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Being John Glaser 1/6/09

January 5, 2009 News 9 Comments

I travel. Not all of the time, but enough of the time. Like many of you, I attend conferences, sit on various external committees/association boards, and visit vendor headquarters.

Air travel has become a sport. A sport that has millions of participants and seems to be growing.

Any sport that has a broad participation and is experiencing growth eventually sets its sights on becoming an Olympic sport. Admission to the Olympics requires that the sport has events, in particular, events that require displays of cunning, physical prowess, and human drama.

A small group of experienced healthcare industry travelers from across the globe has developed the following set of initial events.

Security Sprints

The sprints involve heats, semi-finals, and finals. The fastest traveler-sprinter wins.

Event 1
Sprint through security with only a briefcase.

Event 2
Sprint through security with a two large bags, toiletries, laptop, overcoat, and shoes with laces that are all tangled.

Event 3
Same as Events 1 and 2 with the following obstacles:

  • Family of six with four misbehaving children
  • Young person who can’t understand why they have to surrender their bottle of water
  • Older man who seems to not understand that you have to remove the metal from your pockets
  • TSA screener who wants to make sure, double sure that he misses nothing on the x-ray

Baggage Stowing

Winners have the fastest times. Contestants can be disqualified per the constraints below.

Event 1
Fitting a bag that is two inches too long into the overhead without breaking the overhead door or using duct tape to secure the door.

Event 2
Placing a 4x4x3 foot duffle bag under the seat in front of you without breaking the crystal goblets in the bag.

Event 3
Placing a 150-pound bag in the overhead without dropping it on the head of the passenger in the aisle seat.

Seat Defense

These events are scored on “technical skill” in which points are gained or loss based on execution of the maneuver.

Event 1
Silencing a chatty seat mate (Using “Talk to me again and I’ll kill you” costs the contestant 5 technical skill points. Using “I’m on the verge of developing the formula to cure cancer — could I have a moment or two to concentrate?” earns the contestant 5 points.)

Event 2
Preventing the person in front of you from reclining their seat (Spilling soda on their head is minus 5 points. Pointing the air vent so that it blows on their head is plus 5 points.)

Event 3
Stopping the person next to you from reading over your shoulder. (Saying “Read my stuff again and I’ll kill you” is minus 5 points. Turning the book/newspaper upside down and continue reading earns the contestant 5 points.)

These events are preliminary. And there is work that remains in refining the events, e.g., some European nations are not in complete agreement with the US/Japan proposed Seat Defense point schema. However, the International Olympic Committee has given initial approval of several Air Travel events making their debut in the 2012 Olympics. It is not too early to begin training.

I expect to see many of you training on upcoming flights.


John Glaser is vice president and CIO at Partners HealthCare System. He describes himself as an "irregular regular contributor" to HIStalk.

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Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Very seldom do I feel the need to email people if it’s not directly related to work, or personal (shhh, no need to tell “The Man” that I’m using company time to craft personal emails). But this is too good not to share. Thanks for making me laugh…and I’m sure others that I share it with will also have a similiar, almost spit out your drink while you’re reading it moment, that I experienced.

  2. Totally Hilarious! I have become a non-air traveler in the last few months, but this epistle really makes me want to re-up!
    How about a sport for running to the gate and watching the plane back away, not take off, but back away so you can’t board the plane? Only to be told by a surly gate attendant that “we don’t have to apologize”!

  3. Add another event, how soon can you make the flight attentant mad at you. Calling her/him waitress/waiter costs you 5 points. Asking for a mixed drink and give $5 in pennies, priceless

  4. Thanks for another perspective on the glamorous job of ‘road warrior’!

    Event A?

    A passenger rushes towards the TSA line firmly proclaiming that he needs to get to the front of the line as his plane to Chicago is boarding. Those behind you wave him past wishing him well.

    You are on that same flight, two places from the front of the TSA line after having spent 20 minutes at the counter waiting for a seat assignment, refuse to let him pass and ask why he is arriving so late at Security!

    I have 3 million air miles and no sense of humor in those lines.

    I would add that he appeared rather embarrassed as I passed him 30 minutes later when the flight finally began boarding!

  5. yes very good. I’ve been working for some time on a similar concept called ‘The modern decathlon’ which involves such things as

    1) hand luggage juggling,
    2) sprint to departures
    3) security queue slalom,
    4) departure monitor speed reading
    5) sprint between gates
    6) last second seat switching poker
    7) seatbelt sign off restroom dash
    8) centre seat arm wrestling
    9) passport control queue roulette
    10) luggage carousel sumo

  6. First class dash —

    Try to make it from coach through to the first class lavs before getting accosted by a flight attendant, thus avoiding bumping shoulders and knees for 50 yards going to the lavs in the back of the plane.

  7. Having just come off of the road and full flights, I suggest bonus points for juggling the Vente size Starbucks and bag of overpriced but tasty airport food for any and all events (except screening where it is addios to your food and a few inches more on to the TSA waistline).

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