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The minute I found out I had to attend an out-of-town meeting, that said meeting occurred at 4 p.m., that said meeting was to be approximately 4 hours long, and that my transportation to said meeting was by car — driving approximately 7 hours in the same day — I panicked.

Not least of all because of the forced socialization with my smug coworker for nearly an entire workday’s span of time.

We piled our laptops and meeting paraphernalia (you know, flip boards, markers, agendas, action plans) into the car and hit the road at 10 a.m. sharp.

I had eaten my usual breakfast de rigeur: Greek yogurt and a banana. (Really setting myself up to survive being trapped in a car for hours on end.)

By the time we stopped for lunch two hours later, I was hungry. Like can’t-take-one-more-second-of-pompous-lectures-without-rolling-my-eyes-so-hard-they-might-get-lost-in-the-back-of-my-head hungry. 

We debated for about an hour about where to actually stop for food…Hooters was one suggestion, I shit you not. Alas, as a people pleaser who hates conflict, I was flippant, claiming that where we ate didn’t matter.

And then we ended up at a fast food burger place.

(I don’t eat meat, as you might recall.)

At this point, I was about halfway on my health journey. I still hadn’t managed to completely ditch my diet pop habit, and I was still eating more frozen “diet” dinners than I care to remember.

But I had begun the journey.

I was packing my lunch every day. I was packing my snacks. I was bringing a cute water bottle to work. I was working out. 

So I quietly ordered a veggie sandwich (which amounted to some mushrooms on a hamburger bun), fries, and some pop. Because I was a vegetarian at a burger place and options were not shockingly not aplenty.

Yep, I knew this lunch was not going to agree with me. I knew I would crash and burn, gas and gurgle, making the remaining trip even more unbearable. I mean, if I wasn’t already prepared to jump out of a moving vehicle…

And yet I acquiesced. (How’s that for fancy word?)

Back in the car, nursing my to-go pop, willing my sensitive stomach to remain calm amid the grease and refined carbs, praying my coworker would crank up the music. (50s doo-wop, in case you were wondering. I attempted to change the channel to something a little more my taste, but when a song came on with the f-word in it, he clutched his precious pearls and went right back to bee-bopping.)

By the time we arrived at the office, we’d been on the road for more than five hours. I was already drained.

The meeting participants started filing into the room, looking tired because they’d been at work since 8 a.m. and whose brilliant idea was it to schedule a four-hour meeting at 4 p.m.?

Like they’d had to drive four hours to get to the meeting and then had to drive four hours home after the meeting. They could just hop in their cars and go home.

(By the way, this was apparently common practice for this type of meeting. How dare we take time out of everyone’s schedules to have a meeting. When we all know perfectly well most of our days are taken up by meetings anyway. That’s some fuzzy logic if I ever heard any.)

Also apparently common practice? Not serving dinner. Because most people were local and could go home and eat. (And hadn’t been driving for half the day and could happily snack at their desks before the meeting.) So they brought in a cheese platter. You know the kind — with the meats and cheeses and grapes and crackers. Oh, and more pop.

Not exactly the kind of sustenance I was hoping for.

After a painfully long meeting with a lot of talking and not a lot of food, during which I tried to hide the ever-increasing rumble in my tummy, we got back in the car to drive home.

Another four hours.

While my coworker happily stopped at a gas station for a six pack of beer and some pork rinds for the drive home (I wish I were joking), I sat uncomfortably hungry, watching the mile markers go past. (Yes, he offered to share. And, yes, I vehemently declined.)

I could not get out of that car fast enough when we finally pulled into the company’s parking lot around midnight. I knew the road trip wasn’t going to be fun, but I was beyond beat. All I wanted to do was go home, crawl in bed, and never come out again. (Introvert problems. Also, hunger problems. Too dramatic?)

So where did I go wrong?

Here are some mistakes I made and what I could have done differently to make the trip and meeting a little less insufferable.

Mistake #1: Not packing food.

Instead of giving in to fast food and snack platters, I should have brought my own food. Smoothies, overnight oats, a PB&J, even healthier chips and cookies would have been better options than not eating enough.

Mistake #2: Assuming food (that I deemed acceptable) would be provided.

For some reason, I relied on other people to take care of me, to provide for my needs. This assumption has gotten me into trouble countless times. Bringing my own food would have been like an insurance policy. And, honestly, I would have preferred eating my own food to the typical sandwich platter that’s usually set out anyway.

Mistake #3: Not suggesting a different restaurant for lunch.

Yes, just because I make a different suggestion doesn’t mean that suggestion will be heeded. But what harm is there in speaking up and offering an alternative? Especially when I know the first choice is not ideal for me and will make my day that much worse.

Mistake #4: Not drinking enough water for fear of having to use the bathroom during the meeting, thus prolonging it (the meeting, not the bathroom break, although arguably both).

Drinking water was definitely one of the things I was doing really well. I mean, I had a damn-near hourly bathroom break I was drinking that much water. (Also excellent excuse to get up from my desk…) Inexplicably, I decided to barely sip water, eschewing it for a couple pops instead. Had I at least drank some water, I could have kept the hunger in check a bit.

Mistake #5: Not negotiating the travel arrangements.

Not to dive too deep into work advice on this being-healthy-AT-work blog, but I should have made some attempt, no matter how feeble, to make different travel arrangements. Whether that meant driving my own car, getting a hotel for the night, or simply attending via video call (because, let’s be honest, most of the time there’s no real need to be present in person these days), I should have explored my options for my health’s and sanity’s sake.

Bonus Mistake: Not asking for overtime.

Holy shit, that was a long day. I was in the office by 8 a.m. because of course I had ten other projects I was working on. That made it about a 16-hour workday. And I didn’t get paid for overtime unless I filled out a very unwieldy form in advance. Better believe I worked from home then next day and took that Friday “off.”

I’d love to hear from you. Have you been on an awful work road trip? And have you made any of these mistakes? How would you handle it differently next time?