Travel rants

(Caution: contains coarse language)

The ease with which we move about is nothing short of miraculous. Around town or around the world, we have at our disposal automobiles, buses, subways, jet airplanes, ocean liners and ferry boats, high-speed trains – all manner of conveyances to carry us to the grocery store or Timbuktu.

Many times, travel requires us to interact with people in whose close vicinity we might not otherwise find ourselves, or care to. That’s the tradeoff of, say, riding in a crowded subway car in exchange for avoiding the expense and stress of driving across a city. There are also taxicabs but that isn’t what I’m talking about here. Remind me, though, to tell you sometime about Mr. Boris, the Chicago cab driver. It’s quite a funny story.

The availability of transportation, regrettably, does not automatically imbue those doing the traveling with the skills required. There are right ways and wrong ways to travel. Let’s examine the areas where ill-informed and ill-mannered travelers commonly screw up.


It used to be that subway and elevated trains in Chicago had conductors who opened and closed doors manually using a skeleton key thingy. They would announce the stations (“North and Clybourn is next! North and Clybourn!”) with a clarity that puts modern recorded announcements to shame. On the CTA in the 1980s you didn’t have to wonder what the next stop would be.

It was common as the doors opened to hear a gutsy, “Let ‘em out!” Somehow it didn’t come across as rude, especially if you were among the souls inside the train who wanted to go outside the train and there were large crowds waiting on the platform.

I don’t know how things are in Chicago these days but I can report with authority that order was well maintained by that stern voice coming from the speakers. I wish often that those CTA conductors were around today in the LA Metro system, where too many riders do not understand the concept of “Let ‘em out!” There is a right way and there is absolutely a wrong way, and in the wrong way lies disaster.

City buses are also fraught with difficulty if you’re ignorant. I am not ignorant but many, many bus riders are very ignorant.

Signs appear in nine languages urging the rider to “Exit through rear door.” The signs are accompanied by large red arrows and by diagrams of people walking toward the back of the bus and disembarking thence. Recorded announcements occur before each stop: “Please exit through the rear door.” For all I know the same message occurs in Braille in places that the seeing-impaired might know to search for such things.

Now, how can it be that 73% of Los Angeles bus riders exit through the front door? Why do they do this? (It would be fair of you to question the accuracy of my statistics but it would also be foolish of you.)

A full 73% of all riders on Los Angeles city buses disembark through the front door and it is madness.


No, young lady next to me, you may not put your bare feet on the back of the airplane seat in front of you. It might interest you to know that I can induce vomiting by force of will (no fingers!) and the result will come about with sufficient velocity that while I will aim for the little bag there could be some splash in your direction. Keep that in mind as you admire the pink and purple squiggles on each little piggy.

Hey, Mister! If the overhead bin didn’t close the first three times you tried to slam it around your steamer trunk, I doubt the next eight slams will work any more effectively.

And speaking of luggage, does yours have wheels on it and do you pull it around behind you? If so, listen up!

When you are on an escalator with your roll-a-trunk on the step behind you, and you reach the top or bottom of the escalator, KEEP MOVING.

Do not stop while you release the stow-a-handle. EVER. You had not noticed because you were absorbed in the satisfaction of being able to pull your belongings behind you on wheels, thus eliminating the need for porters whom you would have to tip, but there are OTHER FUCKING PEOPLE IN THE WORLD THAN YOU, and some of them are on the same escalator. When you stop at the end of your escalator ride, you cause the people behind you to trip, tumble and suffer severe disfigurements.

I once worked with a man who lost three fingers in just such an accident. A woman pulling an American Tourister Rock’n Roll-On stopped as she stepped off of an escalator in Chicago O’Hare airport (ORD), causing six people to fall over her. My co-worker lost those fingers and they only found one of them. His guess was that the other two went through the escalator-grater-thing and got chopped up like a bank statement in a paper shredder. The one they found was the pinky but since a thumb, which he also lost, is more useful they attached the pinky where the thumb had been, causing his hand to resemble the deformed foot of one of those pigeons you sometimes see.


Interstate highways afford us the freedom and relative luxury of movement across America’s vastness, but even the highways are awash in ignorant people.

Hey, Mr. Truck Driver! Thanks for moving out of the cordon of big rigs in the right lane just as a gaggle of faster-moving Regular Cars approaches in the left lane. What’s that? We’re on a steep uphill grade and your Kenworth can’t quite chug above 45 miles per hour? Thanks loads! What? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Let’s try visuals.

A pack of large trucks is cruising along in the right lane. We’ll call those trucks Truck 1, Truck 2 and Truck 3. So far, so good.

Here I toddle up in Car C. As I’m supposed to do, according to the Rules of the Road and everything I learned in the Ayala & Conti Driving School (San Antonio, TX, 1977, with honors), I move to the left lane, but only after checking my mirrors, looking over my left shoulder because that’s a Blind Spot, and using my turn signal to indicate my impending lane change.

At this point I’m traveling maybe ten miles per hour faster than you and your trucker brethren (or sistern).

I continue to toddle along, humming with the Dixie Chicks, when WHAT!

You, the driver of Truck 2, move quickly and aggressively into the left lane. You do this in a manner that leaves approximately four feet (1.22 meters) between your Yosemite Sam mud flaps and my front license plate.

I just learned your name, by the way, so there’s no further need to use the “Truck 2” silliness. How do you do, ASSHOLE?

So, ASSHOLE, now that you’re in front of me, having gotten there presumably because you wanted to move faster than Truck 1, you’re actually going to GO FASTER than Truck 1, right? RIGHT?

When I say “go faster” I mean go faster to a degree that will allow you to pass Truck 1 before the mid-term elections.

Just for fun I started my stopwatch when you moved into the left lane (1.22 meters in front of me), and between then and your return to the right lane one hour and 13 minutes elapsed. This is accurate. Trust me.

When Truck 1 is exactly 2.3 miles behind you, ASSHOLE, you assess that it is now safe to move the hell back into the right lane.

Thank you for this exercise in idiotry.

So, ASSHOLE, when your truck bears a sign suggesting that “Courteous Drivers (are) Always Wanted,” is that because your employer’s courteous drivers went away and all they have left are ASSHOLE drivers like you? Is that what it means?

Other than the presence of truck drivers like ASSHOLE the Interstate Highway System affords us abundant opportunity for convenience and speed.


Hey buddy! What’s with the bang-bang-bang on the crosswalk button? What’s that you say? The light changes faster that way? Yeah. About that…

Further, it is a scientific fact that people in crosswalks start walking slower at the instant they see me behind the wheel of a car, and this is also very wrong.


Travel and transportation can make our lives better but we have to do it right.