Life in the Big Four, Part VIII: Airports, last minute, and long flights

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Saturday Afternoon, 4:30 PM

"Hey, Anonymous, I know we had scheduled you for the obligatory one week in the office next week, so that your new wife doesn't file divorce papers again. Unfortunately, we need someone with derivatives experience. Can you fly 3,000 miles tomorrow afternoon to __________ for three weeks to test these guys' interest rate swaps?"

At one point in time, this call spawned a wide range of emotions at once. The first emotion is actually no emotion at all...when you travel as much as I do, it isn't a major inconvenience. The second emotion is, "Damn, how can I get my clothes washed by tomorrow?" The third is to quickly calculate the distance between my city and the target city to make sure I qualify for a free meal, in which case I won't have to worry about dinner.

See, a major benefit comes from a heavy travel schedule. On the surface, only the partners in any particular firm are well-taken care of. Only top dogs in a firm get to book first class flights. But major frequently fliers tend to receive first class upgrades for free. A good 18 months in audit, and you are the King (or Queen, depending on one's preferences) frequent flier.

And to me, there is nothing more relaxing than a three hour flight with a great book and a flight attendant who will feed me the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine. In addition, she does this with a smile and without the threat of divorce. But this is off-topic.

Back to the original scenario. Flying out on Sunday afternoons was horribly problematic for me. Why, you ask? The answer (of course) is that I am a closet NASCAR fan from Feb-Nov, and an outed NFL fan from Sept-Jan. Sitting on a plane, quietly sipping wine and reading a book, is a major impediment to enjoying these hobbies.

Conversely, these two sports suggest irresponsible amounts of beer and whiskey and noise and anger and brawling.

Any one of these actions on a plane will result in your being shot by an Air Marshall, or being cast in a Samuel L. Jackson movie.

I had to develop a routine. Every auditor develops a routine. In my case, I would arrive at the airport at about 1 p.m. on Sunday for a 5:30 p.m. flight. Occasionally the flight could be earlier or later, depending on my preferences. I would claim that it depended on the city which I was flying to, but in actuality it depended on what time my NFL team played, or what time the race started. I would return home about 9 p.m. Friday night. Wash. Repeat. Head to the airport sports bar on Sunday to cheer with the rest of my newfound airport people.

Except for the very rare week on my schedule where I was granted office time. In all actuality, I wouldn't look forward to these weeks, because I didn't know anyone in the office. I once got off on the wrong floor after 50 weeks on the road and security escorted me out. Luckily, these weeks in the office would nearly always disappear before they arrived. I would receive the previously mentioned phone call, and off I would go to the airport.

To watch NFL with the rest of the road warriors. Hey – if I'm ever off to Vegas, I'd fly out Saturday.............but only to gamble on Sunday's sporting event.

* This is one in a series of reminiscences about life in the Big Four accounting firms. The author has asked to remain anonymous.

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