Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Business Trips

Why aren’t business trips for me like business trips for everyone else?

Ever since I’ve been old enough to have a job, I’ve been listening to friends sitting around the table at the pub, and telling me and all about their awesome business trips on which they are collected from the airport in a limo, taken to some swanky restaurant where they are plied with all-expenses paid, five-star cuisine and with all the best top-shelf scotch they can stomach before being whisked out to an up-market strip joint for a wonderful evening’s entertainment (again, furnished with all the plastic panty money they need to keep them happy), and then it’s onto the casino for a late night snort and a hundred bucks worth of chips, before calling it a night in the penthouse jacuzzi of a centrally located, luxury hotel with whom-so-ever the company deems fit.

The explanation then usually goes on to describe days out at the races, the footy, corporate golf, more fine dining and barrel-loads of booze. By the time the end of the trip arrives, the hosting branch of the organization almost has to carry my friends onto the plane, and it’s back to work the next day with a mighty hangover, an itchy, weeping knob and a truck-load of yarns for the tea room.

So I’m thinking about my business trips over the last couple of years, and I’m wondering why it is that I don’t have any wonderful yarns about wins at the races, picking up at the Black Jack table, snogging Keira Knightly at the Harbourside Brasserie or ordering room service and having the waitress jump into the tub with me wearing nothing but a champagne bottle and two glasses. Admittedly, these friends are from the Business and Finance sector (B&F), or the IT sector, or other such industries sporting a Two-Letter-Acronym (TLA), and are not quite in the business of saving the world (STW), but surely I’ve been at this long enough by now to at least have earned just a little respect in the form of away-from-home-comforts, haven’t I?

Well, obviously not! I’m writing this from the very dirty, hot, crowded departure hall of Chennai airport, where I have just been informed of yet another 45 minute delay of my flight, and there’s not a compensatory beer or beer nut in sight. This has come at the end of a pretty gruelling couple of days, and I’ve about reached the limit of what I can handle. But if you’re thinking I’m being a bit precious, and perhaps whinging just a bit too much,* allow me to draw a few comparisons of my current business trip, with that of my corporate friends.

Collected in a limo:
I wasn’t collected at all. I paid for a taxi, then struggled across the busy road with my luggage to find my taxi. I had to kick the driver up the arse in order to get him moving as he was quite happy to continue chatting with his mates. When he did finally get moving … he managed four feet before getting grid-locked in the car park. He then bypassed the exit, and went to collect one of his mates who needed a lift, and so he jumped into my cab as well.

Taken to a swanky hotel:
I didn’t have an identified hotel to stay in, but my suggestion of a place was met with the usual, “That one is full, Sir. I take you to good hotel”. “No!” “Yes sir, it’s a good hotel”. “NO!” ”OK, Sir. As you wish” … and sometime later, me: “What’s this?” ”A very good hotel, Sir” “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhh!”

I looked out the grubby window at the Mars Wedding Hotel, a one-and-a-half star wonder, complete with an attached wedding hall. Having been through all of this before, I knew that the best thing to do was to get out and have a look at the room, so at least then my chauffer would let-up with the nagging and let me go to another hotel. Actually, after entering the lobby and seeing the chain-smoking entourage leftover from a recent wedding celebration, I was kind of interested to have a good look at the type of room that the still-with-a-lot-of-climbing-to-do social climbers of Indian society will stay in on their wedding night. I was even more intrigued when I found out about the hotel’s special wedding feature, a “tunnel of love” ensuring easy, saree-stripping access from the marriage hall to the bedrooms.

As expected, the room was dirty, with a low, sagging bed and with a strangely musty smell about it (not surprisingly). Not quite what I had in mind.

Put up in a luxury hotel penthouse with a jacuzzi:
By the time I’d answered to the now commission-less taxi driver (for the fourth time) as to why I did not want to stay in his suggested hotel, I was pretty "emotional” about it all. We tried two more hotels with no rooms available, and so I had to make a decision on the next one.

The room wasn’t quite a penthouse … more a pentbox, and the grubby, cold water tap hanging out of the wall with the slimy-bottomed bucket beneath it (which was obviously what the hotel brochure was referring to when it listed "hot shower" as a feature of the room), was an almighty cry from a jacuzzi.

And I'll bet that my corporate friends didn't have someone else's pubic hairs in their sheets BEFORE they even got into bed! Who knows? Maybe they were even lucky enough to have full-length sheets; ones which covered the whole mattress, rather than the three-quarter length ones that I discovered when I threw back the bedcovers that evening. Now that was a brilliantly executed ruse to convince a potential guest that the room was OK if, like me, they demanded to give it the once-over before agreeing to stay – what a sucker!

Put up in a centrally located, luxury hotel penthouse with a jacuzzi:
This marvel of modern, sophisticated accommodation was hardly what you'd call "central", unless your idea of going out on the town was to walk around dusty, congested streets and visiting stores that sold rubber and glue. Chennai's original industrial zone occupies the 15Km buffer zone between town and the airport; the traffic-congested trip takes up to one hour, so my attempt at an evening's sight-seeing around the hotel's surrounding streets was pretty short, before I rushed back to the "jacuzzi" to wash all the dust and grime from my face and neck.

Taken to some swanky restaurant where they are plied with all-expenses paid, five-star cuisine and with all the best top-shelf scotch they can stomach:

Industrial zones aren't known for their tremendous restaurants, and so it was back to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Some proponents of Darwinism believe it's man's ability to choose that distinguishes us from the apes, but when the choice is to be the only diner in a strategically, dimly lit restaurant, or go hungry, as I resigned myself to the murky interior, I felt about as ape-like as I could get without wanting to scratch my armpits and sniff my neighbour's bum (fortunately, there was no one else around, as this could well have been a chargeable offence in Chennai).

Even the most inexperienced of travellers to India learns pretty quickly not to eat at places where no one else is eating, and my flagrant ignoring of the rules was bound to have consequences. Indeed, at 4am the next morning, those consequences made themselves known.

Incidentally, there was no booze, either. Actually, there was nothing to drink except warm mineral water as the guy with the key to the fridge had gone home for the evening ... with the key!

Ordering room service and having the waitress jump in the tub with me wearing nothing but a champagne bottle and two glasses:
All the available bog roll was gone after an hour of the afore mentioned consequences, so I staggered to the phone to call room service for some more. Despite the affirmative response on the other end of the line, I was hopping mad with panic thirty-minutes later, as, still sans paper, I picked up the phone for assistance. Now I don't normally like to get short with anybody, and especially not with low-paid hotel employees, but as the cramps and pressure continued to mount, my reserves of self control were all being directed towards my sphincter, and I really gave the poor guy on the other end of the line an earful (of abuse, that is, not the other).

My distressed mind has blacked-out exactly what I said to the guy, but what ever it was seemed to do the trick. Needless to say, when the knock came at the door only seconds later, there was no naked, sexy waitress ready to jump into the "tub" with me, but rather a scared little man who took one whiff of the room and cut a very hasty retreat.

Snogging Keira Knightly at the Harbourside Brasserie:
Not at the Harbour-side Brasserie, nor even in my dreams, owing to disrupted slumber thanks to soiled, inadequately proportioned bed linen and the afore mentioned nocturnal consequences of an unhygienic chef.

Taken out to an up-market strip joint ... the races, the footy, corporate golf, more fine dining and barrel-loads of booze:

Not quite! Instead, I got to spend three, spine-shattering hours in a stinking-hot jeep in order to have a look at swollen, bloated feet with various (or all) toes missing, putrid, gangrenous stumps from amputated limbs and near starving people trying to manage a living without family, social supports or a house to live in. All this before piling back into the mobile oven for another three hours of fun, all of which was repeated the following day.

OK. OK. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that Donkey's completely lost it this time; that he's way off the mark about those business trips, and that everyone knows that the B&F and IT guys and gals get all those perks because they don't get paid that much. You're thinking that Donkey's probably making a packet for all his hardships, and that's why he doesn't get the jacuzzis, strippers and beer.

Well I've done the sums, and had a look at what a new-grad IT professional makes in one year, and I've used the old net-based currency converter to measure what I'm making by comparison, and I'm here to tell you, People, that to even come close, my organisation is going to have to put me up in a penthouse, and ply me with food, money and days out at the races EVERY DAY FOR SIX MONTHS. I'm owed something here, and I'm not changing one more putrid bandage until I get it!

Just goes to show you how our society has lost it's way, hey?

* Then you’re probably right.

Despite their hardships, people in these parts still manage to have a wonderful time, unlike those across the big wet, who have it easy, but are rarely satisfied. Pic: Hagas


lived-legna said...

Gosh Donkey, you really took me 'there' with you, to the dingy room with pubic hair and 3/4 bedspreads! Yikes! Thank you for being so entertaining! :-)

The Man at the Pub said...

Nah, your just getting soft.

BV said...

The pubic hair put me over the edge. That is just foul.

I'll take you out and get you drunk, but I'm not snogging you.

DonkeyBlog said...

L'Legna - That's right, Babe! Stick with me and I'll take you to ALL the best places!

Pub Man - I'd have to agree there's an element of truth to your words, My Master.

BV - A date, huh? Is that like, as in Pretty Woman, "as long as you don't kiss on the lips"?

sabrina said...

Hahahaa....poor Donkey!

Pubic hair and slimy bucket?!! I would have cried the entire trip la...i go insane when it comes to cleanliness!

But the tunnel of love sounds fascinating though :p

Allie D. said...

I often wonder what the people who get those idealistic business trips actually do for a living. It seems like upper-level employment is the mere act of moving money around...

DonkeyBlog said...

Yeah Allie, but I'm pretty good at moving money around - from my wallet straight into some great big, dodgy, fly-by-night scheme. :(

lucy said...

See that's really messed up Donkay.

I just got back from a business trip and will be off again interstate next week. And I love them. I don't get limos but I get awesome hotels and flights and food covered.

But because I am a grandma I don't do the networking stuff because I end up doing 14 hour days and stay in my room watching porn.

You should move into IT, much better than pubic hairs in your bed.

DonkeyBlog said...

Free porn? IT here we come - thanks for the tip, Lucy!