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The 13 scariest things for a business traveler

Ghouls, goblins, and ghosts are great, but are they really that scary anymore? It’s time to address the truly terrifying, real-life things that will strike fear into your very soul in a way no mythical beast can.

The 13 scariest things for a business traveler

It’s time to get your heart pumping with some spooky situations every business traveler eventually has to face. Ready to face your fears?

1. Missing a flight

Even when you’re lucky enough to have a travel manager organizing flights for you, missing a flight is the worst. It can happen to anyone, and it feels like one tiny mistake or hold up along the way ends up having disproportionate consequences.

There’s the rush to get a seat on the next flight, having to pay the difference, and then rescheduling your entire day on the other end: calling the hotel to let them know you won’t make check-in time, shuffling all your meetings around…

The worst part is that you always feel like you could have done something to prevent it, be it waking up earlier or booking an airport fast-tracking service instead of having to wait in line.

2. Bad WiFi

Having bad WiFi is even worse than having none at all, because at least then the rules are clear. With bad WiFi all bets are off.

Your connection starts cutting in and out at random and everything runs so slowly you have to scrutinize the progress bar to make sure your screen isn’t just frozen. It’s like a vengeful ghost has possessed your devices.

That’s what they should make the next tech-horror movie about. Not a ghost picking off teens in a skype call (Unfriended) or a missing-person thriller (Searching), but someone who’s just trying to send a pdf when they’re held hostage by low bandwidth. Talk about horrifying.

3. Low battery

You’re a lost soul in a foreign cafe and you’re on a tight schedule, wandering aimlessly from wall to wall, searching in vain for an outlet. Five percent.

You look around frantically, trying to calculate how much longer your phone will survive, your fist squeezing tighter around your charger. Four percent.

You can feel your own life force draining as you swallow your pride and ask the person next to you if they have a powerbank you could borrow. They don’t. Three percent.

You burst out into the street, looking for somewhere, anywhere else that might have an outlet. Two percent.

Resigned to your fate, you message your colleagues that you won’t be able to join that important call. You anxiously wait for your phone to indicate your message was received. One percent.

You watch as the screen fades into a boundless void of black nothingness.

How’s that for a campfire story?

4. Losing a document before you save it

With all the autosave features available, it’s kind of on you if you don’t use them, but that’s what makes this situation all the more terrifying. Not only do you have to redo all your work, but you can’t even put all the blame on the technology. 

It’s like retracing the steps of a missing person, but the missing person is a project proposal and you’re looking in your own memory. How good is your instant recall? You’ll find out. 

Thankfully, most work is done through cloud-based programs these days, which means this scary situation is slowly fading into an urban legend. That is, unless someone hacks every Google, Apple, and Microsoft server all at the same time. At that point we’d have moved from standard horror to allegory-for-society’s-failings apocalyptic thriller.

5. Spilling on your suit

For better or worse, the way you dress is integral to making a good first impression. If you don’t care enough to wear a clean jacket to your first meeting, how can they be sure you’ll care enough about their business? It’s why Silicon Valley’s brightest minds have started veering away from “all I care about is the code” T-shirt and jeans to slightly more sophisticated ensembles, sometimes even suits (shocking!).

Despite your best efforts, things happen, and you don’t want one clumsy accident starting an important meeting off on the wrong foot before you even get a chance to introduce yourself.

6. No coffee

What’s even worse than getting coffee all over you? Not having any at all. It’s not just about the caffeine (it could also be your morning tea, smoothie, etc.), it’s about the ritual that helps you start the day. The one that eases you out of sleepiness and into “get it done” mode. 

Whether the office supply is running low or you forgot it at home, not having that cup of comfort and energy can leave you trudging through the day like a zombie, calling out for the brains of your colleagues because yours isn’t functioning at 100%.

7. Getting lost on the way to a meeting

Just navigating an unfamiliar office building can be confusing, let alone trying to find your way around in a new city. Did you know buildings in Japan are numbered by when they were built, not where they are on the block? And in some areas in the former Soviet Union, a building might be listed as being on a main street, but actually be on an unnamed side street nearby?

To avoid getting lost in an endless maze of unfamiliar streets, book an English-speaking local chauffeur who knows the city inside and out. You don’t want to miss a meeting because you were wandering around doing your best impression of a ghost with unfinished business (literally).

8. The neverending meeting

Sometimes the communication problem is that there’s too much of it. Do you really need to go through every item in that spreadsheet? Nope, but your coworker sure thinks so.

Having all the information is better than not having enough, you tell yourself, but as the discussion keeps circling and circling with no decisions being made, you start to wonder if you’re actually in purgatory. An endless limbo of aimless discussion.

You can see when the meeting’s supposed to end in your calendar, but every time you look back at it it seems to get further and further away. Someone asks a question you’re certain was already answered, and the loop continues.

“Let’s just take a look at the spreadsheet one more time,” your coworker says.

9. Getting an SOS message in the middle of the night

Being asked to stay late is bad (Office Space is a horror movie, and you’ll never convince me otherwise), but getting that 911 all-capitals emergency message once you’ve already settled down at home is even more dreadful.

You’ve finally laid down after a long day, and you’re just enjoying your comfy bed and the quiet — finally, quiet — when your phone buzzes, and all of a sudden you’re in full panic mode. Nothing gets your blood pumping like a full-blown crisis, but did it have to happen at 4 a.m.?

It’s like one of those old viral videos where it’s all fun and games until the girl from The Exorcist pops up.

10. Not getting the SOS message in the middle of the night

If getting the SOS message is more like your typical jumpscare-filled horror flick, not getting the SOS message is like a slow burn indie horror. You go about your evening routine, unaware that the musical score is getting more and more foreboding as everything is falling apart.

The next day, you’re on your way to work, connect to the internet again, and your jaw drops. A massive stream of messages comes in, each one more urgent and more dire than the last. It’s going to be a fun day at the office.

Would you rather get the message in the middle of the night or not get it until morning? Pick your poison and let us know on social media.

11. Bad reception on a conference call

We’ve all been there. You’re dialing in with a remote colleague and the connection keeps cutting in and out. They can barely hear you, you can only kind of understand them, and you keep speaking over each other because of the three-second delay. In the end you feel like you’ve all just wasted 45 minutes. Plus, you had to stay up late to accommodate the time difference.

At this point you might as well just light some candles and break out the Ouija board, because sometimes it seems easier to contact the other side than have decent audio quality on a call with Shanghai.

12.Cultural misunderstandings

The last thing anyone wants is to come across as disrespectful by accident, simply because they’re not familiar with the local customs. It can feel like an alien invasion in reverse, where you’re trying to communicate with the human race, but on your planet beaming people into your spaceship is how you say “Hello!”.

Okay, so it’s not that dramatic, but making a cultural gaff can feel just as brutal. The quick fix here is to do just a few minutes’ research on greetings and actions that could signal disrespect. We also recommend the book The Culture Map by Erin Meyer, which offers invaluable insight into working with people from different cultures, be they new clients or coworkers at different offices.

13. Nightmare neighbors on a flight

This is everyone’s worst nightmare, and there are so many ways it can go wrong. Crying baby. Smelly feet. Takes up all the elbow room. Too talkative. Snores. Constantly bothering the airline staff. Basically any way a human being can possibly be annoying, they’re all your potential seat-mates.

While it’s easy to shrug it off when you’re taking a short train ride, try being stuck on a long-haul flight with them. It’s enough to make anyone feel monstrous. Just try to keep in check so you don’t become the scary one…