• Courtney Kirschaum

This is the most important choice of your career.

6:30 a.m. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (in yesterday's clothes.) I got travel-trapped here after a thunderstorm.

After three hours’ sleep, I checked out of a hotel this morning with the same desk agent who checked me in four hours earlier.  This unscheduled hotel stay involved washing certain articles of clothing in a hotel room sink and drying them with the blow dryer. This is surprisingly doable!

Travel tip: Hyatt Place in Charlotte offers spectacularly good, free coffee in the lobby. Marriott New Haven are you listening?? (Seattle's Best? It kinda is.) It all started flying home from a pretty cool week at Yale where I’ve been working a little lately.  There I sat in my aisle seat in a far back row. (Boarding Group 6. Shoot me now!).

An irresistibly cheerful woman wearing black nylon shower cap (I have no idea why, but somehow, she made it work.) chatted on FaceTime next to me. I’ll call her “Roxy”, cause she was a “Roxy.” You’ll see. “We’ll be landing in Charlotte in 20 minutes” was the last thing I heard before turbulence sent me rifling through the seat back pouch for the little blue airsick bag. As it turns out, I didn’t need it. Because this: our full plane takes a sharp upward turn (out of barf-inducing turbulence) into a  “What is happening!?” vertical climb. Roxy: “uh-oh.” This is the Captain speaking:  “Charlotte airport is closed because of thunderstorms. We've been re-routed to Raleigh to wait it out and re-fuel." Roxy pulls a mini-bottle of vodka out of her bag and mixes a cocktail right then and there. We deplaned in Raleigh which boasts blue-lit device-charging power points between every pair of seats. (Charlotte Airport are you listening? Up your charging game. Puh-lease.) Three hours later, we re-board and taxi to the end of the runway.  When we should have been speeding up... 

we slow-rolled to a stop. Roxy: “Uh-oh” For the next hour, in the dimly lit plane, a blue-suited flight attendant walks up and down the aisle, finger poking the air above each seat, counting passengers ...five times.

(Roxy told me that. I was face down on the seat back tray through most of this.) Over the intercom, our captain opens with… “this has never happened to me before…” 

“We're returning to the gate because the on-board passenger count is different from the gate staff passenger count and we can’t take off until we rectify this. FAA weight regulations. I'm so sorry."

Roxy:  (Polishes off her drink with an eye-roll.)

Past midnight at Raleigh International Airport" a stout man with a clipboard and pencil bobs right to left up the aisle counting and calling names...


Man: Roxy... Roxy (Cutting him off before he gets to her last name.) “Right here, honey!”

Count complete. Clipboard jockey leaves.  The door closes (again) and we (finally) take off for Charlotte.  

For the record, the weight on my driver's license is “off” too but it’s never kept me from getting out of the driveway.

When we deplaned in Raleigh, about 20 passengers bailed. 

They didn't get back on the plane.

They missed the stupid-hour-hell-count and the trip back to the gate.

Their newly empty seat seem to shout out...


"This isn't working for me."

"We're sooo outa here!" 

"Had enough of THIS!"

"Hertz, here I come."

"I told you so!!!"

Sure of my destination and plan, I stuck with this flight.

It wasn't good, but it was worth it.

I don't feel great in yesterday's clothes, 12 hours late getting home, riding on three hours sleep and a free coffee, but...

I feel good about my choice. 


According to Gallup:

Less than half, 40%, of employed Americans feel they're in good jobs, 44% percent are in mediocre jobs and 16% are in bad jobs.

That means almost 50% of us don't want to get back on the plane. 

Some passengers made the choice not to get back on our late-arriving, barf-mobile.

Some wish they had.

Getting "back on the plane" because you think you have no choice is a private jet ride to misery. 

Not judging.

I've traveled that way and all the free champagne in the world won't take away the sinking feeling of ... "This just doesn't feel right."

You don't have to take that trip.

You might have to pay to change your ticket. (It will be worth it.)

Nothing compares to the freedom and general amazing-ness of calling the shots in your own career.

If the proverbial plane is not taking you where you want to go, get off.

Rent a car.

Ask for a voucher or hotel reimbursement. 

Cancel your ticket and book another, yet don’t let someone else’s schedule become yours. Charge your phone and make a new plan. Wear Tuesday's clothes on Wednesday if that's what it takes. 

"I feel good about this" success in your career has a lot to do with making the right choice FOR YOU when it comes to getting off the wrong plane at the right time.