TRAVELING is just part of the deal if you’re running a business. I’m C.E.O. and founder of Rosenzweig and Company, a global executive search firm, and I have to travel a lot. I don’t like airports, and I don’t really like flying, so I try to be as efficient as possible with scheduling.
Like a lot of business travelers, I do like the cocoonlike environment of the aircraft itself. Given the frenetic pace of work, the plane is a buffer zone, allowing me to catch up on work, without interruptions, or sleep, if I need it. I am not looking forward to cellphone use during flight. I hope it doesn’t happen, but I have a feeling my prayers won’t be answered. It’s most likely inevitable that cellphone service will pop up, and all of us will be listening to people’s conversations. I hope it doesn’t happen for a while, since it will definitely take me out of that cocoon I enjoy during flights.
What does make me laugh is that, although I enjoy the solitude, there is apparently something about me that causes perfect strangers to tell me their life stories or problems. This always happens at airports or on planes. I am unfailingly polite, and I do enjoy people, but I have to admit it’s kind of weird. I’ve had to listen to a man telling me that he thinks his wife is cheating. He wanted advice and, since I’m happily married, I offered some. I also mediated a dispute between a couple concerning the amount of money the wife spends on grooming their dog.
I was traveling to Houston recently, and I started chatting with a woman who wanted to tell me something in confidence. I assumed, wrongly, that it would be a business question. It wasn’t. She wanted advice about a new home she was building in Texas.
She started talking about cathedral ceilings and skylights, and I said it was too bad she didn’t have plans with her. She did, as I found out when she went to the overhead and pulled out a long tube. I was in line to use the facilities, and the last thing I expected was that I would be looking at building plans. She even asked me how I would reconfigure her living room. I told her I’m not an architect. It didn’t seem to matter to her since she asked if I could stop by to take a look at her place between my meetings.
On a recent flight from my home base in Toronto to New York, where I was to meet with a client, a lovely elderly woman came down the aisle. I enjoy older people, and I was hoping she sat next to me.
When she found out I was in the recruiting business, she immediately started talking about her 24-year-old grandson, a budding pianist. He played in high school and college productions, but with school long behind him, work was tough to come by for an amateur. She told me how depressed he was about trying to land gigs. I told her I didn’t place pianists, rather just high-level executives. That didn’t matter.
Because she saw pianists in building lobbies, she figured I could talk to an executive who ran some big company, and get her grandson to play in his or her building. I tried to explain that it doesn’t really work that way. She was relentless, as I suppose all grandmothers would be.
As we were leaving the plane, she gently grabbed my arm, and asked me if I could call Bill Gates. She heard he likes music.
As told to Joan Raymond. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. How often do you fly for business.
A. It fluctuates, but on average about four or five times a month, mostly through North America.
Q. What’s your least favorite airport?
A. La Guardia can be a challenge. Get there early if you want to make it through security in time for your flight, and do understand that if you are on time, that doesn’t mean your plane will be on time.
Q. Of all the places you’ve been, what’s the best?
A. Israel always moves me profoundly, and, of course, I’m always happy to be in Montreal, the city where I was born and grew up.
Q. What’s your secret airport vice?
A. Purchasing duty-free alcohol. I live in Canada, and if you knew the price of liquor in Canada, you’d understand. But I guess it’s not that big a secret since I have to declare it at customs.