Approximately 20 years ago I worked for a company in Le Faget, France- about 20 minutes or so from Toulouse city center. I was the product manager for a hemostatic product that was used primarily in surgery.
The product was revolutionary as it was made of porcine collagen, which was the closest in behavior to human collagen at the time. I was up against the bovine products and the synthetics and it made for a great story to tell and product to sell.
One of my favorite stories from my time working there was when I was invited to Israel to teach surgeons how to use the product in the OR. The invitation was met with an instant, “yes”, and the planning moved swiftly after.
I was scheduled to go at the end of December, right after Christmas. The excitement was mounting and my pitch was perfecting when I got a call from my father that my mom would need to have yet another brain surgery to remove another metastatic tumor. My heart sunk, and I fell apart.
The planning now included a “quick” trip to Philadelphia. I never missed a surgery of my mom’s until this one. But I made it there shortly after.
I flew from Toulouse, France, through Paris and on to Philadelphia. I got there in time to see her shortly after surgery, kiss her on her nose, tell her how much I loved her, that she could do this and that my Love would carry her. I promised her that.
I spent 15 hours glued to her side before I boarded my next flight headed for my business meeting layover in Switzerland. I arrived in Switzerland many, many hours later- dazed and exhausted and had to manage a quick meeting about my product. Three hours after that little pit stop I was boarding another plane for Tel-Aviv where my limousine was to be waiting for me around 10pm or so.
Weather and a very frightening Russian plane held together only by scotch tape managed to delay my flight’s arrival until 2:00am, (I had to be in the OR by 6am). I was lifeless, sad, anxious and a little scared. The Ben Gurion airport was empty and quiet, there was no limousine waiting for me, nobody around anywhere. I dragged my bags to the first door where a dimly lit sign told me I would find a taxi and went outside. It was warm, but so dark, quiet and foreign to me. Moments later a tiny yellow taxi raced up to me and broke the eerie silence. I was suddenly scared for my life. He asked me where I was going and I forgot the name of the hotel, and could not find my paperwork. I struggled to dig around and finally I remembered it was the Clarion, or Carlton- I didn’t know, but he seemed to. I waited for him to place my bags in the car, but he didn’t. So I lugged my suitcase into the back seat with me thinking it might offer some sort of protection from whatever “could” happen to me.
The ride seemed to take hours. He could have taken me anywhere as it was dark and I would never have known where I was anyway. Finally, the car slowed along a nice strip where there were finally more lights and at last what looked as if it would be my hotel.
He pulled up at the front door of a hotel and this time, was kind enough to pull my luggage out of the backseat and off of me stating, “you must have been uncomfortable.” I smiled and nodded and thanked him as I rushed inside to the lights that looked like civilization, safety.
I had been traveling for over 28 hours and I almost couldn’t see or hear. The reception staff seemed to be running toward me and gently took my suitcase from me, then wrestled my purse off my shoulder, (only in an attempt to help me), and mentioned I should take off my winter coat, which they would happily take to my room for me.
“Miss Jordan”, one young man said; “we have been awaiting your arrival!” I was stunned and grateful to hear my name. It offered an instant comfort, and somehow made me like the young man. He was trying very hard to turn my misery into a pleasant experience. It worked.
The check in process went on to be one of my most memorable ever. Young men and women bent over backwards for me like I was royalty. I was checked in rapidly, offered fresh, warm chocolate chip cookies and escorted to my room. They had to see I was beyond exhausted and must have known of my travel schedule. They were fairytale accommodating and took wonderful care of me.
Two young men took me to my room, one quick elevator ride and two long halls away from the lobby. They opened the door to my room and kindly shuffled me and all of my luggage in. They busied themselves making everything just perfect, like little elves. They had all my clothes hung, bed turned down, mints in just the right spot and then for the finale, the one young man pulled back the curtains, slowly opened the sliding glass doors and told me to, “relax now and enjoy your evening.”
Behind those sliding glass doors were ocean waves mere steps from my balcony and the warmest ocean breeze I’ll ever remember. It was 80 degrees at 3am that night in Tel-Aviv. I smiled at the beauty of the ocean speckled with the soft lights of the hotel, and the warmth and kindness of the sweet staff in a place where I was as lost and lonely as you can imagine. I collapsed to my knees on the lounge chair on the balcony and I cried, very hard, until I fell asleep. It was the most exquisite ending to a very sad and exhausting trip across the world.
I did manage to wake at 5am, with a lot of help from my sweet elves and made it to surgery on time, also thanks to the limousine that, this time, was there and waiting for me.
My time in Israel was remarkable, emotional and I will never, ever forget it.
Someday I will write about the remainder of my time there…