Mile High Fights

We all know that flying can be stressful.  Do we need gadgets to make it even more stressful.  I am talking about the awful “Knee Defender”.  What possible use can this thing have if not to aggravate your fellow passengers.  If you don’t know what the Knee Defender is then here is a picture of the villain.
knee defender







Now honestly.  I know some people can be a pain in the derriere when it comes to reclining their seats.  It seems as if they recline not just to sleep but instantly the plane takes off.  Usually a good flight attendant will ask those recliners to put their seat upright during meal service.  Which makes sense.

So what happens when you get someone using the Knee Defender and absolutely refusing to move it – as reported on Huffington Post today -

United said that a male passenger seated in Economy Plus – an area of the plane which boasts four inches of extra leg room – decided to use the gadget so he could work on his computer.

All was probably well, until the woman tried to decline her seat and couldn’t. Presumably after words with his fellow Economy Plus traveller, he was asked to remove it by airline staff – and declined. The woman in front then threw water at him, at which point the plane was diverted to Chicago and the passengers – both 48 – were removed.

They then were able to enjoy all the legroom they wanted while they arranged alternative travel plans.

The FAA said that neither passenger was arrested, and are unlikely to be fined. And given the maximum fine for unruly passengers is $25,000 in the US, that’s got to count as a win…

What are your thoughts about this controversial device?  

Airport etiquette and strange sights

Honestly, airports bring out the worst in me.  What is it about an airport that turns ordinary sensible intelligent human beings into zombie like creatures who wander around aimlessly and get  in the way.  My pet peeves -

Checking the arrivals / departures board – Don’t stand right in front of the board so that nobody else can see.  Share the space.  After checking the board move away.  Don’t stand there having a long conversation on the phone because other people want to check their flights too.  

airport departures sign

Waiting for your luggage at the carousel – How does it help for everyone to stand anxiously at the very edge of the carousel thus blocking anyone else’s view of their luggage.  This results in panicked passengers pushing and shoving past people as they chase after their case.  If everyone stood behind the yellow line it would be much simpler for all concerned.

luggage carousel








The chair hog - You’ve seen them.  They commandeer the comfiest armchair and then proceed to sprawl across it so they take up two and put their feet all over where someone else will soon have to sit.
two chairs







Shame but I do feel sorry for her in this picture having spent a night on the floor in Dallas airport.


The techno maniac – Yep, he’s got an ipad, a cell phone, an iMac and he needs to charge them all.  Didn’t he think of charging them before he left home?  Never mind that he has taken up all the available charge ports.  But let’s face it – you have to have power and you have to stay in touch so businessmen will find themselves sitting on the ground in their suits.  There’s nothing dignified about travel these days.









Fortunately sometimes it is indeed a laughing matter – airports are like a little unique universe, a collection of the masses and if you keep your eyes open you will come away with a chuckle or two for your journey.  Like these beauties -

babeneck pillow

kiss and goodbye

need pants

Use your words…properly

I just love Weird Al’s latest parody called Bad Words – he rants about bad grammar and I applaud him.  It seems the English language is mangled all over the place – in newscasts, magazines and daily conversation.  Grab a cup of coffee and sit back and enjoy Bad Words by Weird Al.  I particularly love the “could care less” – which means you do care.

That’s one of the fun things about travel.  You see the strangest signs that are absolutely hilarious and of course it’s just because the translation went haywire. Like this one ….
restroom sign






Or this one….
English in Asian Airports



I particularly like that one ….. it’s vague enough to be totally believable.  Just standard airline talk in fact.  If all this makes you feel weak at the knees while at the airport don’t worry – there is a place for you ….





Just one more little rant – please humour me – these are some of my favourites……

The radio commercial urging us to Drive Safe.   No – drive safely.
News anchors who say the police are looking for someone in connection to….
No – in connection with.
People who shove in as many words as they can into a sentence with no apparent meaning as in “Going forward it has come to our attention that this win win solution brings a value-add equation to the relationship.”  –  What???

So having had a little rant about this it is true that English is an evolving language and we don’t talk today like we did in Chaucer’s time so maybe I am being over-picky here.   One of the new words for 2014 in the Webster dictionary is catfish.  What’s the definition?

“A person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.”

Hmmm – well I guess at some stage in the future people may be saying “Hey I got catfished today.”  Maybe that’s OK?




Vacation Detox

It happens to us all.  The vacation you have dreamed about, planned for, saved for has happened and passed by in a flash.  Now all you have are the memories, 300 photos on your iphone that you will never sort, a little bit of sand in your suitcase which, annoyingly, you cannot get rid of and an overflowing inbox.

How many of you out there are like me and end up with a suitcase sitting on the bed in the spare room for at least three weeks after your return home?  It’s quite astonishing to me the amount of willpower that is required to get that case emptied and returned to its proper home in the basement.

It’s also astonishing to discover exactly how much weight you gained on holiday.  What the heck? Honest – I was careful.  There was just that Italian gelato that I had to try and then they were selling home made nougat at the stall in Marseilles.  I mean I had to – there was no choice involved.  It was an experience that I will probably never have again.

And let’s not even go there when we start talking about the crap that you bought while on holiday. Those cute shirts you bargained for at the market and thought you had negotiated a real deal.  Hah!  The guy probably laughed his head off when you walked away knowing that the minute the shirt even came within 5 metres of your washing machine it would automatically shrink.

There’s only one remedy for this problem.  The very minute you get home just throw that suitcase on one side, get out the atlas and decide where to go next.  I have found this to be remarkably calming when I come home from a holiday.  It just seems to make all those “back home” mundane tasks a little easier to bear knowing that I am embarking upon another vacation planning exercise because you see, the planning is a big part of the fun.  

Did you make a note of that?  Now get back to unpacking that suitcase.

All creatures great and small….

When you contemplate a trip to Africa – especially East Africa – you think about the Big Five – the Lion, the Leopard, the Elephant, the Rhino and the Buffalo and of course I was thrilled to spot these on my recent trip to Tanzania – all except the elusive leopard.

Our guide however opened up a whole new world of “game spotting” to us in the most unexpected way.  We spent a fascinating twenty minutes watching a dung beetle rolling and pushing its dung ball round and round.  Periodically he would climb on top of the ball just to check out the terrain.  Who is the dung beetle’s enemy?  Well birds for one as well as bats, reptiles and other insect eaters who would just love a juicy dung beetle – a bit like us during lobster season on the East Coast.

Such patience … watch …

And what about the safari ants?  We have all had ants in the house and what a nuisance they can be.  We stopped and watched columns of ants – thousands and thousands of them – marching across the road.  You have heard the story about elephants being afraid of mice – well it is actually these safari ants they are really afraid of.  They can climb up an elephant’s trunk and hang on with their pincers and there is nothing the poor elephant can do to shake it out.  Our guide had seen elephants bashing their trunks up against tree trunks in an attempt to get rid of this pesky intruder.  They are so scared of ants that they can smell them and avoid them like the plague and as always in Africa there is a way to make nature work for everyone.  Local villagers who farm water melons have a terrible time with the ellies who just love the sweet taste of watermelon and when you bear in mind that elephants consume between 400 and 600 pounds of vegetation a day.  That’s a lot of watermelons.  The villagers know the elephants hate the ants so a few bags of sugar sprinkled around the field attract the ants and voila!  You have an instance elephant proof security fence!

The best small thing about Tanzania – the children!  Our visit to a local kindergarten was heart warming and entertaining.






Waste not, want not

I just watched Gravity – what an amazing film.  It really has some tense moments and I found myself clenching my teeth throughout most of the 90 minutes.  One thing though that stuck in my mind long after the happy ending was the debris in space that caused all the problems to begin with.  Don’t we just do that all over the world – leave our rubbish to spoil the environment.  Now we are doing it in space.  Wow.  Pretty bad behaviour.

Everest is another example.  When you plan your ascent you are asked to take a plastic bag to the top with you so you can bring some garbage down off the mountain with you.  Shame on those climbers who scattered their litter all over Everest.  You would think someone who would love mountains so much that they would be prepared to pay the large amount of money it costs to fly there, get to base camp, buy all the equipment would at least have the common sense to want to leave the area in a pristine condition.

It reminds me of the first cruise I ever took – on the Odysseus part of one of the cruise lines now defunct and not operating.  She was just a 12.000 ton old cruise ship but we followed a magnificent 21 day itinerary from Durban all the way up to the Seychelles.  We stopped at remote islands like Aldabra where the giant tortoises roam and browsed through markets in the Comores where the women all wore white paint on their faces and swarmed around my little blond haired boy in amazement.  Yes it was a remote and beautiful part of the world but one of the passengers who liked to fish off the back of the boat came and alerted us that every evening there would be a mass dumping of orange garbage bags off the back of the ship.  We were appalled and some people argued with the crew who just shrugged their shoulders.  They had no other method to deal with the disposal of garbage and I guess this was the way it was done in those days.  Shame on them!

Even in Communist Poland everything was recycled – of necessity perhaps – but it was done.  When you wanted toilet paper you would take your paper products to the recycling depot.  It would be weighed and then you would receive the equivalent amount of toilet paper in return.  That puts a whole new meaning to the phrase “I need to go”.  Yes first you had to go and recycle.

Nowadays there is far more scrutiny on how players in the tourism business work with the environment, which is a good thing. So next time you head up Everest bring back the best souvenir of all – your rubbish!

Things you ask your travel agent

My lips are sealed

My lips are sealed

Being a travel agent is sometimes like being a priest.  People have to tell you things that you cannot ever tell anyone else and sometimes people have requests that might seem bizarre.  But again the rule applies – My lips are sealed.

That’s why I was surprised but intrigued to read an article posted in an Australian publication where travel agents listed the sort of things that customers had asked them.  Maybe the Australians are very different to us?  I don’t really think so but some of these questions / requests had me scratching my head or giggling with delight.

Here are my favourites -

“I received a request from a client to drive his Mercedes SL500 for eight weeks while he was on holidays and take it for its regular service. As a good agent, I kindly accepted!” …. Hey I will do that for anyone.  Honestly!  I won’t even charge a fee.

coin-slot-tattoo“A client wanted to stay at a casino in Las Vegas that has slot machines in the male toilets. I couldn’t satisfy this request as casino rules state there must be cameras on all gaming machines and of course, no cameras are allowed in bathrooms.” … I would say he has a problem.

“I had a male client ask how many pairs of underwear should he get his wife to pack for him!” …. She should have told him he should be doing his own packing.

crying baby“I answer the phone to a new inquiry … ‘I would like to send my child unaccompanied to Montevideo’. I explained that on the particular route there are some planes changes and that it could be tricky, asked the ‘mum’ how old was the minor. She answered, five months! When I informed her that it was not possible, her response was, don’t the airhostesses take care of them?” …. I would love to hear what flight attendants have to say about that!  As if they don’t have enough to do already.

Well I guess this means that one day in the far distant future when I write my memoirs I can “tell all” ….. or maybe not.

(extracts from Twisted Travel at