As I prepared for my first real job interview, a friend gave some advice that proved prescient. He told me that the more senior the interviewer, the less you need to worry. The junior employees are the tough ones because they’ll see you both as a potential rival and as someone they may have to rely on. With anyone very senior, he said reassuringly, it’s just an airport test. Seeing that I had no idea what he was talking about, he explained: imagine you’re stuck in Wichita. Could you stand to talk to that person until you can get the next flight out?
The intervening years have shown me the importance of that test. Though the recruiting brochures never mentioned it, a career in international finance can apparently take you to Cuyahoga Falls in the back seat of a rental car (the option to drive, like everything else, goes in order of rank) or to Detroit in late January. And I have, in fact, suffered through a soul-sucking twelve hour delay in Pittsburgh, which, even if not as purgatorial as Wichita, does not have an airport that teems with diversions.
When you travel for pleasure, getting there is just part of the price you pay for a bit of fun. But when the chicken wings at the Anchor Bar in BUF might just be the highlight of your week, you look for anything that can make the journey a bit more pleasant.
I know some people will tote along a memento that reminds them of home. And I’ve seen many travelers marshall an army of gadgets to fight boredom. I’m not sufficiently sentimental or organized for either of those.
My personal antidote to the monotony of business travel is nice luggage. It’s something of an indulgence - any cheap suitcase can carry some clothes, toiletries and papers. And, given the unavoidable rigors of air travel, anything you take with you will get banged around a bit. But there’s something comforting in the patina of a suitcase that has been your companion on a variety of trips. And a good quality bag can be a useful reminder that even a redeye before a full day of work isn’t really an excuse for looking too sloppy.
Way back when my friend had tried to reassure me. Knowing what I do now, I’m not sure anyone on earth can really pass the airport test. But at least you should be able to find a bag that can.
Quality content, like quality clothing, ages well. This article first appeared on the No Man blog in September 2014.