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Come to Think of It, a Few Things About Traveling Are Highly Annoying

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some people just don’t like to travel. At weddings and cocktail parties they occasionally tell me so. I tilt my head and squint, as if studying some strange organism in a petri dish. Then, as politely as possible, I ask them why, even though the reasons are fairly predictable: They hate long plane rides. Living out of a suitcase makes them glum. Not being able to communicate in a foreign country frustrates them. Or, like homesick kids at summer camp, they simply can’t stand to be away from home.

None of it makes much sense to me because, next to veal chops and the smell of autumn leaves, travel is what I like most. But when I was in a sour mood recently, a few things I don’t like about travel occurred to me. The venting felt therapeutic. And the list kept getting longer, so I broke my pet peeves into categories:

* Other people’s luggage: In line at airport check-in counters, it irks me to see people standing amid a mountain of bags, boxes and golf clubs. I check luggage, of course, but rarely more than one piece, which is never too heavy for me to carry by myself. It isn’t that excess baggage slows the process at check-in, which it does, but too much luggage is against the natural order of things. People who overpack confuse traveling with relocating.

It’s generally the same sorts who plug up the lines at airport security checkpoints by being disorganized and walking through the metal detectors with handbags on their shoulders or keys in their pockets.

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I can’t stand oblivious backpackers who bang you with their packs and travelers who steer their wheeled luggage over your toes. People seem quite keen on bags with wheels, but licenses should be required to use them.

* Air travel: Admittedly, there’s not a lot that’s pleasant about air travel these days. For this reason, people should do their part to make it endurable, including those who hog the elbow rests and legroom in coach class (mostly men, I’m sorry to say, unfamiliar with the concept of personal space).

Especially irritating are the people who unfasten their seat belts and leave their seats before the proper time at the end of a flight, as if getting their carry-on bags and disembarking were some kind of race. Maybe they have tight connections, but I’m pretty sure most of them are New Yorkers.

I don’t like the way everyone crowds the gate when boarding begins either. They should take a load off because, in most cases, boarding proceeds by row number. Is that concept so hard to understand?

* Hotels: Arrogant hotel staff members who guard the front doors of fancy hotels as if they were monitoring the Mona Lisa really get my goat. I also don’t like hotels with beds that lack fitted bottom sheets. Who can sleep on a bunch of wrinkles? And shouldn’t every hotel room be equipped with a coffee maker? Those that lack them are part of an international conspiracy to make guests spend $10 for coffee from room service, which never arrives soon enough.

I’m perfectly happy to stay in hotel rooms with shared baths. But I really hate having to get up and plod down the hall in the middle of the night to use them.

* Bathrooms: I detest the way the lines at women’s restrooms are always longer than those at men’s. It points to a fundamental difference between the sexes that has helped to subjugate women. In airport bathrooms it bothers me that water tends to collect around the sinks so you can’t put your purse or makeup bag down without getting it wet. And I hate having to use air dryers instead of paper towels after washing my hands, even though I know air dryers are more hygienic.

I can handle dirty bathrooms, but the filthy ones make me concerned about the future of the human race. These can be found anywhere--at gas stations on American interstates and in New York delis. Still, the worst I ever encountered was on the Punjab Mail, a train I took in India on my way from New Delhi to the Himalayas. Travelers need to stay hydrated, but I stopped drinking water so I wouldn’t have to use the unspeakably awful loo. The Indians on board were smarter. When the train stopped, which it did incessantly, they climbed down from the coach and heeded the call of Mother Nature outside by the tracks.

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* Jet lag: Those surreal days and sleepless nights after a long flight are purgatorial. I do all the rights things to assuage jet lag. I never drink alcohol on long plane trips. I practice yoga and meditation. I travel with prescription sleeping pills and try to adjust to the time in my destination as soon as I can. But maybe the Creator wanted us to stay in one place. There’s no getting around jet lag, I’ve found.

* My things: It irritates me that I’ve left sunglasses, watches and travel alarms all around the world. Also, after awhile on the road, I can’t stand my clothes.

* People: I detest people with colds on planes; parents who don’t control their children on planes, trains, buses and, especially, in swimming pools; women who dress inappropriately in conservative places; pedestrians who wait for walk lights at intersections when there are no vehicles in sight (this seems to be common in Canada); shutterbugs who see the great sights only through the lens of a camera; foreigners who complain about Americans; and Americans who behave badly in foreign lands.

I could go on, but I’ll stop. When I get grumpy like this, it means I need to travel.

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