After Montreal, I was home for four days, including Saturday, March 24, when I rode my bike into downtown Washington for the “March for Our Lives,” nearly 200,000 of us calling for sensible gun control. The speakers were all youngsters, including a number of survivors of the February 14 tragedy at the Florida high school. I was so happy to learn that Delta Air Lines provided three charter flights to Washington so students from the school could lift their voices in the capital.
The next day I hopped on the Metro to National Airport and flew to Charlotte, then across the ocean to Frankfurt for a quick teaching trip. Landed at 7:30, and an hour later met my young friend Tobias Hundhausen. We hopped on a train to the main station, then out to the Rödelheim district for a tour of a data center. Since I last saw Tobias in fall 2017, he had taken a new job as COO of e-Shelter, which operates data centers in Germany and elsewhere. Data centers, as you know, are the “home of the Cloud,” which puts my pal on the cutting edge of the new economy. It was a fascinating morning. His firm essentially provides a roof, electricity, and climate control (a big deal, since servers and related I.T. hardware require consistent temperature, humidity, and even atmospheric pressure). Customers range from small to “hyperscale” firms like Amazon. The local power company provides two lines of 120 MW each – so the place almost consumes the output of half a typical (500 MW) generating station. Whew! The company is growing about 20 percent per year, and there were several projects underway on the campus, workers laying cable, finishing walls, installing fire suppression systems, and the like. I peppered Tobias with questions, and he had all the answers.
We ambled back to the Rödelheim station, had an early light lunch and a good yak, and I peeled off, headed back to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, then south to Stuttgart and on to Reutlingen, for my sixth visit to the European School of Business (ESB) at Reutlingen University. It was Easter Week, and the train to Stuttgart was packed. Middle seat, but no matter. There was work to do, and I got it done.
Arrived in Reutlingen at 2:55, hopped on the bus up to campus, and from 3:30 to 5:00 delivered my “advice for graduating students” talk. This was “just-in-time” teaching! Hung around after the talk to answer some questions, then the bus back down the hill and the train west a few miles to the historic university (founded 1477) town of Tübingen. I stayed there on my first ESB visit, and it was good to be back. Trudged up the hill with suitcase to Goethestrasse 14, my Airbnb digs. Tom welcomed me and we had a short chat. I was totally tired, but also hungry and thirsty, so after working my email to zero I changed clothes and walked into the wonderfully preserved Alstadt, the old town. Headed to Mauganeschtle, a restaurant I visited on my first trip. It was already the start of spargelzeit, asparagus season, and I tucked into a wonderful dish of maultaschen (stuffed pasta, the local equivalent of ravioli) with white and green asparagus. And beer. Walked home, and Tom’s partner Sandra was there. We had a nice quick yak and I clocked out. Zzzzzzzz. Whew, nine hours was tonic.
Up at 6:45 Tuesday, a welcome shower, coffee, and Sandra’s special recipe of “overnight oats,” cold with nuts and cinnamon, and a banana. A nice chat with both my hosts, then out the door, down the hill on the bus, train across to Reutlingen, bus to school. Worked all morning in the student cafeteria, the Mensa, and ate a big lunch. From 1:45 to 3:15 I gave a talk on airline marketing, then hopped bus-train-bus back to my Airbnb digs. Changed clothes, worked a bit, and ambled into town for a light dinner at a simple German restaurant. Early to bed again, but slept fitfully for part of the night.
Out the door at eight, to the nearby supermarket for breakfast stuff (yogurt and freshly-based whole-wheat rolls with lots of seeds), then to the train station. Hopped on the same yellow-and-white regional train that I caught the day before. I was enroute to Stuttgart, then west to Karlsruhe, and south toward the airport at Baden-Baden for my 1:20 PM Ryanair flight to my next teaching gig, at London Business School the next day. Plenty of time, right? Well, not if the yellow train broke down for two hours. We lurched to a halt three miles north of Reutlingen and sat and sat. The only good part was that the train had free wi-fi, so I could make contingency plans. Even after an hour delay I could still make the flight. But no, so I opted to head to Frankfurt and fly standby on Lufthansa (one of the great perks for airline employees, huge reciprocal discounts; that ticket cost me $71). Was able to buy the e-ticket online while I sat. We finally got to Stuttgart, and I was aiming for the 11:51 express to Frankfurt Airport. Stopped at the Deutsche Bahn info counter and explained the mess to the friendly young agent. Here was a best case of recovery from customer service failure: he heard my story, printed out an itinerary for the 11:51 train, handwrote an explanation, stamped it, and wished me a nice journey – no additional charge, no fight, no hassle.
The Lufthansa check-in machine at Frankfurt Airport spit out a boarding pass with a seat assignment, woo hoo, and I did my “flying standby, got on” dance, steps perfected over the course of 52 years of flying without a booking. Like I did a month earlier in Düsseldorf Airport, grabbed lunch fixings at the REWE supermarket and had a little picnic outside the store. Worked a bit, took a short nap sitting upright, and at 4:00 took off for London. Landed at 4:45, got through immigration more quickly than a month earlier, and onto the Heathrow Express into town. Then onto the Tube, and was at London Business School shaking hands with my host Oded Koenigsberg by 6:15. He handed me keys to a room in their adjacent guesthouse, and gave me directions to the classroom for the next morning.
I was not done. Agreed to meet a young airline mentee, Freddie, in the pub adjacent to the school at 6:30. Washed my face and zipped next door. We had a good yak for an hour. I peeled off, back to the room. What to do about dinner? I had done some research on top-rated Indian restaurants in London, and Dosa n Chutny looked really yummy. It was clear across town, south of the river in a suburb called Tooting, but off I went. And I was glad I did. The place had zero ambience (orange walls, bright fluorescent lighting) but astonishingly good South Indian food. So good, a fine base for a hard sleep, deep into dreamland.
Slept in, meaning past seven, suited up, out the door for breakfast stuff at the nearby market, back to the room to eat, then a short walk south to London Business School’s new Sammy Ofer Center, a stunning re-do of the historic Old Marylebone Town Hall, built in the 1920s. From 10:25 to 11:40 delivered a talk to a very engaged and diverse group of 80 students. Nice applause. Afterward, two students from Minnesota introduced themselves, a nice bit of the small world. Peeled off at noon, out to Heathrow for the flight home.
Captain Freeman commanded American Airlines 105, and at the end of the flight the purser announced it was his last flight before retiring. Once we parked at JFK, I headed to the flight deck to thank and congratulate him. I told him that I had a flight deck jumpseat card for years, and always left the cockpit wishing that passengers could witness, as I did many times, their consummate professionalism. His wife was with him, and they seemed a bit bowled over by the gesture, and my words of praise. I had a big wait at Kennedy, but used some of the time to bring this journal up to date. The long layover became longer, because fog closed JFK to arrivals for almost two hours and the short flight down to D.C. was late by that amount. Happily, a kind Pakistani-American taxi driver was still on duty at 12:45 AM, so I was home at 1:10. And glad to be there.