The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Over the years, I’ve made no secret about my general dislike of being on the road. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it is a very necessary part of the business, but there is one very unfortunate part about it that I really don’t love, and that is the large amount of time spent waiting to do your job. I don’t believe in the zip in, spend minimum time at the customer, and zip out method of travel, because as a small businessman, the face to face time is important, and you can take care of more problems and prevent bad habits from forming by being there. Also, let’s be honest, not all railroads are near major air transportation hubs (ever been to Stettler, AB, or Clinton, OK), and the travel itself may take a day to unravel itself.So what do I do to try to avoid the boredom of staring at the walls of a hotel room? First of all, I try to avoid room service if I can, because it’s real easy to get into a hibernating bear mode. Now if I have work that I need to get done for the customer that will take precedence, but if I can get out I do. If you aren’t comfortable sitting is a restaurant by yourself during their rush hour go earlier or later. Bring something to read, or check your email on your smartphone. You also could sit at the bar and talk to the other people there. What do you have to lose?Another thing I try to do is see what museums are in the area. As I am a fan of planes, spacecraft, and cars, you’d be surprised at what you find all across the continent, and nothing beats being able to see a real historical artifact with your own eyes. If it wasn’t for finding these places, I would have never have seen the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane in Charlotte, Dan Gurney’s 1967 Grand Prix winning car in Naples, and visiting these places do more than fill my schedule; they help support these institutions, and allow them to preserve these pieces of history.Finally, if none of the above is an option, I go shopping. I don’t go out and spend the profits (ok, well maybe some of them), but I do try to find a mall or a hobby shop and do a little retail therapy. One of the nice things about a mall is that you can get some walking mileage in, and that also helps to prevent hibernating bear mode from kicking in.No matter how you slice it, being a road warrior is not a particularly glamourous life. It’s how you utilize the down time, which at times can be more than the up time, which helps make the road a little more palatable.---By Steve Friedland
steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He currently serves as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR's Wireless Communications Committee and is chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He also is a member of the ASLRRA's board of directors.