Portland Travel - Then & Now

Economy Plus bulk head seating. 2018

I used to travel to Portland Oregon on Tuesdays. In the mid-90s, my customers manufactured their semiconductor chips in the Pacific Northwest. To take care of their every need and ensure they remained delighted customers, I flew from the San Francisco Bay Area to Portland once a week.

I had a routine. Catch the 6:00 a.m. flight. After deplaning, RUN to the Red Carpet Club faster than all the other business travelers to the few phones with modem connectors. Dial-in, then download my email. Make my calls using my corporate phone card consisting of roughly 30 numbers dialed in sequence. Rent a car and drive 200 miles to visit five or six accounts. Fill-up the tank and return the car. Fly home - exhausted. Repeat the following Tuesday.

When time permitted, I dropped in on the airport stylist. She cut my hair in her salon. The salon’s location sat after the metal detectors.

While I owned and used a cell phone as early as 1992, its 30-minute battery-life and $1.00/minute roaming fee limited regular use. Getting control of one of the sacred pay-phones near the gate or in the airline lounge required skill and dialing prowess. Once the receiver returned to the cradle, protocol required the caller relinquish the handset, return to the long line, and wait again for the next available phone. Eventually, all the other business travelers learned the secret of the ‘#’ key. When using a phone corporate card, after saying goodbye to the other party upon completing the conversation, the caller immediately pressed the ‘#’ key until the recorded voice said those highly coveted words: ‘please enter the number you would like to dial.’ VICTORY! 

Portland Skyline, Recent Times

I returned to Portland this week for a business trip. What a difference a few decades of technology and time marching on make to the business traveler! The plane touching down on the tarmac triggered a completely unrecognizable chain of events from my travel days in the mid-90s. I texted my colleague to announce my arrival. (SMS texting began in 1993, and not many of us even knew we could text until a few years later.) He responded to ask how I wanted my coffee. I replied black. I fired up my tablet as the plane taxied to the gate to check email and other electronic messages. These electronic messages included transcriptions of voice messages - completely mind-blowing! By the time the plane reached the gate, my email and voice messages had been addressed and I casually walked toward the exit, listening to music playing on my cell phone.

As I made my way through the airport, I looked for the salon. Two competing cafes stood in the salon’s prior location. While I no longer require a stylist's services for my declining hair follicle population, I also knew safety regulations prohibit unsecured scissors and knives after passing through TSA checkpoints. Imagine having your haircut with a pair of scissors chained to the counter or having a cut-throat shave with an electric razor?

Finally, when I arrived at the curb, I received another message indicating my approaching ride would arrive in less than one minute.

Similar to the trips of the 90s, every second from the time I landed until the time I left the airport was filled with activity. Some of the activities remained the same: phone calls, emails, rushing through the airport. The way I completed the task today was far more relaxed and efficient with mobile technology.

Things change.

Things remain the same.

Voodoo Doughnuts, Established 2003

#PDX #BusinessTravel #ThenAndNow #Mobility #Wireless .


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