my cousins.  We were cute, young, single girls, and they quickly decided that we would be better in a more direct customer service role.  The drivers and the curb coordinators we worked with called us “Red” and “Legs.”  My cousin had long, red hair, hence, Red; and, I was Legs, thanks to the the short skirts I wore.  Because our company contracted with groups to meet large parties at the airport and transport them to their function’s destination, someone would have to meet the inbound passengers and direct them to the company vans & cars. 

Yep.  I was one of those dopes you see down by baggage claim, holding a sign.

We’d have a flight schedule, and our job was to meet each flight, direct folks to the luggage area, and then get them onto the vans.  It’s like herding kittens.  What is it about airports that reduces a fully functioning adult to babbling idiots incapable of reading, listening or following simple directions? 

I would be standing at the bottom of the escalators, holding a sign with a particular company’s name spelled out.  As each flight would come in, the employees would come up to me and say, “I’m with (Company X).”  I would wait until I had a couple of them in a little circle. 

“Hello!  My name is Brandee, and I am with Stupid Shuttle.  Welcome to Phoenix.  Please go over to the baggage carousel, get your luggage and come right back here to me.”

I would always tell them to come right back to me.  RIGHT BACK TO …no, not there, HERE!  Right HERE!  With me.  ME.  Here.  Here!  HERE!  I would have to tell them to come right back.  If given more than those simple instructions, they would invariably wander off, and would not find the shuttle stop, located across several lanes of traffic, out on the island by the taxi stands.  God help them if they got shanghaied by a taxi driver.

Once they all had their luggage, I would gather my little flock and lead them across the street to the shuttle stand.  There, an obnoxious guy, usually someone that couldn’t be trusted behind the wheel, would coordinate the arrival of vans.  We’d bundle them into the vans and send them on their way.

When it was time for the group to go home, my cousin or I would be in the lobby of the hotel, working with the door men, to get everyone into the vans & back to the airport.  I did get a lot of funny looks, hanging around hotel lobbies, in a short skirt & heels.

It’s a weird job.  To stand holding a sign is certainly not why I got a degree in English.  I did get to read a lot, in between flights.  The people watching in an airport is like no place else.  I saw all sorts of famous people, both at the airport and at some of the resorts around town. 

One day, while out in front of the Ritz Carlton, a limo driver approached me and said that if I stayed right where I was, I could meet ACDC.  It was about 10:00 on a Monday morning.  Pretty soon, four of the shortest, grungiest, scraggly looking guys you’ve ever seen came wandering out of the front doors and stood blinking and smoking cigarettes on the curb.  All around them, other hotel guests were eyeing them suspiciously…they certainly didn’t look like the normal Ritz patrons.  I got to meet them, but couldn’t understand a word that they mumbled before a limo came gliding forward.  They all crawled into the back and were off.

I had worked with Stupid Shuttle for about six months, and that was plenty.    Leading weary travelers through the airport like the Pied Piper, I developed a sense of how I would travel, given the opportunity.  My first goal was to spend as little time in the actual airport as possible.  The second was to make sure that I was prepared for delays, changes and inconvenience.

These days, when I travel for work, I keep things as simple as possible, so that I don’t become the type of passenger that I would have made fun of!