“Do you need someone to carry your luggage?”
That’s the first question people ask me when they find out what I do for a living. I am in international sales and I cover a very large territory. My peripatetic lifestyle affords me the unique opportunity to live not one but two clichés more or less at once. While my head is often times in the clouds, my feet always end up on solid ground either queuing in long airport security lines, running for trains or chasing down taxis in the rain.
On a typical sales trip I will be in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Athens and Johannesburg in a given two week period. I have dubbed my little corner of the world the Bermuda Triangle of sales territories. And I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before I disappear…. not from the face of the earth mind you, but to a nice beach somewhere in the Peloponnese where some dark haired Adonis will massage my aching feet.
So now that I have your attention you’re probably wondering what kind of work I do and where you can get a gig just like this one. Well, to put it simply, I sell color. To better explain it, I sell color merchandising tools – the paint chips or color swatches you get at your local home improvement center – to global paint manufacturers.
The bulk of my luggage, and I mean this quite literally, consists of samples, i.e. color fans and packets of color chips that would turn a box of Crayola crayons green with envy. They look great but they also weigh a ton, or at least that’s what it feels like after two weeks on the road. My samples can add an extra 10 to 15 pounds to my suitcase. Any remaining space is used for underwear and some stylish separates that can be mixed and matched to look like 12 outfits over 14 days. I also make good use of the hotel laundry.
I have one rule; I have to be able to heft a suitcase onto a shuttle bus and into its luggage rack otherwise I have to repack it – and I hate repacking. In the corporate travel jungle where every square inch is usually fought over by overbearing males marking their territory with suit bags, carry-ons and lap tops, it’s every (business) woman for herself. Guile and cunning (and a generous tip to the shuttle driver) win out over brute force any day.
So needless to say my biceps and triceps are the last muscle group I have to worry about these days. No, it’s the other parts of me, the less streamlined and more wobbly bits, the bits that succumb to the inertia of any kind of travel that involves sitting – that worry me the most. Suddenly clothes that fit just two weeks ago are now a smidge too tight. Wait a minute… when did that happen?
Could it be stealth poundage had crept up on me when I wasn’t looking? Except there was nothing stealth about it, it was right there in front of me. My clothes I could ignore, I could write them off to the shrinkage effect you sometimes get in a hotel laundry. But scales are another matter entirely. What ever inspired hotels (not the North American ones) to start putting scales in their bathrooms? Didn’t they know the potential impact it could have on dessert sales? And yet I found a scale in half of the hotels I stayed in. Maybe that’s how Europeans stay so thin?
Naturally the temptation to weigh myself far outweighed any qualms I had about actually knowing how much I weighed. After all the readout is in metric and I love the metric system because it always makes me feel so light. When I started my trip I clocked in at a nice 56 kg. However by the time I reached my last stop, Athens, I weighed 57.7 kg. Which when you do the math doesn’t sound so bad, only a 1.7 kg gain.
But when you convert it, it’s nearly a four pounds! And on my 5’2” frame that’s a lot. I was going to have to do something about that and fast, before it got stuck there. But what? I have always been good at keeping my curves just ahead of the old metabolic curve. But now as I approach 50 I’m wondering if I might be hitting a wall. Had my metabolism ratcheted down another notch?. Or is it just a temporary blip brought on by three big meals a day instead of my usual six mini-meals.
I could blame it on several things. Jet lag often has me ravenous and raiding the mini-bar at odd hours for food combinations that could only appeal to a pregnant woman. Perhaps it was the extra croissant during breakfast – I mean how often do I get to Paris, right? (Okay forget that argument). But really it would be rude to forego dessert when you know your customer has a sweet tooth and he picked the restaurant just because it specializes in chocolate soufflé.
Pretty weak arguments I know. But sometimes after a long hot day crisscrossing Athens in taxi cabs at speeds that would make a native New Yorker shudder, all I want to do is head to the hotel’s rooftop garden and relax. And so as I watch the lights come up on the Acropolis I order an ice cold beer, roll up my pant legs and plop my aching feet into the swimming pool. Ahh…And as the waiter brings over a small bowl of chips I make a mental note — this time, I promise myself, I’ll only eat only half.
POST SCRIPT – 12 hours later. Today is my last day in Athens. When the elevator finally arrived at my floor to take me to breakfast and the doors opened, I saw a family of four very large people. The two sons were well over six feet tall and looked to be about 200 pounds each. And their parents were not far behind.
There was barely room in the tiny elevator for one more. But with some careful maneuvering I managed to squeeze myself inside. Just my luck it stopped on the floor below but the people in the hallway backed away smiling. There was no way they were ever going to get in here nor did they want to. Just then the elevator emitted a persistent buzzing sound.
Son number one blamed son number two for leaning on a button. Both boys stepped away from the buttons and yet the buzzing persisted. That’s when I noticed a red light flashing that said over weight. We had exceeded the maximum weight load allowable in that elevator which was 600 kg. As I made a move to step off the elevator, the father jokingly suggested that the problem wasn’t with me. But once I stepped off of the elevator the buzzing stopped.
Talk about timing… I guess I shouldn’t have eaten those chips.
photo: © istockphoto.com/robynmac