More travel rants

(Caution: contains coarse language.)

In a previous edition we addressed situations in which travelers — aboard trains and airplanes, in cars and trucks, on foot — exhibit discourtesy or idiocy or both. Most often, it’s both. That list of travel offenses was by no means exhaustive; it was merely the tip of the iceberg.

Mention of an iceberg, by the way, calls to mind the RMS Titanic, among the passengers of which doubtless were many ignorant or ill-mannered souls whose luggage-related sins relegated them — not inappropriately — to the icy deep. The iceberg itself was merely a device, a karmic vehicle. To borrow from the philosophical theory of semiotics, the iceberg was the signifier while just retribution for travel transgressions was the signified. In our opinion this is a sensible approach.

A pedestrian, driver, transit rider, or railroad or airline passenger enters into a contract of sorts when he steps off the curb, passes through the turnstile, or hands over a ticket or boarding pass. That contract entitles the individual to participate in the walk, ride or flight, but it also requires him to behave in a civilized manner. Alas, far too many among us fall short in the execution of the contract.


I am the last one to object to people wearing their hair long. On the contrary, I envy those with a choice and, given the choice, would probably sport tresses prompting people to wonder if it were a member of ZZ Top, or possibly Crystal Gayle, walking in front of them on the sidewalk.

Your long hair, however, does not grant you license to flap it in my face. Once you sit down in a bus, it would be considerate to behave as if a sheet of thick plexiglass—the bulletproof kind such as exists at teller windows in banks in rougher neighborhoods or at the rotating contraptions at 24-hour Jack in the Box drive-through windows in the same neighborhoods—rose from the seat back to the roof. When you sit down in front of me and fluff your hair back into my face or over the pages of the book I’m reading it shows what a poor job your parents did in raising you. If your scalp is so sensitive to warmth and needs greater exposure to fresh air than most humans’ scalps, then it is time to consider a haircut. That, or taking a taxi.

When you are riding a subway and decide to get off — assuming you ride the subway regularly; tourists get a pass, especially considering that announcements coming over the public address system on American subways sound like someone recently arrived from rural Bulgaria reading aloud with a thick Bulgarian accent from a graduate-level chemistry textbook — when you are riding a subway and decide to get off it is the polite thing to do to stand yourself upright at least a few microseconds before the door opens and people start to board. To wait until everyone else is entering the subway car before putting the cap on your lipstick, closing your purse, standing up and heading toward the door is rude and wrong, you ASSHOLE.


When operating a motor vehicle there are times when you might wish to turn left from a street, avenue or boulevard into a driveway, such as at a Taco Bell or a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (formerly Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits). Turning left is a reasonable thing to want to do, especially on Tuesdays, when Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen offers a Two-piece Combo for only $1.99 (extra charge for all-white, at participating locations).

Often on thoroughfares of a certain size there is what is known in the civilized world as a turn lane, a strip of pavement, demarcated by solid yellow lines, running down the middle of the thoroughfare. When you want to make that left turn the object is to move out of moving traffic and into the turn lane, and wait there until there is no oncoming traffic, or at least little enough oncoming traffic so that you can gun your engine and make a dash for it without too much risk of collision.

As a reminder, the purpose of the turn lane is for the turning vehicle to remove itself from traffic, thus minimizing the impediment to traffic that a slowing or stopped car might cause. If you move only partially into the turn lane, leaving the so-called ass end of your car in the place where cars are supposed to actually be moving, then you have defeated the purpose of the whole arrangement. Whether you purchased an automobile the steering wheel or hood of which you are unable to see past, or perhaps because you fared poorly on the Space Relations component of your sixth-grade aptitude tests, you are screwing up. Straighten up or stay out of the road, you ASSHOLE.


While it is wrongheaded people operating heavy and dangerous moving vehicles who pose the greatest threat to the physical safety of the rightheaded members of the citizenry, one encounters countless other circumstances in the course of a day when he must navigate his way through Idiot Shoals.

It rained recently in Los Angeles and people climbed into their attics on those spring-loaded folding ladder things and brought down their dusty umbrellas. When the umbrellas were not deployed, though, their owners tended to carry them down the sidewalks in the same manner that Davy Crockett swung Ole Bess in his last moments at the Alamo. (Davy Crockett did not die at the Alamo swinging Ole Bess. He was captured by the Mexicans and executed the day after the siege ended. But people find comfort in legends and who am I to shred them?)

If umbrella-toting Angelenos had wanted to poke and impale strangers on the damp sidewalk they could not have been more effective at it if they had ridden horses and carried jousting sticks. Rather than keeping the umbrellas in roughly a vertical orientation they usually swung them horizontally back and forth like a teeter-totter, and usually pointing to the rear. Complicating things was the tendency for umbrella-toters to make frequent stops and starts in their amblings. This is where the poking and impaling entered the picture. To be safe when walking behind someone carrying an umbrella in Los Angeles you really need to allow five or six yards of stopping room.

We already covered the dangers of stupid people being permitted to use rolling luggage on escalators, but even without baggage there are many among us who do not keep to the right if they are standing still on escalators. They hug the left as if they were driving on a highway in New Zealand. If you are not moving, stay to the right. Yes, you, you standing still on the left…ASSHOLE.

Ah, rolling luggage—the bane of modern travel. Oh, how I long for the vanished days of steamer trunks and railroad porters…

If you must pull a suitcase behind you like a mule pulling a barge through the Erie Canal, then control it. Manage it. Think about it. At the moment you enter an elevator you presumably already have at least a vague sense that you will soon be exiting that same elevator. Why, then, do you wait, motionless, until the door opens onto your floor many seconds later before executing a six-point turn with the goddamn suitcase? For one thing, the mechanics of rolling luggage make it possible for you to PUSH the thing out of the elevator—Yes! In front of you!—thereby eliminating the shin-banging and shoe-scuffing that invariably accompanies your stupid, reckless maneuvering. At the very least, do your heaving and ho-ing before the door opens. In the words of the Chicago Transit Authority, “Let ’em out!” You ASSHOLE.

And if you absolutely must have your 7.5 cubic feet of personal items with you in the aircraft cabin, then—this seems too obvious to need repeating—think about what you’re pulling behind you. The aisle in the airplane is barely wide enough for yourself, so why does it surprise you to see that the War Wagon you’re pulling behind you won’t make it? You ASSHOLE.

Finally, if you are one of those people who slept through math class in grades 3 through 9—”I’ll never need this stuff,” you muttered between naps—then I am here to tell you at least one reason why you were wrong.

If you are walking through the parking lot of, say, a supermarket or shopping mall, you will sometimes find it necessary to cross a lane of traffic. You might choose to, as the kids say, “get all creative ‘n’ shit” by employing odd angles of travel. “Cross a roadway in a straight line? That’s for losers!”

If you had devoted at least a little of your limited brainpower to absorbing something about right triangles, you would know that the trip from A to B is far greater than the trip from A to C. If it’s cardiovascular exercise you’re after, go for it, but not in a parking lot. When there are cars around, get out of the damn road. Let your motto be, “A to C, Good for Me.”


The preceding list is far from exhaustive and we reserve the right to append it as we see fit. There seems to be no shortage of travel-related idiocy.