Do I need an assistant?

I get that question a lot when I announce I’m off to another exotic or warm-weather destination. Sure these media trips sound wonderful when discussed over the water cooler or space age coffee maker. But the reality is a lot less glamorous. Visiting Puerto Vallarta for a media conference is fun.

Getting there is not. A 6:30 am flight means arriving at the airport at 4am, which means leaving for the airport at 3:30, which means getting up at… starting to feel tired yet?

After too few hours horizontal I get to half undress for the lovely people at security. Selected for a random intensive search I remove the Kleenex from my pocket and assume ‘the position’. The monitor shows a big danger area over my chest. The agent suggests I turn my necklace around. I pass and start my search for breakfast. A gazillion calorie fat-fest of eggs, cheese and bacon on a croissant or a sugar-laden donut – healthy nutrition is nowhere to be seen at 4:30am.

I luck out on my first flight and get a full row of seats to myself. This is like getting triple cherries on the slots at Vegas and I snatch two hours of sleep. How I managed to score a 20 hour milk-run to Puerto Vallarta boggles my mind but I dutifully head to the gate for my next leg – a flight to Mexico City. I try not to groan as a mob of happy people load onto a direct flight to Puerto Vallarta at the next gate. They will be on the beach before I get into the air for my last leg into PV.

After hurrying over to the gate for a passport check it appears something is amiss. Or perhaps missing.  The ground attendants look forlornly at the space our plane would occupy if it had arrived.  It hasn’t.  The monitor optimistically suggests we will leave in 30 minutes.

Finally, our plane arrives. We wait. The plane requires the attention of maintenance personnel. Ominously we are told to wait another 30 minutes for an update. At 10:20 the flight monitor says we leave at 10. At 10:25 the speakers cackle to life – there has been a gate change and we are to head there immediately. Sounds like our plane is DOA but a replacement has been found.

Cleaners are ‘freshening up’ the plane for a quick turnaround. Quick turns to slow, then meandering, as the gate agent tries to execute corporate policy. Zone 1 will board before zone 2, Gold cardholders before the great unwashed, and only two carry-ons per person. Unfortunately her audience doesn’t speak English or read boarding passes well.

Our brave agent – who I guess graduated top of her class at US Airways University – is surrounded by Mexicans intent on getting home. For someone who said moments earlier we were going to board quickly, it seems farcical for the agent to make a passenger stuff a purse in her suitcase because she has a lunch bag, and bring the line-up to a halt.

Someone tells the agent the woman with 2.5 bags is a ‘church lady’.  God has little pull here but US Airways finally bows in defeat as no one is boarding now. All zones, cardholders and humans are allowed to board in a hurry so we can…wait. It takes another hour for the luggage to be moved from our old plane to the new.

Mexicans are very patient people. No one complains about the arctic-like temperature or the lack of refreshments as we sit on the tarmac. A woman beside me balances a bag the size of a Rottweiler on her lap. The guy in front of her reclines early and stays there. A nun in full habit taps away on her laptop on my other side. A sign God hadn’t deserted me totally?

So yes, I would love an assistant. If you could travel in my place and I could be beamed aboard a destination like Scottie did for Spock on Star Trek, I’d be in bliss. Send in your resumes!

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