Friday, October 13, 2006

Tradewind Strategies in the New York Times

October 8, 2006
Life's Work
Lip Balm as a Metaphor for Fear

FOR several hours last week there were clothes, medications and toiletries spread all over my bed while I inspected my bottles of moisturizer, hair gel and shampoo. I was trying to pack for an extended overseas business trip just a few days after the “no liquids and gels” rule had become a “some liquids and gels” rule. Time was when I packed quickly and out of habit. This trip, my routine was as scrambled as my belongings.

If my six-ounce jar of moisturizer was only half full, did that meet the three-ounce limit? Could I squirt my hair products into smaller travel-size tubes? Should I try to fit everything into a carry-on? And why does the supermarket sell gallon-size Ziploc bags and sandwich-size Ziploc bags, but not the quart-size bags I seem to need at security?

Business travelers are adept at recalculating the equation as the factors change. We stopped carrying nail scissors and wearing belts after 9/11, started wearing slip-on shoes after an attempted shoe bombing six months later, abandoned our lighters a few years ago. The liquid ban was trickier, but we coped.

Steven Rothberg, president and founder of, a job-hunting Web site, travels every other week for one or two nights. “You can shave without shaving cream or gel,” he said. “Face soap works just fine.”

Carla Caccavale, a partner in Quinn $ Company, a Manhattan public relations firm, tells how she avoided checking luggage on a recent overnight trip: “I put my makeup on in the morning, and didn’t pack any with me so I wouldn’t have to check, and just went sans makeup for my early return flight the next day.”

Her colleague, Danielle Pagano, an associate vice president at Quinn, had taken to shipping her toiletries via overnight mail so she could stick to her “carry-on only” rule, and still have her favorite moisturizer or lip balm.

But FedEx bills add up, so Ms. Pagano was excited two weeks ago when she heard that the rules had changed yet again. Her excitement didn’t last. “The good news is I can start taking my lip balm with me into the cabin,” she said. “The bad news is that none of my other cosmetic products are three-ounce or smaller.” So she went to Plan C, or maybe D, she’s lost track. She hit the cosmetic counters of a nearby department store and collected sample sizes.

Packing is not the only travel routine we have changed. With each new restriction, a percentage of us restrict our travel. Andrea Nierenberg, president of the Nierenberg Group in Manhattan, which runs workshops on business networking, now takes the train, or even better (remember those bombings in Madrid?) a car service, as far north as Boston and as far south as Washington. Her use of black cars has increased 75 percent over the last three years.

Mark Stevens, the chief executive of MSCO, a marketing and management firm in White Plains, has also started avoiding the airport. “Whenever possible, I say dial instead of fly,” he says. “Ninety percent of the time we spend 40 hours cabbing, flying, hoteling and waiting to hold a two-hour meeting that without the protocol and breaks for tuna wraps, we could have conducted in 15 minutes by phone.”

When we do fly, some of us are changing the planes we fly on. Josef Blumenfeld, business strategy consultant with Tradewind Strategies, said: “ I fly American carriers as infrequently as possible. I feel those planes are the ones most likely to be targeted by terrorists.”

He has also changed the way he dresses when he flies, and he doesn’t just mean not wearing a belt. “I used to pride myself on not appearing like a ‘traveling American,’ ” he explained in an e-mail message. “I used to wear European suits, shoes, and viewed it as a touch of safety. Now, given all the lines/hassles at passport control and customs, I dress as ‘Yankee doodle dandy’ as possible. One comment on ‘last night’s game’ to the almost-always white man at immigration and I sail right through.”

There is money to be made each time we change our ways. When the no-liquids rule was announced, Minimus, a company that specializes in travel-size consumer products, offered free shipping of products to a customer’s hotel. When the rule was amended, Minimus added a “free, quart-size Ziploc bag with any purchase — and we’ll pack the toiletries in the bag as well.”

Standing over my own bed of toiletries, I was struck by the absurdity, and then the sadness. All this energy and effort over the details, after all, is really busy work masking the bigger picture. Focusing on my hair gel allowed me to forget that I live in a world that has come to fear hair gel. I gave up in the end, and packed everything, at full size, in a bag I would check — hoping it, and its owner, arrived safely.

This column about the intersection of jobs and personal lives appears every other week. E-mail: