By Bret Snider
My ex-wife used to watch me when I was getting ready for my frequent trips to India. Typically, I would get up at around 5:00 AM, have a shower, and then pack my bag which I had bought in India. It looked like a leather doctor’s bag, only a bit larger and brown. It only took me a few minutes.
I would put my promotional materials in the bottom, usually about four inches worth, then a pair of comfortable shoes, a pair of casual jeans, an extra pair of underwear and socks, a tie, an extra shirt, my toiletries and finally duct tape. I would wear my uniform, which consisted of gray pants, a white shirt, a pair of slip-on shoes (no laces for airports) and my blue blazer packed with business cards.
This amazed her. She couldn’t conceptualize how I could pack for a business trip that would last for two weeks in a few minutes. I explained that I was normally in a different city every day and the first thing I did upon check-in was to have the hotel launder my clothes. So, I was always ready to go. Then she asked about the duct tape. I said, “you never know when you’ll need duct tape”. She looked at me and said, “you’re an idiot.”
Over the years I made many trips on business and it started to become a thing with our relationship. Finally, after much harping and many accusations I said, “why don’t you come with me?’
“I don’t want to go to India,” she replied.
“Well, I’m travelling with Air France, so after India we can spend a few days in Paris,” I said. Her whole demeanor changed, and she flicked her hair.
I used to run my visits to other countries like military operations. They were highly organized and designed to maximize the utility of my time. The planes, the trains, the cars, the hotels, the drivers, the meetings, and the social gatherings were all coordinated and planned well in advance. This one was no exception. The plan was nine cities in ten days.
Day one was landing, checking in at the hotel and getting some sleep to prepare us for the time difference. Day two was meetings and presentations in New Delhi. Day three’s activities began at 5:00 AM, packing my little carry-on bag with my laundered clothes, and moving on to city number two. Most travel was by plane – the fastest way to get from point A to point B. She soon realized that this trip wasn’t fun or a party, it was hard work and a grind, but it worked. We generated sales and made important contacts for future business both in the country and in Canada.
When we hit the Punjab, the efficiency slowed down because the local agent insisted on driving us from town to town. After we finished our day in Chandigarh we were headed to Puna, almost a three-hour drive. However, because we were North Americans, he assumed we would have loads of luggage and brought this rather large SUV that didn’t have air conditioning. I failed to inform him how many bags we had – so much for my military precision.
The Punjab region is largely agricultural. The roads are dusty, and you are competing for road space with the most two stroke motorcycles you will ever see, huge trucks (lorries), cars, donkey carts, camel carts, and the occasional elephant. With the windows open for the duration of the drive, we were covered in muck and my white shirt was soaked with perspiration and grime.
We arrived at the little hotel they had selected for us and got into our room after a very lengthy check- in process. I suggested to my wife the she take the first shower and I would follow. I waited for close to an hour before I asked what was taking so long.
“Oh, the handle is broken from the wall, so I have to use one hand,” she said. When I finally got into the shower, after about 30 seconds, I asked if she could kindly pass in the soap. When she opened the curtain, she looked at the shower head and said, “duct tape?”
I had taped the shower head to the wall and the problem was solved.
When we finished the India circuit we did go to Paris and had a very pleasant experience. She had a long list of things she wanted to see, and we did them all.
Two good things came of that experience. She never came on anther business trip or commented on my travels again, and I never again heard a negative or derisive word about duct tape.