It is not easy getting permission to travel interstate for work. There have been, over the years, a steady stream of crackdowns to prevent money being spent on travel.
I wholeheartedly agree with this policy. In WA, we are two to three hours behind the eastern states, where the meetings always are. This means for a morning meeting, whereas our counterparts on the other side of the time zone can catch an early morning flight and be at a WA meeting which starts at almost the same time they departed, we generally have to travel the day before, overnight in a hotel and then travel back the next day. It is not cheap.
Plus I hate flying.
The head office for the operation I deal with more than any other is over the other side of the country. They try to hold meetings for the six managers, of which I am one, quarterly. I normally attend by teleconference. It is not ideal, but for me infinitely preferable to sitting with white knuckles in a bomb-shaped cylinder as it hurtles through the atmosphere with no safety net. Twice.
There is a meeting coming up at the end of July and for a number of reasons a couple of the other managers have encouraged me to attend. The chances of me getting permission to fly is so low that I rarely bother even applying, and I was so sure that this would be the case this time, that I asked my husband what roster he was on.
It turned out that he could work his shifts so the dogs would be looked after. Still that was the easy bit, I still had to fill out the form.
Saturday night, I was so confident about this that when the movie, Flight came on the TV, I did not turn it off. Instead I said to my husband, ‘the first half an hour of this movie is one you will enjoy.’
Why did I watch it? The movie should not be called Flight, it should be called Crash and Burn.
Monday I filled it the paperwork and watched online witness videos of a Singapore Airlines flight making an emergency landing with one of its wings engulfed in flames.
They were never going to sign the paperwork.
Today I was reading about the Egypt Air flight black boxes that have just been returned from a specialist unit where they have finally managed to extract the data which will hopefully explain how the plane plumeted from the sky with the loss of all souls on board.
The administrative assistant approached me, smiling. ‘Your travel was approved!’ she said, ‘Want me to go ahead and book it?’
Of course it was approved, the signs were all there. I felt instantly nauseous.
‘Give me twenty-four hours,’ I asked.
I listen to planes take off and leave from the nearby airport all day, everyday. Just this morning a friend left WA to travel to NSW and it never occurred to me that she would not arrive safely. Still, listening to a podcast on the way home, I could not help but feel another stab of anxiety when the Amerciam writer being interviewed described how a random chance meant that his wife changed the flight she and the kids were due to be on to New York. The day? 9/11.
I have a month to get used to it, to listen to planes take off and land without incident and to load seven hours of choice podcasts and movies onto my tablet into which I will plug my noise-cancelling headphones as I take my seat. Whether I ended up getting permission to travel next month, I most certainly will be travelling in October and having not set foot in an aeroplane for three years, it is probably a good idea to break the fast before the big trip when we will be looking after a large group.
So I will take the July trip and make the meeting. I just hope Denzel Washington isn’t flying the plane.