I’M in the inventions business, hosting a radio show called “My Cool Inventions,” and I’m a frequent guest on HSN and QVC International showcasing inventions. I work in the product development end of things, too. All of these ventures involve a lot of travel, about 150,000 to 200,000 miles a year.
I’ve been traveling for work since about 1995. I really don’t enjoy flying, and I guess it is fair to say I’m a little nervous about flying even after all these years. My colleagues make fun of me, and I’m O.K. with that.
To keep myself occupied, I do a lot of work on the plane, generally on spreadsheets, pricing or client presentations. When I get tired of that, I read or, most often, I just fall asleep after having some wine. I do enjoy the sleeping part since I forget that I’m nervous.
I hate to complain about flying since it’s just what a lot of us have to do for our jobs. Plus, it’s not fair to complain about travel. I really enjoy what I do for a living. People all have ideas in their heads and, in a sense, we’re all inventors. It’s cool that I get to help some people make their ideas into something tangible and then get it to market.
Some ideas truly never will see the light of day, though. Let me be clear, I answer all of my emails, eventually. I know how hard it is when people have an idea and no one listens to them. I can relate, and try to be helpful, but sometimes you have to save people from themselves.
I actually had an inventor spot me in the Tampa airport. He was waiting for a flight and came over to where I was sitting, waiting for my flight to Newark. The inventor risked missing his own flight by not sitting near his gate, but he was very passionate about his product.
I was extremely patient and listened carefully as I was pitched a “sauna bag.” The idea was that the bag increased your body temperature, which in turn cured cancer. He lost me at the bag part since I couldn’t see people lounging around in something that looked like a trash bag, but he really lost me at his miracle claim.
I explained that making claims like “curing cancer” needed to be substantiated and he was treading on very dangerous ground. He stormed off after I didn’t bite, telling me I was just like his lawyer.
I travel quite a bit overseas and I try to be culturally sensitive. I like seeing and experiencing new cultures and like to try some new things.
A few years ago I attended the China Import and Export Fair in Guangzhou, China. My goal was to arrange manufacturing deals for a few of our inventors, and I went out to many dinners as part of the process. I usually rely on my longtime and trusted assistant who is fluent in Cantonese to help me navigate things, especially food.
Unfortunately, during this trip, she couldn’t make it, so my factory agent tried to help me order. Not wanting to take a risk, I ordered something I recognized, which was sweet and sour soup. It tasted O.K., except for what I guessed were the tofu pieces, which were too brown.
I asked the factory rep what those tofulike brown pieces were. The answer was the curdled blood of pigs. The moral of the story is to be careful about what you ask someone. Sometimes you’re better off not knowing.
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