Travel broadens the mind. Travel also creates awkward situations and causes people to do some very annoying things. Imposing your habits on other cultures, or sometimes, your wardrobe. Let’s say you’ve paid the money to fly all the way from the United States to France. At the foot of the Eifel Tower, is it really necessary to wear a cowboy hat, tee shirt with an American flag, Hawaiian shorts and crocs? This seems like a stereotypical hyperbole, but I was there and I saw this. Regional pride can be a positive thing, but maybe it’s best to keep it in the region you’re from.
The ability to efficiently move around the world has become much easier, through technology and by making many modern conveniences available to travelers, especially on airplanes. But we get spoiled quite easily, don’t we? Remember not to long ago when everyone on the plane was forced to watch the same movie? Now, I scroll through the entire menu on my personal entertainment device and cluck my tongue at how there’s nothing that interests me. A menu, by the way, that includes drama, comedy, action, family, Canadian (Canadian? When was the last time we made a good movie, worthy enough for me to watch on an airplane?), numerous television shows, radio stations and music playlists covering almost every genre. And under each category, there are submenus containing many other titles.
And still there’s nothing to watch.
I realize there are many different types of travel, but since I just returned from a long plane trip, most of these grievances revolve around air travel. I understand that Louis CK covered this in his Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy bit on Conan O’Brien, but you have to admit, the observations below point out some pretty annoying stuff.
Canadians are polite. I don’t really buy into this as I’ve met many rude people here, but that’s what everyone tells us, so it must be true. At the gate when the announcement for boarding preparations commences, the airline employee politely informs us that we will be entering the plane by seat number, starting with the back. Makes sense. Of course, this never works as everyone just gets in line, regardless of seat number. Then there are the confused, uninitiated, standing there sort of half in the line and half out, looking forlornly at the gate, asking, “What is happening? Why are they doing this?” Listen, we’re all going to get on the plane one way or the other. I recently had a connecting flight through Cairo. When they announced that the plane was ready to board, everyone rushed the gate. Not as organized, but let me tell you, the airline employees had to move fast and we got through the gate, settled in and were off in half the time it takes to board a flight in Canada. Sometimes being polite is not a good thing, sometimes it can be ANNOYING!
My seat was in the second row, behind what is known as the bulkhead. The flight attendants tell us to stow our carry-on luggage under the seat in front of us. When you’re sitting in the bulkhead, obviously, there is no seat in front of you, so everything has to go in the overhead compartment. I do what I’m told on flights and stowed my bag under the seat in front of me. The couple in front of me were fighting over where to put their bags and the female half of the equation said, “Put it under the seat.” To which she added, with confusion, “Wait, there’s already a bag under here.” She grabbed my bag and turned to her partner, “Where did this come from?” I was in some kind of shock over her stupidity, recovered and told her it was mine. We got into an argument, with the crux of her rebuttal being, “But where am I supposed to put my bag?” I let the woman think she won the argument because I knew the police of the skies – flight attendants – would be on my side. The woman narrowed her eyes at me as she placed her bag in the overhead compartment. Victory in the shape of a scowl.
My victory was short lived as the Incredible Hulk sat next to me, minus the green skin. This guy was built like a professional wrestler – his arms so big that when he rested them, they were almost perpendicular to his enormous chest. Naturally, the right arm – or tree trunk – not only took control of the armrest, but spilled halfway over into my seat, poking me in the side. Seats on airplanes are not for sharing, they are real estate. The property value increases if no one is sitting next to you, decreases if you’re trying to sleep and the Hulk keeps poking you in the chest. And what am I going to do? Poke this guy back? I didn’t want to make him angry because we all know what happens when the Hulk gets angry. ANNOYING!
A few years ago, I went to New Zealand. Eighteen hours on a plane from Los Angeles to Auckland. I was bumped up to business class and had a bit too much of the free champagne and selection of fine wines. I also happened to be in the window seat and after being in the air for a while, my bladder informed me that it was time to empty it out. Right after we were airborne, the man next to me pulled out the footrest, kicked his chair back, put on a blindfold and fell instantly to sleep. My bladder wanted me to wake him. Instead, I did the more mature thing. I placed my right hand on the armrest between us, reached over and stabilized my other arm on the armrest next to the aisle. I stepped over his legs and was basically straddling him. His light snoring forced a cough and I expected him to wake up. I froze. We were face to face. The moment passed – it was a long moment – and I hopped the rest of the way. Sprinted down the aisle to the washroom. I returned so satisfied that I didn’t even think of how to get back over him. ANNOYING!
A strange thing happened landing in Athens. After the wheels touched the runway and the pilot welcomed us to Athens, everyone clapped. I mean cheered – I thought they were going to start smashing plates, which probably wouldn’t work since all the plates were plastic. I didn’t know if the clapping was for the great job the pilot did, or that we arrived safely, or everyone’s just really happy to be in Greece. The same thing happened flying from Athens to Cairo. We landed, the pilot welcomed us and everyone clapped. Going from Cairo to Amman – I was ready. The pilot really did do a great job and I was happy to be in Amman. Poised and ready, I sat up with my back straight, watching the other passengers. He welcomed us and after the announcement, I started clapping, really getting into it. Well, really into it until I noticed no one else clapping. Only looks of confusion as I imagined them thinking, “Look at the stupidly polite Canadian.” ANNOYING!
This is where I veer off message. I like to imagine that I am standing in and perhaps even representing a certain percentage of the population that shares in some of these universally annoying things. I know that many people do not enjoy airplane food, but this is one area that I cannot speak for you. You are on your own. I love airplane food. Give me a Chicken Kiev or Salisbury Steak any day. And the sides? Where’ve you had better instant mashed potatoes? I wish you could buy airplane food in the grocery store.
I understand they are basically microwave dinners, but seriously, I’ve never eaten any microwave dinner that tasted as good as the salmon I had while flying over the Atlantic. Maybe it’s the altitude? When the person next to me does not demolish everything on the plate, I do everything to control myself from asking if I can finish it off. You even get a bun! And dessert? Brownie’s or fruit or Carrot Cake? I hate Carrot Cake unless I’m over 10,000 feet in the air. This one is NOT ANNOYING!
Now, doesn’t that feel better?