It's early morning in New York and mt body clock had me wide awake at just before 4am. There must be something seriously wrong with that...
Anyway, after writing exams this past weekend (Operations management:Theory of constraints and Labour Law (leading people for results) I was fortunate enough to just catch the end of the first Springok game at the Rugby World Cup. Needless to say, it was needlessly close! Besides the fact that it looked very much like our super-subs didn't come on a minute too soon (Bismark and Francois Hougaard), the cautiousness of the Boks was very evident. Let's just hope that was the result of a tricky first opponent and first match jitters!
Either way, they got the win and the tournament is under way!
I was home for all of two days before jumping back on a plane and heading over here.
I'm in the states to do some work with American Express, a partner of ours. I'll be here next week to attend a conference in financial innovation (mostly technology) called FinovateFall. So all in all, it's a trip centred around new opportunities that we're looking at, always a fun place to play.
I flew on SAA this time around and have to say (patriotism aside) that Delta had a better offering in business. I guess it was because I had been on a long haul flight so recently that I could make the comparisons, but those that stand out are:
- The layout of the seats. Delta staggers their seat/bed so that you are never really "on top of" anyone else on the plane. SAA has a very flat structure, so you literally sit right next to the guy in the seat alongside you. This is fine, except that when it comes to have a sleep, it feels a bit awkward lying down with only a very little tray between the two of you!
- Food on Delta (9/10) food on SAA (6/10)
- Service on Delta (8/10) service on SAA (7/10) Something as small as asking what you'd like to eat when you first sit down, which results in the meal being ready once the plane is in the air, is what separates the process here. On SAA, they wait till you've taken off, then come around and ask, but at the same time tell you it will take 30mins to sort dinner out once you've ordered. By the time you finish eating it is well after 10pm.
- Comfort of the bed Delta (8/10) SAA (5/10) Now don't get me wrong, up until a month ago, I would have happily taken anything flatter than a vertical seat, even if just a few degrees. But when you are flying 16 hours or more and need to be fresh to work when you arrive, the bed is very VERY important. SAA's just felt stiffer and there is a foot "plate" near the base (once the bed has flattened out) that is quite hard when you lie down.
So with all of this in mind, I was quite torn (being a loyal SAA Voyager member) in thinking that the next trip is a toss up, knowing what I know and having experienced both within a matter of weeks...
Anyway, I arrived at JFK bright and early in the morning (6:20am) only to go through my usual process of being whisked away to the passport control clearing office. This happens as routine when I enter the States. (brief flashback: I lived and worked in Colorado for half a year in 03/04 and when I left the country, the company I had acquired the work visa (J1) through failed to update my status upon exiting the country. As a result, the US government believes I stayed longer than the allotted time given in my work permit. This means I come up as a flag when entering the country EVERY time. The only way this can be fixed is if the company (no longer in existence) updates a system called SERVIS (I've done my research...))
Long story short, I sat for an additional hour trying to get through passport control. Fortunately there was no rush as it was still early in the morning and I was not catching a connecting flight. The odd thing is that when I flew into Atlanta a few weeks back, they were able to rectify the situation at the actual entry counter by making a comment on the system, in JFK, I get marched off to a separate room with my passport in the dreaded orange folder (I know the process well by now, it still doesn't make it a worthwhile way to spend my time)
I caught what felt like the longest taxi ride ever into Manhattan (the driver gave me a long story about how much he hates it when people don't tip him...subtle)
I'm staying in SoHo until Saturday at the amazing Trump SoHo. The hotel is right in the middle of this very trendy district and is very much the place to stay in downtown. I was very fortunate in that the receptionist managed to check me in to my room a 9:30am when I arrived. I certainly wasn't expecting this and was quite prepared to leave my luggage at the hotel and walk the familiar streets of downtown and midtown until later (thinking 2pm?) when I would be able to check in. None of that though and I was shown straight up to my 35th floor suite. I will post pictures after the trip, but I have a vista view out towards the financial district (I look straight out where the Twin towers would have been) and have the river and Bay to my right.
I decided to push on through to try and adjust my body clock (if you remember the start of this post, you'll know I was only partially successful) so this meant not having a sleep and not just relaxing in the room. So I did what any respectable business traveller would do, and I sat down and worked for two hours! This included finalising an assignment for my MBA and getting involved in a strategy planning discussion back in the office in SA.
When food and a need for freedom finally called, I took a walk through a very hot and sunny SoHo and made my way down Spring street and Broadway towards Chinatown. The streets of NY are always packed (apparently not during a Hurricane...) and the city is very busy at the moment as it is apparently New York Fashion week very soon. I eventually found some lunch, headed back to the hotel and promptly watched Captain America on my flat screen (which is bigger than our tv at home, for now) ;)
Not a bad movie, it is another piece in the Marvel comics storyline and starts to position the Avenger series. Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk etc are all brought together in these Stan Lee creations to build the Marvel Universe, but I digress...
While watching the end of the movie, I received the update for the evening's plans with Amex. They had organised for us to go to a baseball game at CitiField, the home of the New York Mets! The irony is that I had been chatting to my friend Joe, who lives over here, to see if we couldn't organise a Yankee's game on Monday!
I decided to once again get out of my hotel room and go for a run. This was a great idea as it really shook off the long flight and gave me an opportunity to run through the streets and down along the pier. I made my way all the way down to the World Trade Centre and back up along Broadway and greater downtown. In the end I did 7km at about 5:30/km, but while the running was relatively easy, the heat was insane! New York was so humid (a new experience for me as I have most often been here in winter)
I'd never been to baseball and it is a very typically American thing to do. So American Express organised box tickets (with the right mix if hot dogs and beer) and we proceeded to watch our "beloved' Mets get beaten 2-0 by the Washington Nationals. I can confidently say that the Mets will not be winning the World Series anytime soon.
The whole experience was fantastic though, the game is more about the advertising and crowd components than the actual baseball. They are constantly doing little things (like throwing baseballs and t-shirts into the crowd) while the game is on. It takes hours to finish a game and really very little happens. The pitcher, catcher and batter are very often the only people involved. I would imagine it would be a bit more fast paced at a more competitive match (Yankees vs Red Sox perhaps) but nevertheless the whole thing was awesome.
The Mets share a parking lot with Flushing Meadows, the home of the US open tennis. On the way out, Sydney (our MD of Card in SA) told me that Amex took him to the semi-finals this past weekend. My jaw dropped. Apparently Amex are a sponsor of the tennis and the guys went to watch Murray vs Nadal and Federer vs Djokovic. I nearly died. For a lifelong tennis fan and competitive tennis player, this would have been a dream come true. Next time. ;)
We only got home (hotel) at about 11pm. Now keep in mind that I'd flown 16 hours and stayed up all day, as well as a run. I was certifiably exhausted by this stage, but convinced that I had broken through the Jetlag barrier.
Yesterday morning started with an early breakfast at the hotel and then straight off to Amex headquarters. We work with a team called the Global Partner Network that supply services to banks and other issuing/acquiring entities. The guys we deal with are mostly based in the London office, but due to the Annual Amex partner conference in New York this week, it made sense to meet up at the HQ.
We worked with a variety of team members from across the organisation through until 6pm. After a walk back to the hotel, I went up to my room with aspirations of having a shower and heading out to walk uptown and grab some dinner (a lot of the guys, including all the Amex team, either left straight after work yesterday or are heading out today) This didn't happen...
I even made the fatal mistake of posting an update on Facebook to say that I needed to determine a plan for the evening. I fell asleep at 7pm and only woke up this morning. Fail. :)
So that brings me back to where this post began. I have some time off today (I'm hoping to be put in touch with some more of the Amex e-commerce team to do some other work during the course of today and Monday) So I am going to head downtown and stroll through the financial district and possibly grab a slice of pizza in little Italy. I'm all on my lonesome until tomorrow afternoon when I'll be meeting up with Joe after his morning studies at Columbia are completed, then it's off to NJ for the weekend with Joe and Melissa :)
For now though, I think it's time to either go for a run or have some breakfast. I think option A is the healthiest and breakfast can follow :)