As penance for a week-long business trip to Southern California in February, I agreed to journal my pleasure and pain. Digital Moleskine at the ready…

T –10 days​

Check the weather in LA. Hot! Discover in my latest frenzy of tidying, I have discarded my summer wardrobe. Panic Stations! Quickly solved by finding a Christmas gift voucher from a local boutique.​

Pleasure level:​

High. Particularly with my new pink ankle boots from my favourite shoe designer.​

Pain level:

Low. Mostly triggered by the need to ‘get my legs out’ after a cozy winter in tights.​

T –5 days​

Start entering my advanced passenger information. Discover my US passport has expired. Did I say, ‘panic stations’, already? I didn’t mean it. This is true, deep, and intense fear.​

​Thankfully, the embassy offers me an emergency appointment within 48 hours, and I walk out with a shiny, tiny, temporary passport in less than an hour

No lectures, no recriminations, no guilt. Just ‘of course we can help you.’ So relieved, I even tweet them my gratitude and gush all day about the nice, happy Americans.​

Pleasure level:​

High. Managing to screw up royally without being punished creates its own, special delight. Plus, a gentle glow of pleasure in being American, which is rare in the midst of an election cycle like this one!​

Pain level:​

High. Fear, running across town to get the right photographs, running across Grosvenor Square to store my bicycle lights and tools at a local shop when they can’t be taken into the embassy, and shear embarrassment take their toll.​

​Travel Day – Stage 1, The train

As I board the train to London (which is 40 minutes late), I realise it’s going to be a crowded one. I manage to find space for my luggage in front of the rack, but it looks precarious.​

​I keep looking behind me throughout the journey, to make sure it hasn’t rolled or been moved or stolen. It feels so insecure, I start brainstorming new design solutions for ‘the luggage on train’ problem.

​At Reading, there’s a huge exodus, luggage is shifted, I jump up to rearrange. Almost there.

And then, absolute chaos. A woman returns from the buffet and discovers that her suitcase has been taken, and a lookalike remains. She goes mental. Screams, curses, threatens.​

​Working with the train manager, we try and get her calmed down, but the level of contagious stress in the carriage just continues to escalate. At the earliest possible opportunity I scurry up from my seat, grab my bag, and huddle in the vestibule with the other survivors.

Pleasure level:​

Non-existent. A disaster is just as bad, if not worse, when you’ve anticipated it.​

Pain level:​

Traumatic. I still get shaky remembering the incoherent anger and stress that woman projected out onto all of us.​

Travel Day – Stage 2, the airport​

​Fast forward. Successfully navigate Heathrow Express, Baggage Drop, Security. Lunching in the Lounge. This is the life that I have earned through all those miles. I’ve made it!

Except for the tiny, baby-sized cutlery. I feel like a toddler.​

Pleasure level:​

Medium. The lounge is always a mix of luxury and claustrophobic smugness.​

Pain level:​

Irritated. Is this cutlery a cost cutting measure, a design statement, or a way to convince us that we need Gold status and the First Class lounge?​

Travel day – Stage 3, the plane​

My first A380! Upstairs! Anticipation! Disappointment!​

​It’s just like any other seat on any other plane. Until joy is rekindled when I see the size of the toilet. Vast! Enormous! What a pleasure!

Pleasure level:​

​Medium. Really, it would be churlish of me not to enjoy a business class trip.

Pain level:​

Medium. Really, it’s not a glamorous age of air travel, is it, when the highlight is the loo?​

The trip

Was a great success. Hard work, but a true pleasure of collaboration and creative inspiration.​

So what did I learn? My true peaks of pleasure came from the places I least expected. My friendly experience at the embassy, a last-minute call to HMRC before I boarded to sort out a VAT question, the size of the loo on a plane.​

Those peaks wouldn’t have been so high if I haven’t been conditioned to expect the worst from them. It’s the gap between the anticipated and actual experience that matters most.​

My pain was at its worst when things seemed out of my control. In fact, my worst pain wasn’t even my own, but somebody else’s.​

​The next time you see somebody feeling the pain, don’t underestimate the power of forgiveness.

​Simple human kindness may be the greatest pleasure of all.

​Postscript:

This has now become one of those viral Facebook sharing things, with the original ‘takee’ trying to find her bag filled with sentimental objects. I’ve shared back what I know, but I am even more irritated, as I know the incident was reported almost as soon as it happened, so a simple call to Reading station should have resolved the issue within minutes​.