Secret CIO

Secret CIO is in an airline waiting lounge on the flightpath to nowhere.

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By  Secret CIO Published  July 6, 2008

The youth's glazed eyes stare fixedly ahead as his fingers beat out a simplistic rhythm on the moulded plastic armrest between us, and the white buds in his ears buzz with an unidentifiable but hideous syncopation.

Opposite me a toddler probes her nostril as she fixes me with a disturbingly penetrating stare. Next to her a smaller child wails in the arms of its parent and emanates an unpleasant smell.

This is what happens when I agree to go on trips.

I'm stuck in an airport - I've lost track of which one exactly - somewhere in the Middle of America, trying to get back to Dubai after a vendor conference.

Following the sudden bankruptcy of the domestic US carrier that was to take me to New York, I've been travelling for three days, have seen the inside of five separate airports, am stuck in standby hell - and I have no lounge privileges.

I blame my assistant entirely for this situation. He was due to travel to California for the event, but - thanks to the bumbling fools at the US Embassy and an unfortunate incident with a terrorist watch list - he didn't get his visa through in time.

As the trip promised to answer some important questions about a system we're thinking of deploying, this was very inconvenient - hence my decision to step in at the last minute and go in my assistant's place.

Unfortunately, time had dulled my memory of quite how painful these things can be - especially when stuck in economy (the irony being that if I had gone in the first place, I would have been up front in business).

So off I went, delegating a couple of reasonably vital projects to the underlings, making my excuses to She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, and promising to bring back a banned video game for the Brat.

The trip out was surprisingly smooth - no delays, no screaming babies. I arrived at the - rather pleasant - hotel in reasonably good spirits, and despite some jetlag managed a stroll around the enjoyably leafy town centre. This was, as it turned out, the high point of the entire trip.

The next day, with jetlag finally catching up with me, I went to the opening of the conference, where the vendor's CEO seemed to be attempting some sort of animal impression on stage. After his antics drew to a merciful close, I headed out into the exhibition - in search of the one product I was there to see.

It wasn't working. The demo unit was shielded from public view by folding screens, with only glimpses of worried-looking techies prodding at its exposed innards visible. After hanging around for 15 minutes, I wandered off into the exhibition.

It's amazing how quickly time passes when you're impossibly bored - amazing that whatever speed you thought it was going at, it's actually even slower. The next two days were spent in a blur of tedious meetings with no-nothing experts, and browsing poor demonstrations of sub-par products.

Awaking on my final morning after a heavy night with the crushingly dull regional manager, I packed in a fug of pain and sleep deprivation and headed to the airport. Three days later - and here I am, stuck, firmly.

I can now swear, however, that this is absolutely, positively, the last ever vendor trip I'll be making - unless it's first class all the way, of course.

Oh, great - and now my batt...

[Ed - We apologise for the disruption in normal service of this column. Secret CIO will return next month. Hopefully.]

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