Last night marked the end of roughly 20 days of travel, during which, I flew and took trains both domestically and internationally. While I enjoyed this much needed vacation, I also couldn't help but notice the atrocious manner in which Americans travel. I'm not sure if this is a new phenomenon, or if as I age I get crankier - I'm thinking it may be a bit of both. But I'm telling you, the next time I run into one of these ignorant, rude or obnoxious American travelers...I don't think I'll be able to keep my mouth shut. Here's just a sampling of what I witnessed both domestically and abroad with American travelers over these past few weeks:
1. At Sea-Tac airport, the morning we departed, there was a family of four in front of us, traveling internationally. As they approached the first TSA agent in the security line (the one who double-checks your boarding pass against your ID), they just threw at her four plane tickets and four passports, none of them matched up...mistake number one. After the TSA agent tersely (and honestly, I don't blame her) reminded them to always match each ticket to each passport, she also noticed that none of the passports were signed...none of them. Now, for the two minor children, this is not an issue. However, the two, of age, adults, who were hoping to travel internationally, with their children, had not bothered to sign their passports. When the TSA agent told them they must sign the passports and provide other documentation to prove their signatures while she watched, they both acted surprised that the passports even needed to be signed! In fact, the mother asked, "Where are we supposed to do that?" Um, on the line on the first page of your passport that says: sign here or invalid.
Listen, the TSA agent was within rules and regulations to tell these people to pound sand - they are lucky she didn't. I cannot believe that two, supposedly intelligent people, who are parents, didn't double-check every single detail before traveling internationally...with their children. Moreover, it's just another example of idiots holding up the security line because they're either too stupid or selfish to care about the hundreds of people backing up behind them.
2. Buckets and buckets of you still don't realize that for carry-ons, liquids are limited to 3 oz or less and must be in a quart size ziploc bag. No, you may not carry full size toiletries in your carry-on luggage and NO you can't use a gallon size bag! Sure, there are exemptions for things like baby formula, and guess what? TSA has a handy little website to help you hammer these details out BEFORE you get in the security line at the airport. It's been years since these regulations were put in place; stop acting surprised. The last time I checked, the Uni-Bomber was the only one who was actually living in a hole in the ground. You have access to this information; please utilize it.
3. No, you cannot carry your beverage through the security line. There is a Starbucks on the other side so please wait to get your fix and stop making the rest of us wait while you argue with the TSA officer because you have to throw your $20 coffee in the garbage. P.S. You cannot put your beverage in the little bucket and run it through the scanner either.
4. You must, must, must take your laptop out of the bag and put it in a separate bucket! Again, this is not a new rule so please stop acting surprised. Conversely, you do not have to empty every other electronic device you have into the bucket...just in case.
5. The area at the end of the conveyor belt where you pick up your belongings after going through security, is NOT the place to put your shoes back on and put everything back in your bag. There are roughly 300 people behind you; grab your crap and get out of the way. There are benches literally everywhere put in place just for you to get organized again.
6. Get in the right passport line. The signs are in several languages so even if English isn't your first language you should be able to figure it out. Again, there are people behind you...the ones you don't seem to give a damn about.
7. Don't cut in line. Don't pretend you don't see the line and walk around it. Don't be a tool. We all have connections and we're all in a hurry. If there is truly an emergency, ask for help and you will be escorted to the front of the line by an airport employee. But please, stop thinking your travel anxieties are more important than anyone else's.
8. When the gate agent announces the boarding process has started...DON'T RUSH THE GATE. There are boarding groups/zones for a reason. This "last one there's a rotten egg" business has got to stop. You have a boarding pass, a legitimate reason to be on the plane. It won't leave without you. If you have special pre-boarding circumstances the airline has a process for this. Please remove yourself from your "I am special" bubble and comply because again, there are roughly 300 people behind you. Don't cut. Don't pretend you didn't hear the gate agent say it's not your turn. In general, stop being rude.
9. When boarding, do NOT...and this one really chaps my hide...put your luggage in an overhead bin 20 rows in front of your seat. The bin over your seat is for your luggage. I watched a little kid chuck his bag in the first class bins as he marched to the back of the plane. His mom just shrugged her shoulders and said, "oh well." No, not "oh well." That is inconsiderate. Use the bin over your seat and if your luggage doesn't fit then take a look at the damn size. You cannot bring on giant bags and expect them to fit. Which leads me to...
10. The limit is 2 carry-ons!!! One of them is supposed to be small like a purse or a laptop bag. Please don't act like it's OK to bring everything you own on as a carry-on because it's not. Your full size suitcase will be taken away from you and it will be checked.
11. Parents, it's not adorable when your kids run around yelling and screaming. I understand ear pain and crying, it's going to happen. What I don't get is you allowing bad behavior as if there is no controlling it. However, waiting until you get to the airport to bring down the hammer might be too late. Yesterday morning in Prague, I witnessed a father decide that 5 minutes before we boarded was the moment he was going to announce to his overly indulgent wife and bratty daughters that he'd had enough of their behavior and that he was now in charge...in front of the inlaws. Guess how well that went?
12. When traveling internationally, yelling doesn't help those who don't speak English understand you. And no, it's not OK to get angry with the person who doesn't understand you. YOU decided to travel internationally without learning a few words in their language. Don't you dare blame it on them when they don't understand you.
13. Don't behave badly and then blame it on others. In Vienna, an American woman literally pushed me out of the way as I was climbing the stairs to get on the train. I said, "excuse me" and she started yelling at me. I was deathly ill and trying to drag my bag up the stairs. I had also just insisted another woman go in front of me so she wouldn't be separated from her husband. This woman who was now pushing me had just witnessed me being kind to another traveler so she couldn't say I wasn't polite. She just decided it was her turn and she was going to knock me over to get what she wanted. When I called her on her behavior she blamed it on me and said if my bag was smaller (I traveled 20 days with a small carry-on and a backpack) I would be happier. Then she told me to go to the dining car and get tea for my throat. These written words might not convey the snark from her in this situation but it was incredibly rude. Wait your turn people, again this "last one there's a rotten egg" mentality boggles me.
14. Louder isn't better. Everywhere I travel abroad, I always know where the Americans are because they can't seem to turn the damn volume down. Take a look around, there are others around you. We don't want to hear your conversation. At the airport yesterday morning it was solemn and quiet...until the Americans started rolling in. It was a flight to Frankfurt, a giant international hub, where everyone can connect to get home, so there were a ton of Americans. The international travelers were quiet and kept to themselves...the Americans? Wow...just...wow. There's a reason we're labeled as loud and obnoxious. Be quiet. It's OK, the world will not come to an end if you have to endure a little silence. At a minimum, can you at least turn the volume down? Just a little?
It all seems like common courtesy, but it just doesn't seem to click for so many people. Without sounding trite, I always try to use the Golden Rule: Do others want to hear my conversations? Wait my turn in line because I'm no more important than anyone else. Move quickly and courteously through the lines so others aren't held up. Keep to myself and be polite. Follow the rules. Pay attention. Is it too much to ask that we all do that? Travel more politely. Please. I beg of you.