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Being John Glaser 1/6/09

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:

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.