Update: an earlier version of this post was called “7 Supreme Court rulings we’d love to see.” It was a lighthearted attempt to acknowledge today’s historic US Supreme Court ruling while staying on the topic of travel. Well, it turns out that a lot of folks felt that the treatment inappropriately trivialized today’s decision. I can see how this would be the case and apologize for coming across as making light of a serious, historic matter. – Vivek
You know who they are. They manage to turn every trip into a monotonous litany of complaints, obstacles, and issues. Even thinking about them makes you flush with embarrassment.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were rules against this sort of thing? If there were, here are some standouts we’d champion:
Crime #1: People who have no idea what to do when a plane lands.
The wheels have barely touched down, and already these folks are making nuisances of themselves. Whether it’s standing up before the seat-belt sign goes off (and probably spilling the remnants of their fourth gin and tonic onto the nice pants you wore in the vain hope of getting upgraded) or ruthlessly plowing ahead when the door opens (and stranding that poor old couple in row 17 who just can’t bully their way into the aisle), they turn a stressful situation into an intolerable one. They must be punished.
The sentence: a 45-minute timeout at the immigration counter. Childish behavior deserves childish retribution. Nothing will cure a case of I’m-in-a-hurry-so-I’ll-ignore-everyone-else like enforced stationary silence watching passports get stamped. Don’t step away—that earns you another 15 minutes. We can go all day, pal.
Crime #2: Yelling loudly in one’s native language to make oneself understood.
Because the problem is that people in other countries are all hard of hearing, right? This is one of travel’s rudest, most predictably lame behaviors. The sentence must fit the crime.
The sentence: your high-school Spanish teacher explaining when to use the subjunctive mood to you. For four hours. Good luck with that. (Note: if you are a fluent Spanish speaker, substitute “Basque” for “Spanish” and “anything at all” for “subjunctive.” If you speak both Spanish and Basque, you are off scot-free. Respect.)
Crime #3: Exclusively patronizing chain restaurants and shops.
Sure, everyone needs a bit of predictability in their life…but if all you do is ignore local offerings in favor of something you could get anywhere in the world, well, the world should see just how boring you are.
The sentence: being forced to wear monochrome suits exclusively. Like things to be the same? OK, let’s up the ante. From now on, your wardrobe gets to be just as exciting as your taste in cuisine or fashion. Uniformity rules!
Crime #4: Refusing to tip in a tipping culture.
If you’re in a place where the service industry is vastly underpaid, and you punish the people helping you out because of your views on the society, then you deserve a taste of your own medicine.
The sentence: getting a sticker on your car that says, “Never let me into your lane.” Hey, letting someone into your lane is OPTIONAL, right? So if someone never did something that is OPTIONAL, that’s OK. Questions?
Crime #5: Not taking your shoes off in a shoes-off culture.
There are some places where wearing your street shoes indoors is viewed as just plain disgusting. How disgusting? Well put it this way. It’s somewhat equivalent to…
The sentence: having to use unwashed forks and knives to eat. Dirty feet, dirty utensils. You’ll live. And next time, you’ll go barefoot.
Crime #6: Treating every beach as a nude beach.
There’s nothing more confronting than showing up at a local beach and encountering red-faced, embarrassed locals fleeing the scene because a few too many people have decided to get their unmentionables out. (And yes, wearing tiny Speedos counts in a lot of places.) But embarrassment goes two ways.
The sentence: posting an Instagram feed of you at the beach to your parents’ TV. With luck, they might even share it on “the Facebook” or record it on their VCR. Should that happen, God help you.
Crime #7: Not acknowledging basic acts of hospitality.
On every trip, you’ll encounter small kindnesses that provide moments of joy you’ll always remember. A local merchant may gift you a bottle of wine. Someone may notice that you look lost and offer up directions. A family may invite you into your home.
While it’s not always easy to know how to react appropriately, there’s a simple way to react INappropriately: by not receiving the hospitality with a smile and a “thank you” (preferably delivered in the local language). Brushing off generosity is one of the nastiest things a traveler can do.
The sentence: a total ban from showering or deodorant. Can’t handle people being nice to you? No problem: now no one will ever approach you again. At least, not without a huge dose of pity.