Subway token saves the day

By | August 2nd, 2005

I don’t mind spending money on business travel when it’s appropriate, but I can’t stand wasting it.

Once, I bought wingtip fuel tanks for a colleague’s Piper Apache. It gave the four-seat prop plane enough range to reach a broadcasting symposium in Switzerland via Greenland. It took 63 hours roundtrip, but it cost less than a coach ticket on a commercial airline. On the way back, we refueled in Stornoway, Scotland. There were about a dozen student car drivers practicing on the runway. The air traffic controller asked us to circle until they could move them.

Customs fees were due in British pounds and they only accepted cash. We didn’t have enough money, so I reached into my pocket and pulled out a handful of change.

“What’s that?” asked the agent.

“It’s a New York subway token.”

“I’ll take it,” he replied. And we were on our way.

That wasn’t the only time mass transit has saved me money. In New York, I take the subway to jobs I can’t walk to. I almost always arrive at my destination well ahead of colleagues who opt for a more expensive taxi or limousine.

I remember one time I was trying to get from the Upper West Side to an appointment near Union Square. I hopped on a train, but my clients got into a cab. I arrived on time; they pulled up to the office half an hour late.

But public transportation isn’t always a money saver. In Hong Kong, for example, I find a car and driver actually saves me a few dollars because it gets me around faster. If I had to rent a car, it would cost me more in parking fees than to hire a driver to wait for me during my meetings.

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I’ve also traveled for business by bicycle, truck and ferry. In St. Petersburg, Russia, my wife met me at the airport in a full-size bus. It turned out to be the only vehicle her production company could find. We were the sole passengers for the 20-minute ride downtown.

On that trip, instead of hailing a taxi, I could just hold out a dollar bill and take a passing car wherever I wanted to go.

In Madagascar, the most efficient way around is by air, and flying is cheap. But the schedules are meaningless. We were flying from Nosy Be to Antananarivo a few years ago, and the plane actually left an hour early. Fortunately, we had been warned about the scheduling problems and so we arrived at the airport two hours early. Security wasn’t a problem, either. At Nosy Be you could wander out on to the runway if you wanted to (and people did).

I can’t stand overspending on a hotel, not to mention getting hit by hidden surcharges. So my preferred lodging is at a Motel 6, where I pay up front when I check in, and I can’t run up any extras even if I want to.

Staying at one of its properties is not without challenges. I have to bring my own clock radio, shampoo and tissues, because they’re not provided. There are also no drawers or closets. But the price is right. I save enough money for clients to allow them to keep hiring me.


Mark Schubin is a television engineering consultant in New York.

I don’t mind spending money on business travel when it’s appropriate, but I can’t stand wasting it.

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Once, I bought wingtip fuel tanks for a colleague’s Piper Apache. It gave the four-seat prop plane enough range to reach a broadcasting symposium in Switzerland via Greenland. It took 63 hours roundtrip, but it cost less than a coach ticket on a commercial airline. On the way back, we refueled in Stornoway, Scotland. There were about a dozen student car drivers practicing on the runway. The air traffic controller asked us to circle until they could move them.

Customs fees were due in British pounds and they only accepted cash. We didn’t have enough money, so I reached into my pocket and pulled out a handful of change.

“What’s that?” asked the agent.

“It’s a New York subway token.”

“I’ll take it,” he replied. And we were on our way.

That wasn’t the only time mass transit has saved me money. In New York, I take the subway to jobs I can’t walk to. I almost always arrive at my destination well ahead of colleagues who opt for a more expensive taxi or limousine.

I remember one time I was trying to get from the Upper West Side to an appointment near Union Square. I hopped on a train, but my clients got into a cab. I arrived on time; they pulled up to the office half an hour late.

But public transportation isn’t always a money saver. In Hong Kong, for example, I find a car and driver actually saves me a few dollars because it gets me around faster. If I had to rent a car, it would cost me more in parking fees than to hire a driver to wait for me during my meetings.

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I’ve also traveled for business by bicycle, truck and ferry. In St. Petersburg, Russia, my wife met me at the airport in a full-size bus. It turned out to be the only vehicle her production company could find. We were the sole passengers for the 20-minute ride downtown.

On that trip, instead of hailing a taxi, I could just hold out a dollar bill and take a passing car wherever I wanted to go.

In Madagascar, the most efficient way around is by air, and flying is cheap. But the schedules are meaningless. We were flying from Nosy Be to Antananarivo a few years ago, and the plane actually left an hour early. Fortunately, we had been warned about the scheduling problems and so we arrived at the airport two hours early. Security wasn’t a problem, either. At Nosy Be you could wander out on to the runway if you wanted to (and people did).

I can’t stand overspending on a hotel, not to mention getting hit by hidden surcharges. So my preferred lodging is at a Motel 6, where I pay up front when I check in, and I can’t run up any extras even if I want to.

Staying at one of its properties is not without challenges. I have to bring my own clock radio, shampoo and tissues, because they’re not provided. There are also no drawers or closets. But the price is right. I save enough money for clients to allow them to keep hiring me.

Mark Schubin is a television engineering consultant in New York.