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Originally published Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 6:30 AM

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How to cope at the airport without a wallet

A forgetful frequent flier manages to take his flight with no money and scanty ID.

The New York Times

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Despite all the traveling I do, I'm still a bit of a nervous flier. Therefore, it doesn't really make any sense that I flew with the Blue Angels last year after they offered the University of Rochester one seat on one of their planes. Several of us at the university received an email invitation, and the first person to respond would get to go. I responded first. I figured it would be a good thing to do, until the day started approaching.

But it was the trip of a lifetime. I didn't even embarrass myself by throwing up, which earned me some points with the pilot, who happened to tell me he was thinking about applying to our graduate program at the Simon School of Business. I'm the dean. Seeing that we landed safely, I think he's probably going to get some extra points when he applies.

Traveling as much as I do, something unexpected invariably happens. The example of personal resourcefulness that I am most proud of involved a trip to Boston a few years ago. I left my wallet in the pocket of a coat at home and didn't discover the mistake until I was standing in the security line in Rochester. I was able to get through security with my boarding pass and a business card. It didn't hurt that some of the security agents recognized me from my frequent travels.

Once I landed in Boston without my wallet or any money, I was able to put into practice what I learned from watching the wonderful movie "The Terminal" featuring Tom Hanks. Like the character he portrayed, Viktor Navorski, I wandered through the airport and rounded up and returned six baggage carts. I was refunded enough change to be able to afford the subway fare to get to my first meeting. Then, I was able to borrow enough cash from the amused alum I was meeting with to get through the rest of the day and back home to Rochester that night after my assistant faxed a copy of my driver's license and passport to me.

I have to admit I felt a little idiotic rounding up the carts, but it was one of my finest entrepreneurial ventures.

Despite not really enjoying flying, I do enjoy going to new places and meeting new people. I have found that when you're pleasant to people, even the much-maligned gate agents, people will be nice back. Just a few weeks ago, it made my day to receive a LinkedIn note from an agent who complimented me on always keeping a smile on my face, even when there are problems or time is tight.

I've traveled to 48 states and more than 40 countries and it's clear that we have more in common with other people than we think. During a trip for a meeting in Dubai, I had a chance to go skiing. I live in Rochester, N.Y., so I know about snow. But this was indoor skiing at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. There was no wind, no lines, and I hate to say it, but the skiing was actually better than in upstate New York.

I shared a ride on the chair lift with a father and a son from Saudi Arabia, a woman from Lebanon, two Italians, two Australians, three Canadians, a Turk, a Brit and a Yemeni. While we differed greatly in politics, religion and other demographics, I was impressed with how well we got along and how much the world would be a better place if more of us got to meet face to face instead of hanging on to the notion that we are all so different.

So I may not like flying, but traveling can bring the best out in all of us.

Q: How often do you fly for business?

A: Three times a month, mostly domestic, with some international thrown in.

Q: What's your least favorite airport?

A: I have three: LaGuardia, Newark and Kennedy.

Q: Of all the places you've been, what's the best?

A: Fiji. Once I'm there, I'm completely relaxed. No one can find me, and I don't get bothered with phone calls, faxes, emails or texts. I'm completely mellow when I get back to work.

Q: What's your secret airport vice?

A: I sometimes like to walk around airports and collect coins that have dropped on the ground. I think it's kind of fun. What's weird is I don't find any in Switzerland, but the New York airports are paved in gold.

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