Position: 39°12’09.3″N 76°40’59.4″W


Travelling for business ain’t what it used to be. At least not when you’re working for yourself and every penny spent on airfares and car rentals is one less penny in the sailing fund. Even in America where business expenses are tax deductible you only get back thirty cents on the dollar (if you’re lucky).

The good news in these post-pandemic times is business travel is more optional that it’s ever been. There’s nothing like a global lock down to teach people how to work from home, screaming kids and all. Offices are now full of TWaTs. You might argue that was always the case, but nowadays folks come in on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Many businesses tip their hats or flip a middle finger to their employees’ desires for flexible schedules and require they come in three days a week. Of course, with that kind of flexibility, people might miss each other for months. Passing like ships in the night.

Back when I worked in the former Compaq Computing offices in Houston, the site was so large and connected by Habitrail-like tubes it was easy to get lost. People would meet over the phone rather than waste time finding a free conference room three buildings away. Which made me wonder if coming to the office was worth the commute.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe spontaneous creativity and collaborative decision-making both suffer with virtual attendance. But I also know from experience I get a lot more work done in a quiet space outside of the company office.

Consulting is all about relationships, and you can’t build strong relationships without meeting in person and occasionally breaking bread. Sorry. You can’t. It’s a human thing. We need to observe people in the flesh, size them up, and sniff them out (well preferably not actually smell them) to feel safe enough to make a commitment. Thus we consultants still travel for business and we meet strangers along the way.

Seat Mates


On a flight from Boston to California many years ago I sat next to an ophthalmologist, an expert in Lasix corrective eye surgery. This was back in the 1990s when the procedure was still kind of new. Expressing curiosity, I prompted her with questions.

When I mentioned I was half blind in my right eye, the doctor quickly said, “I wouldn’t touch your case. You’re too reliant on your one good eye.” It was my good eye that needed correcting. Her advice saved me $5,000 and I bought some trendy glasses instead.

Around the same time, back when iPods were in their infancy, the cool kids had come up with something called ‘jacking’. Jacking involved plugging your headphone’s jack into a stranger’s iPod and they in turn plugged into yours. Sharing your tastes in music with another person demands a little trust. Trust that they won’t excoriate you for listening to Coldplay, and that you won’t snort loudly when you find out they like the Bee Gees. It can also break the ice.

I once, only once, suggested this to my seat mate on another flight. She looked at me curiously, as though wondering if I was flirting with her or that I was simply a little bonkers. Both could have been true…

Dogs and Cats


Sitting in my hotel room last week I faced the business traveller’s dilemma: stay in and watch something on TV, or go out for a pint and some conversation? Before I answer that question you should know that for years I was either an INTJ or and ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs type indicator test. Straddling the line between Extraversion (being social – like a dog) and Introversion (being aloof – like a cat) meant I easily navigated a course between the two dominant social archetypes.

You see, despite all the hard work of Mses. Myers and Briggs[1], there are only two types of people in the world – dog people and cat people. All I had to do was get in the right frame of mind to match the high energy of the puppies, or dial it down for the kittens.

Thanks to the huge number of bored travellers, the likelihood of casual conversation in a pub near an airport hotel is very high. All those feral singletons out for a pint lean towards Extraversion. Girding my lions (loins, surely – ed.), I amped up my mood and headed out for Glory Days, a sports bar right around the corner.

For someone slipping between E and I in the MBTI world, the layout of the bar provided options. Last minute sanctuary could be found in the dining booths. There you could shut out the world and bury your nose in your smartphone. Or you could go all ‘E’ and sit on a high stool at the long, U-shaped bar. I opted for the bar and ordered a pint of hazy IPA. The hipster to my left was buried in his phone. To my right sat an empty chair and beyond that two suit-and-tie businessmen, each tucking into three days’ worth of beefsteak.



About a quarter of an hour later, Jim walked in and sat down beside me. Jim has salt and pepper hair that was short and very neatly trimmed, just like his beard. Stocky and solidly built, I took him for a sales or service manager. His grey-blue buttoned-down shirt had a company logo embroidered over his breast pocket. The shirt was probably a poly-cotton blend and faultlessly pressed. It was not the typical corporate polo shirt handed out at golf retreats.

He asked if I was going home and I said, well heading to Albuquerque – my temporary home. My real home is a sailboat currently stored in Sweden. Jim’s eyes lit up. Jim, it turned out, is a boater and likes nothing better than chartering a power catamaran in the British Virgin Islands for a week or two every year.

He asked if I had a monohull and I said yes. He told me he once met a couple of sailors on the dock in the Virgin Islands who asked him what boat he was on. When he pointed over to his chartered power cat they immediately turned around, refusing to speak with him any further. Sailing snobbishness! Given how much time sailboats spend motoring, I said rather graciously, I think power cats are an attractive option for sailors without the time or patience to wait for the wind.

Jim was chatty. He told me stories of good trips and bad trips. Of engine breakdowns and prop-shafts fouled by dinghy lines. As a sales rep for Kenworth trucks, Jim had a good understanding of diesel engines. Good enough to know how to troubleshoot engine failures due to overheating. When not sailing in the Caribbean Jim keeps a 21-foot power boat on Lake Moultrie, about 40 miles upriver from Charleston, South Carolina. The boat is big enough that he can take his family to Charleston for day trips. His gas tank holds just enough for a one-way trip.

With a few informed questions here and there, Jim and I chatted until we drained our glasses almost an hour later. We had successfully avoided the minefields of politics and religion, paid our tabs, and parted ways as cheery sailors and adventurers.



Landing in Albuquerque the next day I dialled up a Lyft ride and found the appropriate waiting spot. Another Lyfter checked with me he was in the right place and went on to say he had given up renting cars. It was too darned expensive and too risky. If he didn’t have to travel more than 30 miles from the airport, he took Uber or Lyft and let someone else take the risk. He went from 100 rentals a year down to 10. Taking a ton of stress out of his life to boot. His ride pulled up and he was gone. My driver, Julius, was a couple of minutes behind him.

Smoothly accelerating his black Nissan Murano up the slip road towards I-25, Julius, asked what brought me to Albuquerque? I am helping my wife care for my 98-year-old father-in-law. One of only two World War II veterans in the state, I replied. Julius was impressed and mentioned he had been in the service himself, but had only once met someone who fought in the Second World War.

He had been stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base (like my brother I chipped in) and vowed to come back to New Mexico when he retired. Now he had returned, he found Albuquerque was not the place he remembered. In the 1980s the population was only around 250,000. Today it’s three times that and crime has gone through the roof. He and his wife were looking at Colorado and Washington state as alternatives. What about Santa Fe, I asked? Chuckling, he said he had been looking at homes up there the day before.

Washington State would be a good place to retire to, I suggested. There is no personal income tax and so long as you’re not considering the Seattle area with its high cost of living, it can be affordable. What about Spokane? That’s where we were thinking of checking out first. What’s it like out there? he asked. I haven’t spent much time there, I said, but, there’s three universities and that always brings a youthful energy to towns. It would be a draw for me. That makes sense, he agreed. Then I confessed that my wife and I lived on a boat. He laughed again and said that was another idea he and his wife had considered.

Julius and I spent a pleasant 20 minutes together. When we arrived, I wanted to ask him in to meet Bob, but there wasn’t time. I gave him our boat card and said, if you decide to go sailing just shoot us an email. We are always happy to chat.

Jung at heart

I recently retook a Myers-Briggs test (there are plenty on the internet) to see what my indicated type is today. Like any good pseudoscience, MBTI test results can vary depending on your mood and your circumstances. Being semi-retired and philosophically more open minded, my type has morphed into an ENFJ. More dog than cat, and more feeling than intuitive. Perhaps that’s why I find talking with strangers more fun these days.

[1] Katherine Cook (co-creator with her daughter of the MBTI) married Lyman Briggs, taking his name. In a small world coincidence, Lyman was the third director of the National Bureau of Standards, the forerunner of NIST.



    1. Thanks Annette! It’s a great tool when teaching to get people thinking about communication. You have to let the cats come to you and you have to match the energy of the dogs. Simple and effective.

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