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Road Warrior II

9.18.2009

As many of you remember, Charles Kerault was the king of telling America's stories from the road. John Lamar, Managing Director of The Alexander Group, is not Charles Kerault, yet his missives as a Road Warrior are an entertaining peek at the drudgery of business travel.

My last stint on the road was a page from the Murphy's Law travel playbook. What could have gone wrong did, and then was compounded by a streak of really bad luck. My most recent trip, however, found me the beneficiary of some extraordinary good fortune.

After printing my boarding pass at home, I realize I am seated in 31E. For those of you not familiar with the configuration of Continental Airlines Boeing 757, this would be the middle seat, near the back of the plane, a few rows from the restroom. The greatest benefit of these seats is if you have to go, you don't have far to walk. Another plus, you get to know all the other passengers on a first name basis as they head for the, um, head.

Trying to wedge my 6'4" frame into the middle seat with a 31" pitch was not the way I envisioned starting my trip. And given that the travel gods were guiding this particular journey, I didn't have to.

Waiting to board the gate, I heard my name paged. "John Lamar, please see the agent at gate C22." As I approached the counter, I had no clue that my hard-won status as a Triple Platinum Elite One Pass Member was about to pay off.

"Mr. Lamar, first class did not check in full today. I can put you in 1B, if you like." I quickly exchanged boarding passes and off I went, down the blue carpet through the Elite Access ramp.

Arriving at LAX, I head straight to the Hertz Gold Club board which indicates my mid-sized sedan is parked in space 38. There, in the spot where my reserved car should be, sits a Red Mustang Convertible. I glance quickly to the right, then left. Feeling certain that this in fact is my car, I get in. I insert the key and the ignition turns over, right on cue. Ahhhh, I think, Joe Torre and I both love LA!.

First meeting: interview potential candidate for a CFO position for a Fortune 500 technology company. Arriving at the agreed upon Starbucks, the candidate is already waiting. I settle in and after reviewing his background, find him to have just the qualifications the client is looking for. And the bonus, he has the finance smarts with the personality of a Biz Dev guy. This one goes straight to the top of the "highly recommended" list going to the client.

After parting with the interviewee, I am ready for a skinny vanilla latte. Remember, I am a central time guy on the left coast. A little caffeine boost is in order. As I step into the "Order Here" line and ask for my skinny vanilla, I inadvertently bump into a fellow patron. It just so happens to be Kurt Russell. "Excuse me," I mumble. "No problem, man," Kurt says. "So you like those vanilla lattes?" he asks. "I am more of an old school, half-caf, no foam kind of guy."

I become present enough in the moment to realize I am talking coffee preferences with the guy who played "Snake" in Escape from New York.

"I used to be a half-caf guy myself," I respond, "Until that day when I had my first full-caf. Then there was no going back." Kurt chuckled, as he stepped up behind me to place his Starbucks order.

Back in the Mustang, locked and loaded with my Grande Latte, I set off for the hotel. LA traffic is surprisingly light today (is this some sort of bank holiday?), the Neverlost system earns its moniker, and less than thirty minutes later the GPS announces "you have arrived."

As the valet takes the Mustang, he enviously asks how fast I can get the 400 horsepower to gallop. I respond, "it's just a rental."

Entering the hotel lobby, there is a greeter who hands me a warm washcloth. Is that a lavender aroma I detect? As I step up to the check-in counter, the clerk, clearly trained in the lost art of customer service politely informs me that the double room I was originally booked into is not yet clean. He asks "would you mind if we put you in a suite this evening?" I think, this is a rhetorical question, right?

The home stretch in my day as a Road Warrior. Down the hall of the hotel. Magnetic key in hand, ready to exchange the Hickey Freeman for a pair of jeans. I open the door and there, sitting in a bucket of ice is a bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay, courtesy of the front desk manager. The note reads "we apologize for your room not being quite ready for your arrival today, Mr. Lamar. Please enjoy this wine with our compliments."

You can be sure that I did.

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