It's September. Is there an admission officer in your high school?
Willie Nelson’s classic (“On the Road Again,” for those of you too young to remember the song or, perhaps, the singer himself) is ringing in my ears as another travel season kicks off. My suitcase with wheels is out and ready to roll through a terminal near you as my colleagues and I board planes, trains and (rental) automobiles to gather candidates for the Class of '17.
To a non-admission officer, the travel aspect of the job seems exotic. My friends often say, "Oh, you get to go to LA, how cool!" And, truthfully, admissions travel does bring me to places that I probably would not have ventured to on my own. But it is work, not leisure, travel as we visit schools to talk about Tufts and the application process. Yes, an appointment at a high school in Honolulu still brings you to Hawaii but a high school guidance office is not Waikiki Beach.
My 2012 road tour—my 22nd as an admission officer—debuted in Minneapolis. It was a quick hop out and back for an admissions panel at Blake School, and when I say "quick," I mean quick. I was out and back within 24 hours.
To accomplish that travel blink, I booked the 7 a.m. flight home so I could squeeze in a few days at the office before my three-day trek to Zurich (you thought "Wow, you get to go to Switzerland!" didn't you?) next week. To erase any envy about my peripatetic life, here's a minute by minute account of my morning:
4:30A. The iPhone alarm chirps at an ungodly hour. (As an aside, 4 a.m. is a rude time to be awake. It’s either too early to be up or too late to be up. Either way, it’s unpleasant.) But I am already (partly) awake. While hotel rooms are never my friend when it comes to a good night’s rest, I never really sleep when I have an early flight, and today is true to that restless circle of Hell. I crawl out of bed, chug some hotel room coffee (yuck, but it did the trick) and head out.
5:29. The town car (not so fancy, the doorman at the hotel said cabs are hard to find at that hour) picks me up at the hotel for the 20-minute ride to the airport. It’s still dark. I feel like a vampire prowling the deserted streets of downtown Minneapolis.
5:50. There are no security lines at the airport!
5:58. I am redressed on the other side of security. Monk strap shoes are the way to go!
6:03. I buy a book (The Marriage Plots by Jeffery Eugenides) at the airport bookstore, no Kindle for me. (I know, I know, so 20th century…)
6:05. The terminal is spooky empty, like a mall before it opens. It seems like there should be senior citizens in tennis shoes walking laps.
6:08. Yikes, I’m on the walking conveyor belt (or whatever it’s called) when I see my gate pass by. So I run backwards on the moving sidewalk. (Defying physics is hard.) A woman laughs as she watches me.
6:09. Starbucks! And it’s so early there's no line here, either. Wow. I order a grande coffee and a banana. (Don't tell my mother that I’m skipping breakfast.)
6:12. I’m at the gate and there’s lots of yawning all around.
6:18. The weather forecast is 92 degrees but the heat is on at gate C1. I move seats and eat my banana.
6:23. The gate attendant announces TSA will do random ID checks as we board. It’s a poignant moment on morning of 9/11... (I got checked.)
6:33. I’m in my seat with Sookie Stackhouse, book #5. (The plot is so different from the recent season of True Blood.)
6:51. Doors close, no seatmate! For two hours I have a study hall in the sky with no email, calls or meetings. In case you ever wondered what a dean does on a plane: I outline a blog (not this one), draft an opening letter for Jumbo #4 as well as a few profile ideas, review financial aid stats, and jot some notes for my upcoming meeting with the chair of the faculty committee on admissions and financial aid. And I spend some time with Sookie and do the New York Times crossword.
8:20. We’re somewhere over Wisconsin or the upper peninsula of Michigan (I’m guessing) as I look out the window and see lots of farmland and a large body of water. The flight attendant offers me a snack, and I choose the pretzels (over the cookies) for an in-flight mini-breakfast. "Think of it as salty toast,” she says. I laugh. (Maybe it’s not funny, maybe it's the altitude...)
10:33 (with the time change). Touchdown at Logan. I’m back in Boston, off to Bendetson Hall.
11:32: At my desk, typing this post. Just another morning on the road during travel season…