I’m pleased to announce that I have reached a new level of grown-up-edness! A couple weeks ago, my boss informed me that I was to travel out of state on a bona fide business trip. I’ll admit I was a little nervous, only because I had no idea what to expect. Any notion I had of what a business trip is supposed to be like comes from television.
I was to travel with a co-worker, Laura, to the company headquarters and main business offices to find out what happens on the “other side” of the business. I was very excited about the trip in general and the opportunity to finally meet some people I have worked with for a year and a half without actually meeting in person. I would now get to see them in their element and have a face to put to our future interaction. Cool.
There was a lot more in store than that though. I found myself in one after another ethical dilemma and having to make difficult “grown-up” decisions.
My traveling companion, though a lovely person, is not a Christian. She does not share my values or beliefs, and thus does not always operate with the same integrity that I try to live by. Don’t get me wrong: I admire her very much and have a great respect for other aspects of her character; she just lives life more liberally than I am accustomed to. For example, one issue we came at differently was tracking our time. Where I would rather fudge the clock in favor of the company, she would rather fudge it in favor of getting paid more. I could enter my own time however I deem correct, but if someone were to compare our time cards, the obvious question would be, “Why don’t they match?” How could I answer that without throwing her under the bus? And is that even where she deserves to be? She was just doing what almost anyone would do, and it wasn’t really even wrong. It just wasn’t as right as it could have been. In the end, I negotiated a compromise with her, hopefully without making her feel like I was judging her – a tricky balance.
We stayed in a very nice casino hotel on the company, of course, and ate all our meals on the company. Whereas I didn’t feel right eating the most expensive meals I could find just because the company was buying, I did wonder why I had to pay for the hotel fitness center and Internet access out of my pocket. So while I negotiated more modest choices of meals with Laura, I simultaneously felt irritated about paying for amenities that I already pay for at home. Honestly, I wanted to stick it to the company at dinner, but I knew that wouldn’t be right. Little injustices – that’s how it works in real life. Oh well.
Fortunately, Laura and I were not so different in our nightlife choices. Drinking and gambling – all from the convenience of our hotel – were not a temptation for either of us. However, that is an eventuality I need to mentally prepare myself for in future trips – especially to casino hotels. Having a ready-made reason to stay in the room rather than waste my time and money on things that could lead to no good is advisable. I could have a book 2/3 of the way read – something I really want to get back to finish. Or I could schedule a phone call with a good friend I haven’t talked to in a long time. “Aw, sorry, guys. I told this friend that tonight we could catch up on the phone and I just can’t ditch that because it’s been four months since we last spoke.” It needs to be something that not only will work as an excuse to get back to the room after dinner, but also something that motivates me – because peer pressure to party will surely be more tempting than I anticipate.
Finally, and surprisingly, the most difficult thing to manage on the business trip is basic personality differences – and we had them! Laura gets really stressed out while driving and yells at traffic for what seems to me to be pretty insignificant offenses. I get really stressed out when all the restaurants that the GPS finds for us are closed and there’s no place to eat, and she thinks I should be more patient. I like to stick to the schedule in the book, and she likes to play it more flexible. She likes to stay up really late; I like to be in bed early. She likes to talk to everybody she meets, and I’m a little snobby and kind of shy around new people – and the list goes on. We were both relieved to learn that we at least like the same kind of music in the car!
Business trips are fun, but stressful too. They mean getting to know coworkers better than I ever even wanted to. Traveling with Laura was a lot like working with her every day – times ten in intensity! Business travel is a chance to learn how to get along with people, appreciate differences and live our convictions. Laura didn’t have the same Christian values. So the question is: What’s the best way to expose her to mine? My goal should be to show her a Christlike lifestyle, not to shove it down her throat – witnessing, not Bible-thumping. I may have annoyed her a little with my prudent behavior (which she might have thought prudish instead), and yet I didn’t think it prudent to tell her that I wish she would choose more lady-like language. It’s about knowing which battles to fight, so that we can live with integrity, without judging or patronizing others – the kind of thing Jesus did as he dined with a tax collectors and defended the prostitute. Love as He loved, and be perfect as He is perfect. Even in Vegas.