This post by our correspondent originally appeared in the March 2011 print edition of Business Traveller. To read the latest Frequent Traveller from the April edition click here (print subscribers only)
In which our correspondent explains why travelling is a tricky business for the willpower-deficient…
I was in the Star Alliance lounge at Heathrow recently with ten minutes to spare. In those few precious moments, I managed to put away a tasty steak and ale stew and a creamy chicken pasta dish, washed down with a small beer. I’m lucky that I’m one of those women who can eat what they want without it making the slightest difference to their figure. I guess that is the advantage of being fat.
Once you’ve stopped being thin, it doesn’t really matter if you stuff another pie down your throat or nibble on some celery, but as I hurriedly swallowed the last morsel, I found myself struggling not only with instant heartburn but with the realisation that perhaps I was a victim of travel temptation.
Temptation is a constant burden on the road, but you need to clear security first. Landside, some big potato has clearly twigged that people are not relaxed enough to succumb to anything, so all they do is stick in a lame luggage shop and a café full of losers who have turned up four hours before their flight, or are still waiting forlornly, cold coffee in hand, for that special someone to run back to them.
No, the tempters stick the fun stuff after security, so going through the tedious belt-unbuckling, shoe removal and pat-down becomes, for me, merely the entry requirements for the Promised Land.
On the other side, the lights are brighter, the clothes more beautiful and the gadgets shinier. Money isn’t real when you spend it at the airport anyway, is it? And the tax-free savings are huge when you splurge four figures on a designer bag…
Then, of course, there’s the lounge. Even though I take hand luggage everywhere, I always end up boarding the plane with a plastic bag stuffed full of magazines, bottles of water and cookies I’ve pilfered.
Next is the flight itself. I always wonder why they bother serving orange juice and water alongside the champagne – it’s like offering a bride-to-be a castle, a motorway inn or a damp cave for her special day. For me, it’s the castle every time, and I could fill the moat around it with the amount of fizz I can get through on an average long-haul.
Finally, on the other side, you reach the hotel bar (because if you sit in your room, you’ll only gorge on the contents of the minibar). It’s here that you’ll face the biggest temptation of all – infidelity. It’s so easy – it’s like bunking off school when you’re young. As long as you get your homework done, it doesn’t really matter.
I met one affable chap once who told me he had a “1,000-mile” rule. Once he was more than 1,000 miles from home, his actions didn’t count. What sort of grown-up makes rules like that? Was he the kid in the playground who punched you in the face and then said you couldn’t hit him back because he was invisible?
Still, the idea that there could be a moral mileage calculator intrigued me. Perhaps I should have cashed in my miles while I was still young and thin enough to be eyed up by someone halfway decent, but the thing was I could never bring myself to cheat on my ex-husband (a shame as he couldn’t wait to burn what he had earned himself).
All the same, when the balding, greasy-looking guy at the bar edged his room key towards me one day, it struck me that this type of temptation is in fact the easiest to resist. It’s got nothing to do with willpower – as you have seen, I’ve got very little of that – but after years of watching my fellow travellers, I guess I prefer to choose the road less travelled. It’s all too easy, you see, and the people who partake are only doing it because they know it is nigh-on impossible to get caught.
The types are easy to spot. Scanners are the most obvious – they are the ones who pop their heads into the bar after dinner and cast their eyes around for any lone females. Scanners are experts in their art and are often in a rush, so if you are looking for some fun, don’t expect any pleasantries.
Then there are the Chancers. Often less good looking than Scanners, they are operating on the basis that you would rather any company than none at all, and so they will start off a conversation with seemingly no other objective than to bore you to death. Once you have nearly fallen from your stool, they strike. It’s fun to let Chancers buy you a couple of expensive drinks before disappearing to the loo and out the back door.
The trickiest are the Nice Guys. Nice Guys hold doors open for you and let you have the last sausage from the breakfast buffet. They talk about their work but will also ask about yours. Nice Guys are difficult because they may simply be nice guys – or they may be the other sort. And by the time you’ve worked it out, he’s ever-so-kindly walked you to your door, and lingered as you said goodbye.
My advice? Shut it in his face, and hit the minibar.