We’ve all been there. We’ve all participated. Whether we wanted to or not. It’s the latest in business travel communications: the ONBOARD CONFERENCE CALL (OCC). Ah yes, it’s coming back to you, isn’t it? The boarding process is nearly complete, stragglers are filing in, and then that ONE individual boards who just happens to be in the middle of some self-important business call. And then the OCC kicks in. It’s something none of us ever really anticipated, this opportunity to brainstorm and provide real time feedback on a piece of business we don’t own, nor for which we can ever bill. But it gets dropped in our lap, nearly every time we take to the air.
One of my favorite things about the OCC is that the host is typically oblivious to anyone or anything outside of the ongoing call, and always seems to obnoxiously project the conversation all the way to the back of the plane. Hell, even the ground crew can hear it. And his briefcases or backpack beat fellow passengers up side the head with every twist and turn as he moves down the aisle toward his seat. Iced coffees get handed off to seat mates — or land in their lap — while he maneuvers past the aisle and middle seat to the inevitable window seat, only to discover he is in the wrong row. And then begin the apologies — not to fellow passengers, mind you, but to the person on the other end of the phone. “OH, SORRY, RICK. JUST BOARDED THE PLANE AND TRYING TO GET SETTLED. SORRY CAN YOU HANG ON A MINUTE?” Requests to wrap up the call by a flight attendant are met with a smile, nod, and a “one minute more” index finger that all of us want to return with a smile, nod and a “shut it up now” middle finger. But instead, we share eye rolls and sniggers, listen a little more intently, and secretly hope the competitive data and merger next steps being discussed on the OCC might prove potentially valuable to us or our clients.
Oddly, this same individual seems to dial right back in to the same OCC the minute wheels touch the runway, even pre-taxi status. “OH YEAH. MADE REAL GOOD TIME. SO, LIKE I WAS SAYING…” And so it begins again, but this time around, the OCC host cradles the phone against his shoulder, grabs his briefcase in the other, and then — while continuing his OCC — shrugs, smiles, and pantomimes that there is no way he can get his roller bag out of the overhead compartment while keeping the phone conversation going, visually pleading for some poor schmuck across the aisle to lift his bag down for him. And inevitably, someone does. And in unison, the silent screams of the rest of the passengers race toward the heavens and universe at large in the hope that cosmic karma will prevail, and the OCC host will hop in a cab with a driver he can’t understand, who won’t take credit cards (when all he has is cash), drop him at the wrong hotel, and drive away with his Blackberry buzzing on the back seat.
Is that so wrong?