SO you have packed your powerful notebook computer, your little bubble-jet printer, your brand new fax modem, transformers, phone cables and a box of diskettes with extractions from the corporate database. Because it was crammed with equipment, there was little room in your briefcase for the proposals, presentation and reports. These you stuffed into the side pocket of the airline bag you always carry on board. You are a seasoned business traveller. You know all the short cuts. And now you have the ultimate in mobile office equipment. This trip is sure to be successful because of it. Wrong. Once aboard the aircraft, sensibly seated in an aisle seat, you lift your briefcase from under your feet. On opening it, you are confronted with a handful of precision-made black boxes, a couple of pens and your reading glasses. Oh yes, the documentation is in the flight bag in the overhead locker. After grabbing your glasses, locking the briefcase and securing it under the seat in front, you struggle out of your seat and open the overhead locker. Someone's jacket falls out on to your head. Apologising to some unknown person, unknown because everyone is glaring at you, you manage to re-fold and replace the jacket and then extract your flight bag, which you place on the seat. You finally pull out the documentation, return the flight bag to the locker, and collapse into your seat. As you are about to start the review, along comes the flight attendant asking for your choice of meal. That's all you need. But you may as well eat because concentration will be impossible if everyone else is eating. So early in the trip and your sophisticated mobile office hasn't done much for you, has it? Despite multiple interruptions from your seat neighbours wanting to visit the toilet, cabin crew offering you coffee, drinks and immigration cards, and a small accident with a buttered roll and the last page of the presentation, you eventually succeed inreviewing your work and feel prepared for whatever is to come. Having gone well past the threshold of sleep, you arrive at your hotel not quite knowing how you are going to adjust quickly to the new time zone. You are wide awake, it is the middle of the night at your destination, so you decide to fax a few thoughts back to home base. Out comes the notebook computer which powers up on batteries without any trouble. The fax software runs OK when you load it from the built-in hard disk and the fax modem cable from the serial port fits fine, just as it did back home. But now the hassles begin. The modem battery light is indicating insufficient battery power. No matter, you think, just plug in the little transformer just like you did back home. Whoops. You had your secretary change the power plug and sockets in Hongkong and the socket in the hotel is different. The following evening, after a torturous day of meetings and a visit to electronics shops, you have armed yourself with a transformer of a voltage and plug to match local fittings. You start again. The battery light on the fax modem no longer shines and all is ready to go. You plug in the modem to the notebook in the little RJ11 jack on the side, and look around the hotel room for a phone plug. Whoops, again. The phone plug is also entirely different to that which you used back home. Not to be beaten by this extreme challenge of modern-day technology, you pull out your trusty Swiss Army knife equivalent, and unscrew the phone plug from the wall. Cutting through the telephone end of the modem cable, four wires are exposed. Four, not two as you expected. Even this simple exercise is becoming complicated. After much trial and error, which include an electric kick or two when someone calls, you achieve the connection and send off a fax. You can hardly leave the wiring set up like that, so you decide that that will be the last fax you send from the hotel room and restore all connections to normal. You have an even more eventful trip on the way home. At Frankfurt Airport, you are forced to prove that every piece of electronic equipment in your briefcase actually works and is not packed with plastic explosive. Once on the plane, you decide to use your notebook PC to rough out your report on the trip. Just as you are settled with the notebook on your fold-down table and have it opened and ready to go, the plane hits a small amount of turbulence and your neighbour's red wine spills all over the keyboard. How does one clean up a keyboard on an aircraft? With great difficulty, you discover. You close up the notebook, slip it back in the briefcase, recline your seat and order a large Scotch. I believe there are many travelling executives who will clearly identify with this scenario, because all of these events have been related, or happened, to me from time to time.