If there is one thing that is consistent across a multitude of situations, it is the need for clear and concise communication. It is important in just about any circumstance, be it workers’ compensation or corporate travel. And in this case, it is the latter that serves to prove the invaluable worth of accurate information.

Last week life seemed to return to normal, as representatives from all over the country gathered in Hot Springs, Virginia for the 73rd Annual Conference of the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA). It was held at the historic Homestead Resort and was literally for all involved a breath of fresh air following 18 months of Covid congestion. Typical of SAWCA events, this was held at a very unique location that requires a bit of planning in the travel department. In other words, it was a true “planes, trains and automobiles” experience.

For my travel itinerary, I flew into Roanoke, VA where I rented a car for the 90-minute drive out to the Homestead in Hot Springs. I was accompanied on this trip by Tammy Boyd, our VP of Digital Strategy and Business Development. I suspect this is the last time she will agree to share a car ride with me.

For the driving portion of the trip, I simply entered the hotel address into my trusty GPS and merrily went on my way. It seems that I failed to review the hotel’s travel instructions on their website, which told people to throw their trusty GPS out the window and follow their specific instructions instead. It was an odd trip, to say the least. We navigated down secondary roads through little villages, even taking back road routes through the villages themselves. Then we found ourselves driving along a path we would eventually learn was called McGraw Gap Road.

To call McGraw Gap a road is quite generous. It is a switchback-filled route that climbs a mountain as nothing more than a single-lane trail for much of its existence. As you climb higher the forest gets thicker, and the bars on your cell phone disappear completely. I’m not sure, but at one point I think I saw Little Red Riding Hood. And I was damn sure I heard banjoes through much of the trip. When we arrived at the hotel, I was very happy to learn there was a better way to go. Too bad that would not prove to be any easier.

For the return, I checked with the front desk as we departed. I asked the young lady behind the counter for the best way to return to Roanoke. She said, “It’s easy. Take 220 north to 64, then pick up 220 north again.” I repeated back to her, “220 north to 64, then 220 north again?” She confirmed it once more, and we were on our way.  

I must say that Highway 220 north out of Hot Springs, Virginia is a beautiful ride. The car I had rented was a convertible, and it was a perfect day to have the top down. After we had driven 42 miles, we entered the state of West Virginia. This turns out to have been what people in law enforcement call “a clue.” The road to Roanoke generally goes nowhere near West Virginia. In fact, Roanoke is in the completely opposite direction. The clerk, it turns out, said “north” when she should have said “south.” The benefit, I suppose, of the front desk worker’s faux pas was that we got to enjoy that beautiful ride all over again, from the opposite direction.  

We had to drive back a bit to gain access to digital directions, as it seems there is no such thing as a cell signal in West Virginia. Once we again had access to GPS, the system seemed to be trying to take us in every direction but the one we suspected was the recommended path. We stopped at a small bakery to double-check the information it was giving us. The very helpful young lady confirmed the best way to Roanoke was the direction we were headed. She told us not to follow GPS, and instead “head south on 220 until you get to Covington. You’ll see a Nissan dealer on the left. You’ll go through a stoplight and there will be a Hardee’s on the right. Then you will go through another stoplight and climb up on a ridge where there will be a Burger King. Keep going along that ridge until you see 64.”

Or I could just follow the stupid signs. Whatever.

Fortunately, we had a couple of hours to kill before our flight. We just didn’t know that crappy directions from the hotel would kill it for us. We managed to reach the airport in time for our flight, so all’s well that ends well. It could have been worse. We could have been an injured worker who doesn’t receive the clear and helpful instructions they need in order to reach their intended destination. It turns out communication matters, whether you are on the road to Roanoke, or the road to recovery.

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