Nearly every time we publish a story about some innocent traveler’s horrific travel experience, we receive reader mail advising all of us, almost always in these exact words, to “STOP WHINING!”
But at what point does an honest complaint cross the line to qualify as whining, exactly? Does three hours on a tarmac have to stretch to 11 hours before it is no longer whining to comment? I suppose it’s all in the eye of the beholder (who’s almost always someone who wasn’t there!).
But let’s grant a few truisms of travel whining:
- Some “horror” stories are actually mere nuisance tales.
- Everyone has one of these stories to tell.
- The stories can go on and on and on (often because the experience gets worse and worse and worse — travel is unquestionably one of those realms of human endeavor where things usually go fairly well, but when things go badly, they go REALLY badly).
Reading long sob stories online is bad for the eyes, spirit and attitude, not to mention your L-5 disk and your carpal tunnel problem.
None of which makes it any more pleasant to endure said nuisance, but at least we can ask that we tell our stories in an entertaining way. So in the spirit of tolerance, good humor, healthy reading habits, and not least of all brevity, here are my Top 11 Travel Nuisance Tales in 100 Words or Less.
1. Pre-Dawn JFK: No Buses
December 27, straight from celebrating the holiday with family, we drive 140 miles to arrive at JFK long-term parking at 4:40 a.m. Temperature: 12 degrees; wind speed: 20 – 30 m.p.h.; wind chill: holy smokes. Airport shuttles: zero. Finally a single bus arrives, and is completely full — of airport employees.
Another bus idles next to a fence nearby; travelers stage a siege on the bus, driver shrugs and says “the brakes don’t work.” Travelers stick noses back under coats and wait — for 40 minutes, when six buses arrive, all at the same time. (95 words)
Extra credit kicker: One guy missed the last bus — we could see him as we left the lot, throwing snowballs to try to get them to stop.
2. Bubbling Crude, Part 1: Lights Across the Water
Sitting on the beach, you realize that the lights you’re admiring across the water are not cruise ships — they’re oil derricks. And your first pair of clean shorts, which you pulled right out of the suitcase upon check-in after a long travel day — are covered in tar from sitting on the beach. As are your flip-flops. And as the floor of your room will be very shortly. As will almost everything you own unless you get out of there (which we did). (84 words)
3. “Your Loogaaj Ees Meesing…”
…and will stay missing until you get home, French accent or no. Your revenge: Your carry-on on your return flight consists entirely of eight bottles of Spanish red, which you foist on the cabin crew for safekeeping. (37 words)
4. Front Desk Faux Pas
Immediately after you check in, you sprint to your room, tear off your grimy travel clothes and get ready for a shower. Meanwhile, the person at the front desk is confused and gives the next person who checks in the same room, with the same key … leading to nothing less than hilarity for the second group, and fury for you. Say no more. (64 words)
5. Time Share Shoutout
You are invited to attend a time share hardsell (which is presented in the invitation as anything but a time share hardsell), and when you politely say no thank you, you didn’t know this was a time share offer, the saleswoman has a temper tantrum and kicks you out! (49 words)
6. Your Lucky Night — or Maybe Not
You request and receive a seat in the exit row, only to board the plane to discover that it is nearly empty. In fact there is exactly one person for each block of seats, so every person on the plane can recline across their entire row. Once airborne, everyone stretches out and gets comfortable, while you discover that the exit row armrests do not move — so you and you alone sit bolt upright for an entire red-eye. (77 words)
7. May I Buy Another Vowel Please
Elderly couple from the U.K. purchases travel to Sydney, Australia to visit family, but makes a small, minor, inconsequential typo during booking that goes completely unnoticed until they get off the plane in Sidney — in British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver Island is nice, but heck, it’s still another ocean away…. (50 words — and this isn’t my story, but I thought it was too good to omit)
8. Borderline Wakefulness
Before crossing the border into Canada after a long day’s drive, you take a 15-minute nap in the border control parking lot. After you wake up, your traveling partner blinks, starts the engine, pulls into the gate and is asked by the border officer: “Where are you from?” Said groggy driver replies, “Actually, I’m originally from California, but now I’m from New York City — well, I live in New York City, but we’re coming from New Jersey…” Long stare from border officer: “Pull over.” Empty your entire car, continue on two hours later. (94 words)
9. Domo Arigato, Mr. Cab Driver
From the back seat of a Japanese taxi at 2 a.m., you hear your driver say “oohhhhhh,” and watch as his dashboard GPS goes from a road map to a flashing red screen — all in Japanese (of which you speak about six words, most of them from a Styx song). The light flashes until the next highway exit 80 kilometers away. You take the exit, and the red flash goes to a full-screen flashing X, your taxi grazes a cow, and you end up on someone’s lawn to avoid an oncoming truck on a one-way street.
After that, you… (Oops, that’s 100 words, sorry — can’t finish the story!)
10. Bubbling Crude, Part 2: Invasion of the Wallet Snatchers
While making your way across North Dakota on a cross-country trip, you learn from your scratchy AM radio that Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait. You wake up early the next morning to a 30 percent increase in gasoline prices. You ask a small-town gasoline station owner whether the gas in the tanks under his station was in the ground in Kuwait yesterday and costs more as a result; station owner sighs and replies that every time the oil companies do this to him, he loses a friend in town. (89 words)
11. Rand McNally All Dried Up
You’re on a camping trip with a couple of rowing shells, which you try to put in the water regularly, so you check the map for state parks and campgrounds that neighbor lakes and rivers. You pull into a campground in New Mexico well after dark, set up camp and lie down for the night, and in the morning ask the park ranger how to find the lake. “You slept in it,” he says with a laugh. “There hasn’t been a lake here for 10 years, but it used to be right under your feet.” (95 words)
Think these are good? Check out the ones from our readers!