I have travelled a lot for my job over the past 20 years: Hong Kong, China, Italy, France, Spain, and the US. But the trip that stands out most in my mind, and the one which, I will use for this particular lesson, is my trip to India eight years ago.
At the time, I was working as a product developer for a large clothing brand which produced near Bangalore and for this trip I was due to travel with my designer to hand over a new package of styles which would later be sampled. We arrived in India at around 1 am and once through customs and baggage reclaim made it to the hotel around 3am, tired and in desperate need of a shower.
Upon checking in we received the message from our factory contact that instead of being collected at 9 am the next day for a 10am flight to the factory, we would instead be picked up at 6am for a seven hour car journey instead (apparently due to bad weather and a delayed flight). So with the prospect of three hours sleep and another epic journey ahead, we went to our rooms to ‘settle in’ for the night.
My bathroom was less than basic with a bucket and hose for a shower whilst in the bedroom itself I discovered a broken fan instead of the aircon, but water is water and if you lie still and don’t move, you don’t get hot. This was my tactic for the three hours before the pick up.
6am came round and a bleary eyed designer met me outside with bags and what looked like a beaten up VW Golf and a 13 year old standing next to it with car keys.
The designer, being six feet tall, took the back seat to stretch out whilst I sat in the passenger seat next to our driver, the child. My seat was an interesting arrangement with the seatbelt stuck at my shoulder and the position of the back support stuck at 70 degrees. So leaning forward and gripping both the dashboard and door handle, to steady myself, we set off on the trip to the factory.
One hour into the journey, the young driver reached into the glove compartment and took out a tape. He gesticulated that he should put it into the cassette player, to which I nodded. After a whirring and a click, the enthusiastic voices of the Backstreet Boys came blaring out in broken stereo waking up the designer and causing him to smash his head on the roof of the car.
Nice! I said, we’ll have a sing along!. The designer declined whilst the driver stared blankly at me. I was on my own.
After a full run though of the tape, I had been brought up to date with the back catalogue of this talented US teen group and I felt it time to perhaps have a snooze. Trying to support my head to avoid lolling ( thanks to the angle of the seat), I found myself drifting in and out to the same song on the tape.
How could this be? Was I dreaming ? Had I actually been asleep? No, it wasn’t a dream and Yes, I had been asleep!
What transpired was that this was the only tape we had in the car, and it was on loop…for the next 7 hours. The initial joy of a sing along to A.J, Howie and friends was now less of a ‘joy’ and more of a joke, and a bad one at that.
For the rest of the journey, I continued to drift in and out of sleep, waking to hear “I Want it That Way’ and wishing I could only make such demands on the musical choice or at least, the angle of the seat.
But both, alas, were fixed and I had no choice but to learn each and every song, making a mental note to myself that, in future, I will pack my own musical arrangement that would carry me through at least a 7 hour journey.
I still work in Fashion but now run Co-lab54, a consultancy set up to assist companies large and small with product development solutions.
My book, Blue is The New Black was published last year and is available online.