One of my best vacations began when a friend called and asked if we wanted to go to Greece. Greece, yeah that was different, somewhat exotic and why not – so, without even thinking about it, I said yes. Then the deal got better, he explained that since his wife was a Delta flight attendant, we could fly first class for less than coach on Delta’s Friends and Family plan. How could I lose?
The first leg of the trip, from Orlando to Atlanta, was perfect. At the gate we were issued a first-class boarding pass with side by side seating assignments. However, when we arrived in Atlanta we learned the truth, Friends and Family meant we were flying standby; and, since Delta didn’t fly into Athens we had to make sure that we were in Frankfurt in time to catch our Olympic Airlines flight. I watched and listened as our flight attendant friend conferred with the people at the Delta service desk to determine which flights had available seats and then stood in front of the gate agent waiting to see if we could get on the flight.
After not being able to obtain seats on several flights my buddy came up with a plan. He had my wife Terri stand in front of one gate, he and his wife the next gate down and he placed me between the two gates. The plan was if there were seats on the plane at the gate where Terri was stationed, she would signal me and I would let them know so we could all rush to get on the plane. Of course the converse was true for him, he would let me know if there were available seats and Terri and I would rush to his gate. Suddenly he began frantically waving, I signaled Terri and she and I both ran to the gate where he and his wife were entering the jet way. I yelled, “Are we on?” He replied, “My wife and I are.” I responded, “What about us?” His answer, “Catch a flight, we’ll meet you in Frankfurt.” And the door closed behind them.
There we were, stuck in Atlanta, no idea what we were doing or what to do. When I explained the circumstances to the agent at the Delta service counter, he laughed out loud and then explained that because she was a Delta employee, my friends were a high boarding priority; but Terri and I as friends of a Delta employee were the lowest priority. He shook his head and made it clear that it could take several days before we got a flight.
Before forking over a fortune to buy a ticket or giving up altogether, I decided to give it one last shot, so we listed on another flight and stationed ourselves in front of the gate agent. It became obvious that the flight was fully booked and we were not going to get on but I stood my ground just in case and Terri wandered off. Suddenly she reappeared with the news that she had gotten us on a flight to Amsterdam.
We were the last ones on the flight before they closed the door and as the plane lifted into the air, we were celebrating: high fives, cheers and hugs; until I realized there was no way our luggage could have made the flight. As I thought about purchasing new wardrobes for Terri and me, I completely lost my sense of humor. Wise woman that she is, Terri responded by ordering me two scotches and reminding me that at least we were going to make it over the “big pond” without having to purchase a ticket.
Everything worked out. We caught a train from Amsterdam to Frankfurt; the next morning met our friends at the Olympic Airlines gate and that evening our luggage was delivered to our Athens hotel. All in all, it was one of the best vacations we ever had, due partly to the adventure of getting there.
Over the last year, a number of people have commented to me that because of the economic conditions they were not going to take a vacation. Some said they couldn’t because they were short staffed; others because of the expense; and others because the didn’t believe it sent the “right message,” to take off when times were bad.
If there is nobody to open the store, perhaps its impossible to take a vacation but beyond that, everyone should take time away from work. For managers it’s important to take time to allow their minds to rest. A rested mind allows the imagination to work; to look at challenges from a different perspective and to clean out the minor concerns that prevent innovation. It’s important for other employees to also clear their minds and enjoy a change of routine. Vacations allow supervisors to understand what their charges really do and to learn what isn’t being done. For everyone, vacations provide the opportunity to spend time with love ones; time to create memories and stories that will last long into the future.
When you read this I will be relaxing in North Carolina. Hopefully, I will be drinking a cup of coffee in the cool mountain air, as I try to decide between golfing, hiking or just reading a book. I know that I will enjoy the time away and that without concentrating on work, I will return with ideas to improve what we do.
“Every now and then go away and have a little relaxation. To remain constantly at work will diminish your judgment. Go some distance away, because work will be in perspective and a lack of harmony is more readily seen.” – Leonardo DaVinci
“What do I want to take home from my summer vacation? Time. The wonderful luxury of being at rest. The days when you shut down the mental machinery that keeps life on track and let life simply wander. The days when you stop planning, analyzing, thinking and just are. Summer is my period of grace.” – Ellen Goodman