An Approximal view of work-related travel

I have been doing some travel for work lately.

I always enjoy this, except for a few minor details such as other people and check-in processes apparently designed by the God of Pointless Things (I mean the check-in processes were designed, not the people – which isn’t to say that some people might not also meet the criteria for pointlessness).

For example, on one airline – let’s call it ‘Approximal Airways’ so that we don’t get sued – you can check in the day before online, print out your bag tags at the airport, and then join a line longer than Bill Gates’ driveway to check your bag in.

This line appears to include many people who did not check in online, plus people who are in the wrong line, or at the wrong airport, or – going by their outfits and body modifications – on the wrong planet.

This is indeed a new thing in flying. Once upon a time business flights were full of people in serious business attire, doing serious business things such as absorbing serious amounts of free alcohol and making seriously unwise decisions, marriage-vows wise, in seriously unpleasant aeroplane toilets; it was a simpler time.

Nowadays people troop onto planes dressed in clothes that would require several more items to even count as underwear, and pierced by sufficient metal to assemble a complete assault rifle plus ammunition and handy wall mount.


That seems to me to be more dangerous than the nail clippers and bottle openers that are routinely snaffled at airport security, but I am certainly not questioning it since I have no desire to offend any airport security staff who might be reading this and be a couple short of their cavity search KPIs next time I fly.

Not that I think they would cavity search me,1 but even the most seasoned traveller approaches the security checkpoint with some trepidation. I am always checking things to see if I have anything deadly on me, such as a spray deodorant, patting myself down, Bilbo-like, while, “What has it got in its pocketses?” echoes through my mind.2

Is there a banned gel in my backpack? A battery of some kind in my pocket? Did a mate sneak an M-84 stun grenade into my carry-on luggage, just for a lark? After all, one of the guys back in law school delighted in sneaking embarrassing books into other people’s bags, so that the alarm would sound when you left the library, and everyone would watch as the security guard pulled, Law for Genuinely Stupid People or The Art of the Deal3 from your bag. I have no doubt that if he’d been able to get hold of a stun grenade he’d have dropped it in my luggage in an instant.

Still, there are worse things about travel than the risk of cavity search and sitting next to someone who may well be building a weapon from their face piercings. For example, on one occasion, many moons ago, I was booked to speak at a ‘retreat’4 for a private company.

This retreat was a little off the beaten track, in the same sense that Mordor isn’t exactly on your way to the shops. This meant that accommodation was rarer than an Albanese sighting on Australian territory, resulting in limited choices and a very broad spectrum when it came to quality.

This was all compounded by virtue of the fact that the company itself had booked the accommodation, and the person in charge of this task had clearly taken into account the fact that I was not a fellow employee and would never likely never meet them, nor have any opportunity for revenge; this put me on the bottom rung of accommodation options.5


It is never a good sign when you drive past your motel twice without realising that it is in fact a motel, and not the set of a dystopian science-fiction movie which ran out of money 20 years ago and was reduced to asking Steven Seagal to be in it. I would not have been surprised to see him walk around the corner and ask me if I had any spare change.

Checking in, the guy manning the reception moved with all the speed of a volcanic plug, and spoke about as often. I figured he was worried that rapid movement or loud noise might cause the roof to fall in – a not altogether fanciful concern – but I could not rule out the possibility that he was one of your Norman Bates-type hoteliers, and decided not to risk small talk.

On a scale of one to five stars, I would rate the motel, ‘in the process of appealing its condemnation order, and thus able to stay open due to a loophole in the legislation’. The key to my room fitted nicely in the lock, but did nothing no matter how many times you turned it; luckily the door opened at a gentle push. Lest you feel that this might have been a security issue, an examination of the back of the door revealed a comforting back-up, a sturdy gate hook, albeit the kind more usually associated with bird cages6 than doors.

The room possessed all the mod-cons – TV, an alarm clock that started blinking if you turned on the toaster, and what I believe to be the world’s first air-conditioner, possibly coal-fired, and only likely to make the room any cooler should it happen to fall out of the window.7

It also had a bathroom featuring a shower with a light switch inside the cubicle8, which would have been handy if you felt like electrocuting yourself, which I didn’t, at least not the whole time I was there.

The bathroom also held a toilet, adorned with a ribbon assuring me it had been ‘cleaned for my comfort’, although I think this was when the bowl was installed and not any time since. By the time I encountered it I suspect it was well on the way to solving the world’s biodiversity problems by virtue of the rampant evolution occurring in its dank corners, which looked all-too much like the egg room in the Aliens movie for my liking.


Some have been critical of the various American fast-food franchises which are taking over our country, and up until that point I was too. Now, however, I have come to appreciate a place that is open all night, has bright, perky staff, and most importantly has toilets which are not breeding viruses that would make COVID look like dandruff. I would have bathed at Ronnie’s that night if the sink were just a little bigger.

In any event, the presentation went well, the guy on the reception was too busy stalking/burying other guests to bother me, and I was actually able to get a pretty good night’s sleep, thanks to resilience, a can-do attitude and – above all else – a hire car with a big back seat.

© Shane Budden 2022

1 At least, not because of my column.
2 I’m not explaining that, everyone should get the reference, and be sent for re-education if they don’t.
3 I realise this was not written back then, but you would be surprised how hard it is to come up with an embarrassing title that doesn’t offend anybody.
4 Which, in retrospect, is what I should have done.
5 At least I hope it was the bottom.
6 In this case, for cages designed to foil the best escape efforts of a parrot that might appear in a Monty Python sketch.
7 Which, in fairness, seemed to be only a matter of time.
8 I am not making this up.

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