It was just like any other night where I’d been out with customers while traveling. I was on the West Coast, my wife at home waiting for me to “make the call,” two time zones away. I always call her when I get back to the hotel, regardless of what time that is.
It does two things. One, it keeps me grounded. It keeps me remembering what my priorities are because priorities sometimes can get derailed by alcohol-fueled ideas. Two, It keeps her happy. It lets her know that nothing is wrong, that I’m OK, and that I made it back to the hotel safe and sound.
My friends and colleagues see it as an “oh you have to phone home to mommy?” time. I don’t see it that way at all. So here I was, stumbling up to the hotel, definitely not sober. The pangs of guilt started in. I hate it when these nights turn out like this. We started at a quick “happy hour” that I sponsored for the company I was visiting. They sell my company’s products, so I take them all out, the entire sales team, once a quarter. We started shortly after 5 PM. Central time, 7 PM, that’s right as we normally head to the bedroom at home to read and get ready for sleep. At 7 PM Pacific Time, I’m just sitting down to dinner – more drinks at dinner.
It’s a long dinner. This is where the real work in sales is done. It’s over dinner and drinks where relationships are forged that will allow me to leverage and lean on the individuals at this table when I need them to sell our software. This is, unfortunately, a requirement of the job, and how it is done. The happy hour drinks lead to wine. Not a great idea at this point. Dinner turns into an after-dinner drink. More mixing. I’m going to hate the next day. I just can’t recover like I could in my 30s anymore. Dinner is over, let’s go back to the bar. Wait, one of the guys knows a great bar down the street, let’s go there.
We go. I’d rather be in bed, but these are customers. There’s a mechanical bull. There are women in their 20s. I’m drunk. They’re drunk. There’s a lot to watch, and even more to talk about, and still, here and there, a little business being done, but mostly this is relationship building. We’re talking about our families, we’re talking about where our kids are going to school, about our wives’ ideas and quirks, we’re becoming friends. Again, this is how the job is done. As I befriend them, they will sell my software simply because “I really like that guy.”
I’m completely exhausted. I’ve been awake since 2:30 AM local, I glance at my watch, it’s stopped. Shit, I wore the mechanical watch that needs to be manually wound each day, and I forgot. I grab my phone. It’s 1:30 in the morning and my phone has 10% battery. There’s a missed call from my wife from an hour ago.
This is where panic sets in. She never calls me. Something’s wrong at home, something with her, the kids, the animals, what could it be? My heart, again fueled by alcohol of at least three varieties, is racing. Also, because I always get scolded with, “You don’t have to stay out so late with them.” I feel like I’ve done something wrong. Outside of a few lurid thoughts about some very scantily dressed girls way too young for me, I have done nothing wrong. And I really have been working. Some work environments are just better than others.
I try to call her back, it goes straight to voicemail. That never happens. “Hey guys, I gotta run. Something’s up at home.” They understand completely, we were just discussing how our wives are when we travel, and they are all at “home.” They will get more of an earful than I will for staying out so late in their hometown. I jump in a cab/Uber to the hotel, it’s close. 2 AM now, I’m walking up to the hotel, I try to FaceTime her once I get close enough to get connected to the hotel wifi. It connects, the screen is blank on her end. She’s been sleeping. Confused I ask, “Are you OK?”
She mumbles, “It’s late.”
“Yeah sorry, I saw you called, is everything OK? I’m worried.”
“I didn’t call.”
“Oh, OK. Well, I love you.” I let it go, I’ve clearly wakened her out of a dead sleep.
“I love you t..” my phone dies. Battery dead, phone shutting down.
I’ll spend the next 30 minutes trying to figure out how to call her back because now she’s awake and thinks I just hung up on her. I’m too drunk and flustered at this point to remember I could use Skype, or my work’s VOIP app from my computer, or FaceTime from my Mac or iPad. It will take me 30 minutes to remember that.
By then, she’ll be fully awake and mad at me for drinking so much. But everything will be fine. I will keep her on the phone for a little while because it’s 4:30 Central when we normally get up. I’ve been awake for 24 hours. All I have to do the next day is get to the airport and fly home, and I’ll be hungover until at least early evening. She’ll be mad at me through the weekend until we go out on a date night, which I need to remember to schedule asap.
The partner, however, is on board and selling my company’s product. They are good, they engage us, they sell, I make money. I guess that’s why I get the big bucks. My next trip starts the following Tuesday morning.
If you like my writing, please subscribe here.