I’m going to the WritersUA conference tomorrow. By going, I mean commuting to Long Beach every day for the next three days. With gas prices, it may be cheaper to fly and stay in Long Beach, but at least I can sleep in my own bed and not get felt up by the TSA.
This trip does give me a chance to reflect on past business trips. I’ve been going away on business for training and conferences from the beginning of my career in the computer industry. The most memorable trips were more than just business.
My most important business trip was my first one. I went to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January 1984. I had been with EnTech Software for only a few months when I went as a public relations rep. At that point, I was still at Cal State Northridge and splitting my work time as a teacher’s assistant in a Pacoima junior high school. But at CES, I was surrounded by the latest gadgets and trappings of the early days of the personal computer industry. I got to meet with the press and even made a few friends. It was at CES where I decided the computer industry was the field I wanted to be in. I found the career I wanted to pursue. Soon after that, I left the teacher’s assistant job and worked solely for EnTech. That’s what led to the technical writing job I have today. That business trip to CES was the one that made all my other business trips possible.
Business trips were also special when I can combine them with visits to my family. I saw my brother at a training I went to in Santa Clara in 1992 and at the STC conference in Minneapolist in 2007. The most poignant one was when I visited my dad at a business trip to San Francisco in 1986. It would the last time I would see him before he died a couple months later.
Not all memorable business trips were pleasant ones. One time, I got stuck in the airport for six hours coming back from CES in 1986. I had to listen to a coworker complain about our boss the whole 45-minute car ride back to the hotel at Stateline, Nevada from the 1994 Comdex in Las Vegas. I had to deal with funky hotels like the ancient El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas with the foam blankets. Or hotels that had no food that was compatible with the Weight Watchers program I was on in 2001. Or staying at the dated and depressing Tropicana in 2005.
Still, I appreciate business trips for the opportunities to learn, further my skills, and enhance my job. If I’m lucky, they turn out to be something more.