It’s Halloween, and since I’m a sucker for sweet nostalgia, I’ve been reminiscing about nightmarish travel situations – so cute!
I’m not talking about the traditionally terrifying, so there’s no need to hide under a blanket and start watching YouTube re-runs of The Ellen Show. I’m not in the mood to recount scary walks home, child pickpockets or haunted houses. You’re going to be just fine.
What I have cooked up for you (in my witch’s cauldron, duh) are some collectively experienced, consistently annoying travel moments that pop up time and time again, regardless of where you are in the world. I’ve experienced enough of these to fill a very large, very dark, very creepy basement.
So take a quiet breath, walk down the splintering stairs, and enjoy my spooky selection…
1. The Recline into Hell
I feel like people are usually fairly nice and understanding on airplanes. There’s collective, silent acknowledgement that it’s not the most comfortable situation to be in, we politely excuse ourselves when climbing over our neighbours’ legs to go to the bathroom, we forgive screaming babies (a nightmare in itself but the babies can’t help it Leave Them Alone), and we know not to judge each other when we start sobbing in Coco, tears staining our neck pillows and splashing our soggy complimentary yoghurts (if you also watched Coco on a long-haul flight on minimal sleep and did not cry, you’re lying. Bye.)
But Satan roams among us on every 747 and A380, cleverly disguised as a very particular type of human – The Premature Recliner.
Before anyone objects, I get it. We all pay the same amount of money, the seats all come with the option to recline, we want to be comfy. I get it I get it. It’s Your Right etc. I GET IT.
But when I’m facing 14 hours of minimal leg room and a limited face-to-screen margin, I’d like to enjoy some breathing space for a couple of hours. Until it’s time to sleep, or at least until after we’ve eaten our meal. Reclining one’s seat all the way back 30 seconds after take-off (or even before we’ve started to taxi!) is simply u n n e c e s s a r y. Especially when the manoeuvre is performed so suddenly that my knees become immediately squished and any belongings I had balancing on my lap fly off into the pits of hell.
When seat neighbours offer sympathetic shakes of the head and even a flight attendant comes and tells the culprit to please be more considerate, it’s clear that Halloween Villain numero uno has been crowned.
2. Petrifying Perspiration
I have a perpetually sweaty neck when I travel. Doesn’t matter where I am in the world – how glamorous or otherwise, how hot or cold. Doesn’t matter how carefully I’ve planned or how comfortable I’ve made myself. Travel tosses unexpected twists and turns at you everywhere you go, which means huffing, puffing and sweating are inevitable everyday acquaintances. By now, I’ve pretty much come to accept the eternally sticky, tangled baby hairs at the nape of my neck, but when I’m in Berlin in -11 degree (Celsius) temperatures and still have sweat sticking to my scarf, because I had to run to reach my uber or haul my suitcase up five flights of stairs despite the Airbnb listing advertising an elevator, it’s SCARY.
3. Selfie Sticks Can… Stick it
Selfie sticks are handy and fabulous, or at least they seem to be. Personally, I’ve never owned one, but I appreciate the ease and angle-advantage, especially for solo travellers. What I don’t appreciate, however, is when they block things. Like monuments. Like monuments you’ve waited years to see. Like fountain shows, light shows, any kind of show. When I’m in a crowd and we’re looking at something ahead and up goes a selfie stick, I want to Shut Up and SCREAM INTO A PILLOW.
4. Put That Tongue Back Where it Came From, Or So Help Me
There are some horror movies that achieve their terror quota through jump-scares – the travel equivalent being a selfie stick shooting into the sky or a sudden 0.5-second seat recline. Then there are the films that are terrifying because they’re gross. Blood, guts, gore. Chopping sounds and blood-curdling screams. Flesh boiling, etc.
For me, the travel equivalent of the latter is couples obnoxiously making out in front of me on trains. When I took a TGV to Amsterdam a couple of months ago, one such couple appeared out of a thick, black cloud and plonked down in front of me. The wet pash-fest started immediately and stopped only for short intervals. It was so loud that even with music blasting through my headphones, I could still hear the slap of lips (ew). I could also see everything, because the slurp-sesh took place right between the gap in the seats.
I’m all for love, but guess what doesn’t require a sloppy, lingering goodbye? Walking to the end of the carriage to use the bathroom for two minutes. I tell ya, that mush was ten times scarier than Murder on the Orient Express.
5. Shut Up and Scootch Off the Sidewalk, Thanks
I’ve put this one last, but I’d like to make it clear that this is not because it horrifies me the least. Quite the contrary, in fact. I just had to work my way up to discussing it without falling apart.
The pièce de résistance of my House of Horrors is that I cannot deal with groups of tourists who stop suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk and STAY THERE. This happens at the top of the stairs to the metro, on narrow streets, at bus stops, on train platforms, in the doorway to the supermarket, in shopping centres, everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Truly horrifying.
I’m this close to grabbing a map someone has wide open in front of them – blocking the doorway to a boulangerie – and ripping it clean in half. Someone preventing me from accessing bread and pastries is like when the masked assassin murders my favourite secondary character in a horror film right before they were about to get away. I’m at the bakery to buy une tradition, not to play out my own Shakespearean tragedy. STEP ASIDE.
I take back what I said in the intro to this piece. Revisiting five of my recurring travel nightmares was genuinely terrifying. Is it time for Ellen’s 12 Days of Giveaways, yet?
I could list so many more grievances – like strict airline baggage restrictions, having the urge to pee at inopportune travel times, numbers in French (!!), but I’m going to opt to pass you the mic instead.
Let us know what features in your personal, travel-themed haunted house!
Happy Halloween, from my scarily crowded metro carriage to yours xxx