Category — Travel drama

a. I’m alive. b. I hate fingernail biters.

My deepest apologies Rantopolis readers.

Things have been so insane in Rantopolis land that I have not found time to post all month.  (My absence on this blog has even prompted long-time friends to call wondering if something bad had happened.)

You like me.  You really like me.  (With credit, of course, to Sally Field.)

Now, that I have confirmed that I am alive and well, I am going to try to make up for lost time.  (Even though I haven’t been writing, I have still been gathering blog topics.  Here comes the first one.)

What’s with people that confuse their airplane seat with their bathroom?!  May I enter exhibit A your honor?

No, they didn't really have marshmallow faces. I never said I was a PhotoShop expert.

A few weeks ago, I boarded a flight from Chicago to Las Vegas.  (Business trip, not pleasure.  My huge distaste for Vegas would never put a trip there into the pleasure category.)

A few minutes after claiming my seat, the guy across the aisle starts eating his dinner.  And by eating , mean gnawing.  And by dinner, I mean his finger nails and cuticles.

This guy starts attacking ends of his digits like a piranha.  Clearly not caring, or perhaps oblivious,  that other human beings were a few feet away from him.

He would bite, pull, chew and repeat.  I would gag, avert my gaze and pray that he would stop.  Finally, after ripping off every possible piece of flesh and nail that he could clamp onto, he stopped.

I sank bank into my seat and breathed a sigh of relief.  I had about 10 seconds of respite.  Then the guy in front of him started biting his nails.

I knew at that moment I was in the Compulisive Nail Biting Twilight Zone.  Ahead of me was a three-plus hour flight with freekish nailivores in my sightlines.

People with weird habits, I have to ask you.  Are you in a hypnotic trance?  Did someone drug you?  Those are the only reasons I can come up with to explain your inability to recognize that you are in a public place.

Newsflash. Strangers can actually watch you engaging in your gross, obsessive little habit.  (You should be deliriously happy projectile vomiting didn’t come your way.)

So, here are the rules going forward.  If you do weird, freaky things in public places and I see you, I will definitely write about you.  And I will most likely photograph you.  (Although I may choose to give you a marshmallow face.)  Consider yourself lucky I opted not to shoot video.

(BTW, note to the guy who sat next to me in the middle seat on the return trip. Either go on a diet, or buy two seats the next time.  Spilling into my seat is no longer acceptable.)

So, in the future, please show some self restraint.  Or if you absolutely need to dine on nail and cuticle while on a plane, please do so behind the closed doors of the lavatory.

Thanks a bunch.

February 19, 2012   Comments Off on a. I’m alive. b. I hate fingernail biters.

Random end-of-vacation thoughts

I’ve just returned to Chicago having spent half of December in the Florida Keys.  I’m on laundry load #7, so all I am capable of right now is a random list of thoughts as I transition back into the real world.

1.  Reuniting long-lost siblings. I walked into the store with a lovely cream-colored Coach handbag which I had purchased earlier in the year.   I had no idea that the bag had been separated at birth from its siblings.  Clearly, screaming to be reunited with its gunmetal and black leather family members.  What could I do?  How could I possibly not succumb to begging from supple leather?  Not to mention the salesperson waving a 30% coupon off the already deeply discounted prices.  No one can say I don’t have family values.

Family portrait.

2. Vermin.  Fifteen day vacation.  Ten mosquito bites.  You found a way to bite me while I was laying out at the swimming pool.  (Couldn’t have been any other time because I slept in a hyperbaric chamber trying to prevent a sneak attack during the night.) When I rule the world I will find a way to destroy all of you itch-inducing, red bump making fuckers.  Oh, and the one that bit me on the ass?  He will be water boarded.

3.  Reclining bastards.  Do you asshats realize when you recline your airplane seat, you are shoving the back of your seat into my eye sockets and thrusting my tray table into my solar plexis?  Is a three-inch recline that important to your comfort?  Here’s hoping an air bag explodes into your ribs during your drive home.

4.  Thrifty car rental.  Even after I changed to a fourth car during my 15 day rental, you still didn’t get it right.  There was a warning on the dash that said, “oil change required.”  The warning would not go off, which means that it covered the space where the odometer should be.

When I tried to report it at the end of the rental, the attendant did not know the word “odometer.”  He kept pointing to the speedometer and telling me that it was working fine.  The highlight of my weekend will be filling out the customer satisfaction survey.  I will be using phrases like “douche bag customer service” and “Flintstone mobile.”  Or why don’t we skip all of this and go right to the huge discount you will end up giving me on my next rental.

5.  Miami airport.  My hate of this place continues.  Even the people who work there hate it.  How do I know?  They bitch about the place more than I do.

6.  A French street corner.  About 20 years ago, I bought a collapsible bag made from parachute fabric on a French street corner.  I spent the equivalent of $7.  This bag has served as my emergency second bag (translation: I went shopping) since that time.  It’s as light as a feather and collapses to the size of a paperback.  The French excel at croissants and street luggage.  I have proof.

7.  The best beach pillow.  A couple of years ago, I bought a back support pillow from The Back Store.  It didn’t work out so well for back support, but turned into awesome sauce as a beach chair or blanket pillow.  Another cool part is that it totally deflates and inflates automatically.  And the fabric is perfect for wet hair, etc.  It doesn’t absorb!  Don’t ya just love multipurpose stuff?!

Collapsible bag + beach pillow. Awesome sauce!

8.  Russell Brand/Katy Perry.  Russell filed for divorce today due to irreconcilable differences.  You entertainment types are relationship wimps.  My marriage lasted for four whole years and my ex was Satan.

Okay, so now I’ve gotta go take yet another load out of the washer as my tan continues to fade.

December 30, 2011   4 Comments

Minneapolis, I have a bone to pick with you

If you travel frequently, there is one thing you can be certain of.  There will be travel drama.

Now, I could go through the whole rant and rave about yesterday’s “there and back” business trip, but I don’t have the energy to type it all out.  And you definitely don’t have the time to read it.   So we are going to top line this puppy.

To the nail biter next to me on the outbound flight:

You realize people can see you, right?!  Gross!

To Alamo car rental:

When I reserve a midsize car, that’s not secret code for SUV, minivan or a semi tractor trailer.  Car is English for…oh, yeah…car!  So, when I get there, I expect you to hand me the keys to one, not point me to some refugee  from a preschool car pool.

You know the part when I told you I put gas in the car before returning it?  I lied.  That’s for making me wait for something you promised you would have.

To the person responsible for road signage:

Would it kill you to put up a sign showing visitors where the fuck to get off for the car rental drop off?  I really didn’t appreciate the little exit guessing game I had to play.

To the person who designed the MSP airport:

Hey genius.  Two separate terminals that aren’t attached?!  Seriously?!  And you have to take a train from one to the other?!

To Minneapolis TSA:

Did you used to be greeters at Wal-Mart? Or maybe you were just self-medicating?  Definitely the most chipper TSA agents I’ve ever encountered.

To American Airlines:

Thanks for making us wait an hour to board the plane and then telling us that the flight was cancelled.

Also, would it kill you to put charging stations in your gate area?!

Charging stations at each gate should be the law.

To the idiots standing in line to get rebooked:

I hate to break it to you, but instead of waiting in line for two hours you can just call the 800 number.  On the other hand, because you are lemmings, it made it a lot easier for me to get on Delta’s last flight out.  I hope you enjoyed your dinner voucher and tragic hotel they put you up at last night.

To Delta Airlines:

Thank you for accommodating me on your last flight to Chicago yesterday.  However, your gate agent is a stupid asshat.  I told him I rebooked via phone.  He then asked me to present my paper ticket.

Unless you have some insider information about my iPhone also being a printer then you are a total idiot.  Especially because I had to repeat three times that I don’t have a paper ticket because I rebooked via phone.

To the woman wearing the four-inch Louboutin’s:

Your spine has asked me to send you a message from the future: 

“Keep throwing me out of wack with those ridiculous stilettos and I will fuck with you faster than you can say spinal stenosis.”

October 26, 2011   Comments Off on Minneapolis, I have a bone to pick with you

New York Chronicles–Part III Random

Previously having bitched about my hotel and subway/train issues in parts one and two of the New York Chronicles, I conclude with some random observations.

1.  I was in the city a whole eight minutes before I heard someone yell, “suck my dick.”  This may be a new record.  Well done, NYC!

2.  I did not actually see any urination or defecation.  This, too, may also be a record.

3.  I now know where umbrellas go to die.  It’s the meatpacking district on a weekend.  There was a dead one lying in the street every 20 feet.  RIP.


4.  I don’t think New Yorkers sleep.  I’m serious.

5.  A young hotel employee tried to encourage a couple who were about to “do it” on a bench in the lobby to take the party elsewhere.  The guy was so offended at the request, he demanded to see the manager.  Apparently, he thought the Hudson Hotel was really a fake front for the Bunny Ranch.

6.  Ceramic dogs have no place on my breakfast table.

Move out of the way. There's a side of bacon coming.

7.  You are an idiot if you leave anywhere on foot and don’t take an umbrella with you when the sky is overcast. (I am an idiot.)

8.  I discovered Pinkberry.  I am now in love with a dairy product.  Specifically peanut butter frozen yogurt with chocolate crunch sprinkles.

8.  I spent 30 minutes at a Starbucks talking to a high-end bed salesperson.  He was Australian and cute.  So, arrest me.

10.  It is impossible to find a restaurant which doesn’t have their bathroom located in the basement.  Always a joy when you are stuffed after a big meal.  An even bigger joy when you don’t run into a rat.

This concludes the New York Chronicles trilogy.  Thanks once again New York City for the delicious assault on the senses that is you.

October 4, 2011   2 Comments

New York Chronicles–Part II Subway drama

OMG NYC, did a crack fiend come up with the signage (or lack thereof) at your subway stations?!!

Did someone wake up one day and decide to make it impossible for a visitor to get from Point A to Point B in the same decade?  More importantly, did someone with severe psychosis come up with the weekend subway schedule?!

This may look like a subway map, but actually it's a roadmap to insanity.

I have used the subway in multiple countries on multiple continents.  Bar none, the signage in NYC is the worst!

Here are some of the low lights:

1.  I follow the signs at Columbus Circle to the downtown A train line.  They tell me to stand on the right side of the platform to catch the express train.  There is no signage for the local.

How the hell am I supposed to know if I can take the express?  There is no map or timetable that shows me what the routing is.  I have to then ask several strangers ( and hope they know what they are talking about) before I board.

2.  I end up shopping in Soho Saturday morning and enter the Spring St. station, attempting to head back uptown.  After waiting on the platform for 10 minutes, someone from the station yells that the uptown train doesn’t stop there.  I need to use the tunnel to get to the other side to take the downtown train one stop, change back over and then proceed uptown.   (Oh and because I had to exit the station before heading in the opposite direction, I had to pay twice.)

3.  One of the stations actually had a police- type ribbon on the side of the platform at which trains were not stopping that day.  (A friend of mine tried to warn me.  Not all trains stop at all stations on the weekend. )  How are visitors supposed to know that?  Are you supposed to travel with a Metropolitan Transportation Authority appointed psychic?

I’m surprised there aren’t more chalk drawings on the platform floor representing people who have died trying to figure out which train to take.

4.  There was a frustrated and frantic tourist from France who just wanted to get to JFK airport using the subway.  I heard him ask five different people.  No one could help him.  Then I noticed that there was an information booth one level above.  I suggested to him that he drag his bag upstairs to get some assistance.  I think he came very close to kissing me.

Now, let’s move on to my rant of Penn Station.  There are so many different train lines intersecting in that place, and of course, poor signage, that you literally can get lost down there for so long that you can enter in autumn and not find your way out until winter.

I thought it was going to be pretty simple.  Get off of the subway and get on the train to Newark Airport.


First of all, you have to know that you want New Jersey Transit.  Not Amtrak and certainly not the L.I.R.R. aka Long Island Rail Road.

However, “knowing” and “finding” are two different things.  And even when you find the NJ Transit area of the station, you have to find which train line goes to Newark Airport.  You would think it would be posted somewhere, but it isn’t.  (I had to locate a spaghetti map like the one above, identify the two lines that run through the airport and then try to find the name of the last stop so that I could identify which train to board.)

Oh, then there’s the matter of paying for the ticket.  I found an automated kiosk and figured out the right buttons to press.  I inserted a $20 bill.  What do you think came out of the change slot?

Love the woman; hate the coins.

Yeah, a pile of Susan B. Anthony dollar coins and no receipt.  Nothing like pouring a bunch of metal into your jean pocket to set off those TSA alarms.

Then, as I exited the train at Newark Airport, they collected the tickets.  I used cash to pay, they didn’t give me a receipt and I no longer have the ticket stub.  It’s like Mission Impossible.  They’ve erased all evidence that I ever took the train.

Honestly, NYC.  Check out Paris, London and other cities that know how to properly manage their subway systems so that tourists don’t want to fling themselves onto the third rail.

Oh, and would it kill you to put in some escalators?!

October 3, 2011   1 Comment

New York Chronicles: Part I–Hotel drama

Just back after three  whirlwind days in NYC.  I had a great time seeing old friends and going to Sting’s 60th birthday celebration concert at the Beacon Theater.  (Any gig that includes Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Will.i.am, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Chris Botti and more can’t be shabby.)

But as much fun as I had with my pals and music, my hotel experience was less than ideal.  And by less, I mean a -5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

My mistake was not sticking with my tried and true NYC hotel strategy plan.  I always use Priceline, but don’t stray from the 4 star class in the Central Park South area.  Until this trip, that is.

Frustrated with getting approximately 10 low bids rejected and refusing to offer more than $200 per night, I caved.  I went down one category to 3 1/2 plus stars.  After all, the website said, that category typically has Marriotts, Hyatts and Hiltons.

I did my research ahead of time and decided whatever they gave me would be fine as long as it wasn’t the Hudson Hotel in the Columbus Circle area.  The Bates Motel has better TripAdvisor reviews.

Guess what hotel Priceline gave me?  Yes, indeed.  The Hudson.

Originally owned by Ian Shrager of Studio 54 fame, apparently he thought it would be a great idea to create hotel rooms the size of toilet stalls.  Maybe he was suffering from depression after the collapse of disco and decided to take it out on thousands of future lodgers.

Then I found out it was a room with only a double bed.  The news kept getting better.  (I did manage to cajole the staff into giving me a complimentary upgrade to a Superior Queen.  That room is the size of two toilet stalls.)

Now what would you think if you spotted this right outside your door?

May I have some fresh towels and a porthole, please?

Because you are pretty sure that you are on dry land and no where near a sailing vessel.  You also know that a few inches on the other side of this thing is the back of your closet.   A painted-shut porthole to nowhere.

Couldn’t they have just stuck a painting on the wall like every other hotel?  Oh, my bad.  For that, you would actually have to have lighting in the corridors that was stronger than 5 watts.

This was also the first hotel room I’ve ever stayed in that didn’t have any drawers.  Apparently, you are just supposed to throw your clothes away at the end of each day.

Lastly, the shower sidewall was glass…not tile.  On the other side of the glass was the bedroom.  (Or more accurately…the bed…since there wasn’t much room for anything else to fit.)  I think the inspiration may have been the storefront windows in Amsterdam’s red light district.

I also think maybe I was just the wrong demographic for this hotel.  I think the couple that I walked by in the lobby who were seconds away from fornicating at 2 a.m. early this morning was the vibe they were going for.

Straight outta Amsterdam.

I bet they just love the porn shower and the double bed.  (No need for drawers, either.  They are just staying for a few hours or until they sober up, whichever comes first.)

October 2, 2011   Comments Off on New York Chronicles: Part I–Hotel drama

I’m Priceline’s bitch

Priceline, did I piss you off or something?

I mean, William Shatner keeps promising me deeply discounted hotel rooms.  Priceline Negotiator, and all that.

I'm an 80 year old man's bitch.

But, you keep rejecting my offer.  However, we both know that you are giving other people hotel rooms for the identical bid.  What’s up with that?

So here’s where we are at right now.  I’m going to try one more time tomorrow morning.  If you don’t give me a room, I’m going to have to (gasp) pay retail.  This will displease me immensely.

Which, in turn, will force me to rip up my Trekkie card.

Listen up.  This weekend,  New York City, four star hotel, Central Park South, $200 per day tops.  (Okay, I’m willing to pay tax on top of that.)

See what you can do.

September 27, 2011   2 Comments

More proof why I hate public transportation

When people ask me why I have such a dislike for public transportation, may I share last night’s encounter with you as a prime example?

I was a guest at a corporate event at one of the roof-tops across from Wrigley Field.   If you’ve never been to this iconic venue, you may not know that it sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  The home of the Chicago Cubs isn’t one of those huge steel structures with massive parking around it.  No, sir!  This place has character.

Hence, the most viable way to go to a game is …gasp…public transportation.

While I was fortunate to arrive to the park without major incident or annoyance, the same could not be said for the return trip.

May I introduce you to “smelly, talking-to-himself, jotting down baseball stats and shouting obscenities,” dude?

He was so oblivious, that I could have done an entire photoshoot with strobe lights.

Leaving the event during the eighth inning, I made my way to the bus stop two blocks away.  As I approached the corner, I noticed there was a guy wearing headphones, talking to himself and  jotting notes down on a large piece of paper.

Great.  The mayor of Freak City was taking the same bus.

Apparently, I was not successful in telepathically communicating “don’t even think of sitting next to me” because he boarded the bus and made a direct beeline for the seat beside me.

That’s when I officially began my ride on the Stench Express.

I thought, well, if I have to endure this for the next 15 minutes, I need to make the best of this.

And by endure, I meant, “I need to start a Facebook thread and start uploading photos.”

Normally, you aren’t going to turn to the person next to you on the bus and take a photo of his/her weird behavior. Because that, of course, would be like begging to be stabbed.

But this guy was waaay more into listening to the end of the game through his headphones and shouting obscenities than committing a felony. A little thing like the click of an iPhone didn’t even make an impression.

He also was leaning into me with his right leg.  That’s when I began to have thoughts of amputation.  Did my iPhone have an app on it which could perform microsurgery?  Damn you app developers.  A little less Angry Birds, a little more switchblade, please!

But the worst part of this whole encounter was the smell.  As in “I am willing to give you my entire life savings for a gas mask” right now.

Then a miracle occurred.   He stood up and walked off the bus a good mile from my stop.

That was a two-fold benefit.  The obvious one was the smell leaving my perimeter. The second one was that  I was not going to be followed home.  Which seriously minimized my chances of being dismembered and stuffed into a garbage can.

Normally, a Cubs win would have been good enough.  But, you gotta admit, avoiding a dismemberment is right up there.

September 20, 2011   Comments Off on More proof why I hate public transportation

This must be public urination week

Earlier this week, I read a story about a man urinating in the aisle of an airplane in front of a 12 year old girl.  Today, I heard about French actor Gerard Depardieu urinating on a plane while it was preparing to take off.

These aren’t people with incontinence problems.  They are simply your garden variety drunk assholes.

I digress for a moment to scream, “What the hell is wrong with you people?!!”

Fair warning potential plane urinators. If I see one of you stand up and start to unzip, I’m telling you right now, I’m going to rip out my tray table and slap your dick with it.

I am not interested in looking at your penis while I’m trying to figure out if I want to buy the giant cookie or tube of Pringles.

Travel insurance.

Also, a note to the airlines.  I know you are totally against giving passengers anything for free anymore, but you may wish to modify that policy a tad.  Please consider handing out Depends to drunk or crazy looking men while they are still in the jetway.

Spending a little cash on male diapers may end up saving you a whole bunch in cleaning costs and lawsuits.

August 18, 2011   5 Comments

Hey American Airlines. You suck.

Fasten your seat belts and return your trays to their upright position.  I’m about to go all medieval on American Airlines’ ass.

Every Christmas, I take my mom down to my Florida condo for a couple weeks of chilling interspersed with business activities.  Seasoned traveler that I am, I know that you’ve got to book holiday travel early in order to get the best fares and routing.  Having booked Christmas travel for the past two decades, I know that the closer you get to the holidays the more expensive the fares.

It also gets more complicated when you travel with an elderly parent.  For example, you want to avoid connections at all costs.

Susie Punctual that I am, I booked my Christmas tickets at the end of March.  I had been watching the fares for almost two months and was horrified to see a pair of tickets from ORD to MIA creeping to the $1,000.  Yes, you read that right.  With taxes, etc., each ticket was $492, for a total of $984.    (The year prior it was $618.80 for both tickets.)

Now, I’m not a mental midget.  I get that the airlines have been struggling to meet their profit objectives.  I fully understand that fuel costs have skyrocketed.

I am reminded of all of these little details every time I am nickel and dimed for charges ranges from baggage fees to blankets.

But a 38% pricing increase from 2010 to 2011.  How is that even justified?!!!

Even with all of that outrage back in March, I caved in.  I was too scared that if I didn’t grab that rate, the fare would climb even higher.  Or, I would have to subject my mother to connections.  In the winter.  Totally not fun.

Then last night for shits and grins, I took a look at the fare for my dates and routing.

It had dropped to $688 for both tickets.

I thought to myself….hmmm….I’m going to call my pals at AA and see if perhaps I could get a partial refund.

A very polite AA phone attendant explained to me that my tickets were non-refundable (yeah, because unless you are the Sultan of Brunei, you can’t afford to ever book refundable tickets) that it would cost $150 per ticket to rebook so that I could get the lower rate.

That would mean I would have to spend $300 in order to save $296.   She pointed out that if I opted to do that I would owe American Airlines another $3.  (There goes my giant cookie budget.)

So get ready AA, for my fire breathing rant.  (I know you’ll eventually read this because I’ll be tweeting about it repeatedly.)

Thanks so much for the bait and switch.  (While I’m at it, thanks a ton for doing away with the senior discount a few years ago.)  Thanks for pushing your fares up early in the buying cycle to see what the market could bare.  Thanks for trapping me into your little non-refundable little game.  Thanks for letting less loyal customers who hung back get better fares.

And thank you very much for taking three hundred dollars out of my vacation budget, so there are fewer things I can treat my mother to.

You know what I’ll be doing next year?  I’ll be waiting for Southwest to release its seats.  Then I will fly my ass into FTL and avoid that abortion known as MIA altogether.

Let someone else be your pricing matrix guinea pig.

American Airlines.  You suck.

August 2, 2011   2 Comments