tsaprecheckDid you ever wonder what goes through the mind of a salesman throughout a typical long and laborious sales meeting? Maybe you are the spouse, or the curious accountant wondering what goes on at these events that send a person off in the air to a rah rah meeting.

This is year #32 for this Average Joe, 16 of them with the same firm.  Stick with me from ground CLT airport to the Mecca called Huntsville, Alabama, that we admirably call ‘HuntsVegas’,  for Average Joe’s thoughts as I soar through another sales team week. (noting they will have a time delay, no time to do them live, I am at my real Job)

For a guy whose blog theme #1 is ‘Pursuing Peace’ (if this is your first time here, click here for a backgrounder) what better place to start than from my closet packing to go to the airport?

Despite some 600 + flights in my career I still get nervous as a cat surrounded by 210 pounds of dog cornering him (which actually happened while I was packing, bad dogs!) My Mom never flew on a plane until we kids made her take a vacation after she was over 60, so getting anxious about flying is no doubt a dna issue.

black cat

To ease in to the scene I keep my roller bag travel ready at all times.  Otherwise I’ll worry about being toothbrush-less or pack two left shoes like I did on a trip to Houston years ago.  So shoes, belt, batteries, emergency socks and underwear stored in the hidden pocket, and all toiletries stay in the bag, always.   Packing takes no more than 5 minutes as I toss in clothes to make it through the whole trip+1 extra of everything in case of an ominous rip.  Sales meetings suck (up- that is) extra space as a sports coat and tie is needed for the awards banquet.   If you think you have a trophy coming the jacket is no problem, or if you have aspirations of a promo, but if not, what a royal pain it is squeeze it in the carry-on bag. I never check the bag, ever since Peoples Express lost mine in Newark many moons ago.

All packed and ready to go, I run through the check list of all else I need: ticket, wallet, phone, laptop, iPad, book, glasses and prayers that I don’t forget something.  9/10 times I do forget something, but there is a magic button built in to the left cheek. It seems as soon as I sit in the car seat I remember something, today it was …. Earbuds!  I left them in the plane pocket on last week’s trip to Dallas. Snap!  They were my favorites.  Zack won’t mind I just grabbed his off the couch, gotta go cause I’m running tight on time.

Off to the airport 96 minutes before take-off.  Thanks to TSA pre-check I chopped off 24 minutes and a ton of anxiety from the old fear of delays in a long security line. But, for this auto pilot drive to the airport I added 31 minutes to the trip to pick up, near the airport, a piece of glass for our stove.  The glass on the door broke.  As a side note, let me save anyone from an idiot move that cost $62 to fix it along with adding 31 minutes of travel time to this trip.

When one puts the stove on auto clean and it heats up to 600 degrees and then it unlocks when finished, do not wipe the glass with a wet paper towel to get off the white ashes.  It will crack!!!  Your wife will ultimately notice it as the crack will get bigger every time the stove is turned on thereafter until it completely breaks.  And worst yet, she will correct you every time you talk to somebody about fixing the stove door, because I guess it is actually called an ‘oven’.  Who would have known (or cared) I have called it the wrong word all these years.

It turned out 31 minutes was not enough time.  Why does the GPS always lose itself 1/4 of a mile from the destination?  We were not at the destination when it told me I ‘had arrived at my destination’!    The next 15 minutes were spent going in circles.  Why didn’t I write down the phone number of the parts place?  Maybe I should chuck it and head to the airport I am going to miss my flight, Ahhhh.

Ok calm down, pray you’ll find it…. and then, there it was.  But now my attempt at a calm trip was fading.  I had to start moving quick, in to get the piece of glass I went.  Hellllloooo, is anyone here?   What kind of place is this, I hope I don’t get mugged.  Finally, in creaked the not in a hurry clerk to assist.  Hey how about those Panthers he says and he starts to talk away.  I smile on the outside but on the inside I am like, hurry up, get me my piece of glass.  I finally interrupt and tell him I am about to miss my flight we’ll have to get down to business.

I pay the clerk and waddle to the trunk of the car and carefully set in the very heavy piece of tempered glass. Then it is off to the races to CLT.   I glance at the clock and see I am down to 62 minutes until take off time.  So much for calm and peace, the stress level just escalated to panic mode. So flying down the street I go, and of course I hit every red light.   I ultimately made it to the airport area and had to make one of the choices of the 9 parking options. In the panic mode I decide today we go with the business hurry up and get me to the terminal garage.  It cost $2 more per day, but no choice this time.    With the car parked and thankfully no wait, I sprint through the parking garage towards the bus and jump on.

After what seemed like the longest bus ride in history I hit the curb in stride off the bus with only 28 minutes and the clock ticking.   My heart jumps on the floor as the line at Gate E is all the way to the outside door.  No way, I have never seen it this bad, and I was reminded that airports have been closed the past few days due to the weather. Now what, I think!   Certainly this can’t be right so I decide to trek on past everyone and hope that maybe this really wasn’t the TSA pre-check line.  A few people are glaring at me as I whisk by.  I do my best to not make eye contact.

I can’t see the signs for the priority line as people are hogging the space looking up at the flight departure screens.  And then I see it.. TSA pre-check line only.  There are only two people in line and hundreds in the other one.   I pat myself on the back for this best investment I ever made of spending the 85 bucks for TSA pre-check. My heart slows just a bit and somehow only a minute or two later I am through, whew!!

Unfortunately My gate is E16 which is a long ways to trek through Charlotte’s massive airport. I take off in my fastest walk heading to the gate with only 19 minutes to spare.  The last thing I want is to get stuck in line and lose that limited baggage space, so I pick up the pace.   The airport is packed with wall to wall people this is going to be tight.  I so hate being late and now I’m mumbling to myself for not getting better directions and how could I be so dumb to break the stove door in the first place.   I was beginning to feel the sweat on the brow as I thought it best to put the winter coat on, rather than carry it.

I could see E16 just ahead and it looked like the door was already closed. Nooo, I thought, this can’t be.  As I reached the gate I soon found out why the door was closed.  My flight was delayed.  There was plenty of time to spare and no need for the stress.

When we finally boarded and I was all strapped in I felt my phone vibrate. I reached down and scrolled to the new text message, it was from American Airlines with the message, a bit late to say the least, your flight is going to be delayed ……

Ok, how about a different perspective on my stressed arrival?  If you dare or care to hear more….



So, are you not supposed to be nervous or anxious, ever, if you supposedly ‘trust God’? I always hate it when somebody comes up to me with a ‘helpful verse’ after I have told them of a stressful situation I experienced recently.  Or worse yet while in the midst of some stress filled situation you are honest with them about how you are feeling and they tell you the one that just about everybody seems to know:

 ‘Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:6-7 nasb)

I am not that good at memorizing things at all to be honest, but this one I typed out word for word and had it exact (yes I checked to be sure). Since I became a Christian many years ago it was one of the first ones I ever memorized as it was my weakest point in my being.   But telling someone, ‘don’t be anxious’ is as easy to do at will as it is to tell someone not to think about a green elephant after saying ‘don’t think about a green elephant’.

To answer my own question here in the portico, of course you are going to be under stress at times. Nervousness comes with the tension.  Where it becomes ‘anxiety’ is if we allow the stressors and nervousness to take over all our thoughts and actions.   Sales meetings and the whole job as a salesman can be extremely stressful.   Compound it with the fear of flying and all other things that can easily cause you to be ‘stressed out to the max’, one can easily become a chronic worrier.

So NO, stress is not something that some misread as being a problem you brought on yourself, or that should never be something to deal with, we all experience some of it every day. Some of us in high stress jobs just happen to have to deal with pressure much more than others.  Despite my description in the above story, I don’t think I broke past the point of nervousness into full-fledged anxiety through the whole drive and the run through the TSA line and all.  It has only come from years of practice and  seeing that most times things works out, and even if they do not at that moment, ultimately the things we worry about don’t turn out that bad.  This version of the same section hits it more to the point:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  (NLT)

Whether it is a sales meeting or flying or speaking in front of people, only some handle it with no worry or stress.  If you are one of the few to not let being in front of people bother you, consider yourself really fortunate.  For the rest of us, I like the Philippians 4:6-7 formula, it has gotten me through many a crises over the years.