Posted by: pattiandben | August 3, 2008

People We Can Do Without

Back in New York. U.S. soil! Shocked and thankful that we evaded any snafus with luggage being lost, losing each other, crime (and the like) in all of our connections, points of transit, and major stops. Very fortunate to look back and say that, from our perspective, traveling around the world was really pretty easy.

Though, my feet would probably beg to differ. Actually was forced into an emergency pedicure when we got to Brooklyn last week, as my sandal-ridden peds could not handle the weight of my pack for the 11 block romp (and fifth floor climb) to Kenna’s apartment from the subway. Needless to say, my hobbit-like feet looked like a dried lake bed by the time the “foot technician” decided to take them on. She burned through three sets of plastic gloves and an entire pumice stone on my feet alone. She got a nice tip.

This woman was one of the nicest people we’ve encountered, in addition to the countless number of others who guided us, introduced themselves to us, kept us company, shared meals with us, and generally were just nice human beings. Could write an entry about each of them, but we thought it would be more fun to pick on those who we simply never need to see or hear from again…these are the people we can do without.*

1) People who do not return a simple greeting: You know the type. You make eye contact with this person while walking down a street or hallway on any given day, or maybe it is a store owner who you expect to offer the first greeting and they in turn choose to be silent. You say, “Good morning,” or “Hello,” or something that shows normal interaction between two people. They, in turn, say nothing. Is it that hard to say “hello”, even if someone is making the effort to say it in your native tongue? Will it hurt that much? In our journey, I found that Thailand is actually the greatest place to greet someone else. Not only do you greet them with voice, but also with the “wai” gesture, which is essentially placing your hands together, like in prayer, and bowing down to whomever it is you are speaking to. Different people receive different gestures, be it for elders, monks, friends, etc. I think anyone who does not return greetings should take a lesson from the Thai culture, or simply stay home.

2) People who ride in first-class and complain: Not that we rode in first-class, but we were seated near the front of the plane on a number of occasions. On one of these flights, we happened to be off boarding when we overheard a very upset first-class passenger comment to the flight attendant that they received their Sri Lankan customs arrival cards “too late” into the flight. This actually came out of his mouth, “Now we have to fill these cards out standing up?! This is not right.” The wife then commented with a similar tone that the now visibly uncomfortable flight crew had, “…really messed up.” No, maam, you are really messed up. Please sit down, return your arrival card and go back to your place of origin. You don’t deserve to visit places anymore. And you have to sit in coach next to a screaming baby and a man who does not deodorize. And, no meal service or talking. Enjoy your flight!

3) People who choose their cell phone ring tones in public: Just stop it. We don’t need to hear your internal debate or struggle with boredom in public places.

4) 22 year college-grad boys who think it is cool to smash bottles by pools, at three in the morning, and then defend their actions with abusive language the next morning. Unfortunately, these were fellow countrymen staying in a small town in Central Vietnam. Though we understand their excitement to visit foreign lands and enjoy a few cocktails, we (and all who have the misfortune of coming into contact with you) would rather you stay in your college towns and destroy your own houses and public spaces. And please don’t yell at the hotel manager when he asks you to stop breaking beer bottles by his pool. You all look like idiots. No, you are idiots.

5) Adults who cut in line: Probably one of the first things we develop as rational children: when you get in line, you are informally assigned that spot and you will wait patiently until you reach the front; be it for food, passport control, ticketing, urinals, vaccines, etc. Why is it that some grown adults think it is okay to cut in line and then have the audacity to look at you and the others they just shafted and nervously smile as if they cannot control their ability to be shamelessly rude. Is this a sickness? Will getting to your cramped plane seat one minute faster improve your day? Sure, no one likes to get to a line after it is 100 people deep, but deal with it. We were standing in our last boarding line in Iceland, headed to New York, and a gentleman showed up late in the game. I watched him ponder a cut-in, then make eye contact with pretty much everyone in line. He pouted, shook his head and headed for the tail end. He could have cut, taking advantage of someone who is not paying attention, but he didn’t. I got a lot of enjoyment out of watching him pout and be a man (or boy) about it. Had he cut, there would have been a brawl.

6) People who recline their airplane seats way too quickly: C’mon folks. I want to invent a new system that allows for these seats to be more controlled upon recline. Currently, I would guess the majority of riders just press the button and put their full body weight into the recline motion. If you’re behind this type and your tray table is out, there is high likelihood you’ll be trapped in your seat, as there is no time to escape the rogue recline. And if you have a drink on your tray, then I hope you brought extra napkins, or can at least reach for the flight attendant button to get more, once you’re pressed into your seat. The worst part is, the action has already happened and nine times out of ten, the guilty party has head phones on, so accusations and civil in-flight justice are already at a disadvantage. I think each seat back should have a retract button that allows for the rapid-recline victims to retaliate, pushing the instigators back to the “full and upright” position, well before they are forced to by FAA landing rules.

7) Captain Jack: Long story short, this is the guy who proceeds to single you out in a crowd and tell you his entire life story in 20 minutes, simply because you are the only other American in the group. Last time I will ever wear my “NYC” shirt in a foreign country. Yes, I understood he had spent his entire lifesaving’s and trust fund at age 45, and that he lost his “dream girl” who he had only been with for 4 months, and that he had a drug problem, and that he loved sailing, and that his family was worried about him, and that he overdid it at a Full Moon Party in Thailand the week prior, and that he used to live in Mexico, and that he had been in a Warren Miller movie in 1980, and that he used to live in Lake Tahoe and loves it there, and that…and that…and that. You get the picture. I actually had to lie and claim “severe indigestion” to get away from him after the onslaught. Best part is, this came on the first of two nights of a SLOW BOAT journey that crawled down the Mekong River. Envision me ducking my head into my lap every time I saw him approach our seats.

8) The mother who thinks it’s okay to try and catch baby sharks with a fishing net, in front of her children: In the Maldives, a sovereign island republic with some of the world’s most pristine marine life, the government only allows for one “resort” per island. When you are on an island, you remain there for the entire duration of the stay, pretty much. That said, it becomes kind of a castaway feel with people from all different cultures blended together on one, really small sand bar. One such “person” felt it was okay to try and trap baby reef sharks, who live naturally along the rim of the island. Upstanding castaways who caught her in the act tried FIVE times to stop her, and she ignored them each time over the course of an hour. It took a senior level manager from the dive shop to finally set her straight, though, I am not sure an idiot of this caliber can ever be set straight. It may be too late in their idiot life cycle. This is a condensed run down of the encounter:

Management Hero: “Excuse me…do I go into your yard and try to trap your dogs?”

Idiot Tourist: “Are you someone who has the authority to speak to me this way?”

Management Hero: “Actually, yes. What is your name and room number? You cannot and will not do this on this island. I’ll see to it that you are punished.”

Idiot Tourist: “Oh, well, lets try to settle this here. I don’t want any problems.”

Management Hero: “Too late. And hell of an example to set in front of your children.” (Shocked little offspring of the Idiot Tourist look on)

Major kudos to the manager and to the other guests who tried their best to get this person to stop being an idiot.

9) People on river boats who drink too much and fall off the side of the boat…forcing the boat to stop, turn around and pick them up…two days in a row. Lastly, and I’ll keep it brief, the title says it all. It’s bad enough that others, including mild mannered locals, have to listen to these two tourists get drunk all day, but to have to save their lives, on Tuesday AND Wednesday, putting everyone at risk on a very swollen and swift river current, is simply absurd. Rodney Dangerfield said it best, “…now I know why tigers eat their young.”

Were it not for the all the great people we met, the “people we can do without” would never have stood at such extreme contrast. Thank you, people we can do without, for giving us the inspiration to record your humility and stupidity.

*”People We Can Do Without” theme is adapted from George Carlin’s original comedy sketch, which has continued to amuse audiences for decades. The examples here were based on our original experiences on our trip and also by those substantiated by tourist friends we encountered along the way.

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Responses

  1. Interesting…you should do a ‘ppl we could do w’ post. I think that’d be equally interesting.


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