I love my job – no two days are the same as any retailer will tell you. Some days are tough while other days people will (often unsuspectingly) tickle your funny bone. One such tickle resulted in me thinking a little more deeply about …. well wait a minute – let me set the scene.
An email came in requesting a quote – a rather complicated one as it happened. A couple of young lads had been invited to two weddings in the Mayan Riviera and were trying to combine the two by spending 3 days at one and 5 days at the other. Naturally as this falls outside the usual 7 day package it would require a bit of work to put this together. At the end of the email the young man told me that he and his friend were working with other travel agents and would go with the best quote and the best service. I explained that this would require a more personalised itinerary and if he was working with multiple other agencies I didn’t want to get into a bidding war but I did thank him for his honesty. I copied both young men.
Young man number two then committed the number one corporate mortal sin – he replied to his friend’s email without checking that I was copied on the email. His email was short and to the point….
Was I insulted? I was laughing so much I didn’t have time to be insulted – I literally rolled around the office laughing my head off. What an idiot. I hope he never does this to his boss or about his boss (he works for a big downtown company). I replied “not lazy … just smart”. I should have added “unlike you” but of course those fantastic one-liners only pop into your head after the fact.
Then I started to think about this a bit deeper. Not about Mr Quick Draw McGraw (the fastest mouse clicker on the planet – his cursor hovers over the send button on his email like a blur – it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman!!!!) No I started to really analyse my life and whether I was in fact a lazy bitch. I go to gym regularly but admittedly I don’t like housework or laundry. Who does? When I go on vacation I absolutely hate anything where I am expected to go and shop and cook. One vacation years ago in Maui I discovered that you only have to hear that question once “What are we having for supper tonight?” to totally make you feel that you shouldn’t have left the comfort of your own kitchen so that you can try and botch together a meal with someone else’s used kitchen utensils – yuck!
I am sure I am not alone in this regard. I bet there are a whole bunch of women out there who are lazy bitches like me. In fact there are probably a few guys too seeing as the lingo these days is that a guy can now be a bitch as in “Yo Bitch! How’s it going down?”
This might even lead to a completely new entrepreneurial idea – Lazy Bitch Vacations. Why has no-one thought of this before? I am astounded! This is the sort of vacation everyone in the whole world would want. Go on vacation and do absolutely nothing for yourself. You hear about cabana boys at fancy hotels – well they rub on the suntan oil, spray Evian mist on your face and obviously look after lazy bitches like me.
I think this has a big future – maybe I could take it to the Dragon’s Den. I am sure Arlene would understand where I am coming from.
Who wants to go to Mazatlan? Hell of a deal out there – Just $485 for one week at a 5 star hotel (yes THAT hotel) with flights included – taxes nearly as much at $350. I am prepared to bet that there will be lots taking advantage of these deals. Shame really – it is a gorgeous looking hotel.
And it’s in much better shape than the Costa Concordia – there will be no deals on THAT ship – but her sister ships will want to offer very attractive deals to entice future passengers – and they have. Um – 70% discount? How does that sound? I think that’s enough to entice anyone. So a cruise that would generally cost $2649 is now available for $799.
I can recall very clearly the days following September 11 when air travel practically ground to a halt – and then I got the phone calls “So…I guess there must be some great deals out there – how much to get to Florida?”.
Don’t feel bad, people! It’s just human nature – and it’s a good thing (as Martha would say). We have jobs at stake here – people in Mexico work for a pittance. That’s why you get a great deal to spend a week at a hotel with people cooking for you, cleaning for you and entertaining you. You definitely couldn’t do that in Canada.
Of course there is always the old saying “cheap is expensive” – and sometimes you realise that maybe the deal you got was no deal –
You Know You’ve Booked A Cheap Flight When…
- As you board the plane, you notice the co-pilot is frowning and wearing an “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt.
- The Captain announces over the intercom that the flight is delayed while he looks for his keys
- The airline mechanics, wearing propeller beanies, seem to be pointing and laughing an awful lot, and drinking something from inside brown paper bags.
- The grounds crew are seen using pennies to check tire wear.
- A man with an oily rag hanging from the back pocket of his dirty overalls and sadly shaking his head turns out to the be the airline’s CEO.
- A voice on the P.A. system warns you to keep your heads and arms inside the aircraft at all times while the plane is in motion.
- The air sickness bags have the Lord’s Prayer printed on them.
- Jumper cables are dangling from the door to the cockpit.
- A man in clerical garb walks through the plane, sprinkles all the passengers with water, mumbles something in Latin, and exits.
- A telephone with a really long cord connects the plane to the control tower. (courtesy of The Frugal Travellers)
It’s a weird feeling – doing a life boat drill – especially after hearing about the disaster off the coast of Italy with the Costa Concordia. So often we tend to shrug off these exercises as something that has to be done but is a bit of a nuisance – an interruption of our cruise vacation. Thank goodness most cruise lines take the life boat drill very seriously. Our drill on Windstar’s Windsurf required us to attend our muster station on the deck next to our lifeboat with our life jackets on. A roll call took place and crew members were not satisfied until all their assigned cabins and passengers were accounted for.
You will know by now that I love to cruise and the Costa accident certainly does not put me off cruising. It certainly is terrible that people died in this incident but it is also pretty incredible to think that there were 4200 people on that cruise ship and at this stage it seems that just about all of them got off the ship.
It does bring up a good question however and one that has been nagging at me for a few years now. How big can you go? Today there are bigger ships with more decks, more cabins and more passengers and the necessary crew and staff to serve them. Even ordinary embarking and disembarking is an exercise requiring military type planning.
Today’s mega ships are more like shopping malls on the water and cruise lines try to outdo each other with more gimmicks like ice skating, zip lining, rock climbing – my goodness whatever happened to the good old love of the sea.
That’s what I am experiencing here on the Windstar. No gimmicks – just the world’s largest yacht with 312 guests on board. This five masted yacht has made good use so far of its sails making the whole process of cruising the Caribbean islands an exercise in good environmental responsibility – wind-power instead of fuel-power. Sitting out on the teak decks hearing the crack of the sails above is just lovely. Sure we are still being pampered with fine food and sophisticated surroundings but it seems that we are at one with the sea and the winds and the waves.
Next Christmas I am definitely heading out of town – somewhere hot would be nice. A beach, a margarita and Feliz Navidad would suit me just fine. I know it is a crazy time to travel – that’s what I tell my clients. Everything is overpriced and overcrowded. Airline staff are grumpy, baggage handlers unreliable and there is not a spare seat on the plane. At the beach you can forget about getting a beach chair without at least bribing ten people first and if you are at one of those all inclusive resorts where the speciality dining requires reservations that morning – good luck with the queue.
So why would I put myself through that hell rather than stay at home in this “lesser hell” of crowded shopping centres, crying children and excesses of spending, eating and drinking? You see, Christmas just doesn’t seem the same any more. I know, I know – I am not 6 years old any more and if I had to line up and sit on Santa’s knee at the shopping centre – well let’s not go there.
I honestly don’t think I am going to find anywhere in the world that hasn’t fallen victim to the Christmas Commerce Bug. Even in Hanoi and Siem Reap Christmas trees popped up on every corner and shops were lavishly decorated in Saigon with wintry scenes of sleighs and frosty trees. I guess if I really want to escape it altogether I might find a corner maybe in Papua New Guinea or in Nepal? Any ideas or recommendations would be welcomed.
In the meantime I will busy myself with taking down the Christmas tree. Funny how everyone wants to help with putting the damn thing up – no-one ever wants to pack it away. That’s OK – I am in the right job to spend a whole year dreaming and planning for a Christmas where Santa won’t be….. I know! The North Pole. Not exactly a beach but hey – maybe I get to see some polar bears – now that would be cool!
So how would you feel about being naked on TV? Hedonism Resorts are looking for couples who would like the tie the knot in the nude in front of a few hundred thousand of their closest cable tv friends. http://www.hedonism.com/nudewedding/
So what do the winning couples get? (Apart from goosebumps and maybe a sunburn where you don’t want it.) Well they get a free wedding for one thing and 4 nights complimentary stay at the Hedonism Resort in Jamaica. Having dealt with a number of brides and destination weddings I can see the merit in a nude wedding. Certainly it would cut down on the cost and the time of choosing “the dress” and all the stuff that goes with the dress – special shoes, expensive undies, silk stockings. However getting married in the nude poses some problems too –
- what to do with the boutonniere – can’t really pin it on. Could we hang it on something ?…….
- something old….. mmm … that depends on your age
- something new …. hey you could get new boobs
- something borrowed …. maybe earrings
- something blue ….. eyeshadow
- careful with that bouquet …. and no darling you can’t use it to hide behind – this is supposed to be a nude wedding – that’s why you are getting it free.
What about the bridesmaids – do they have to be nude too? Well now that’s just not fair. Everyone knows that the bride always chooses one or two best friends who are – well – chubby. No fair to ask them to forgo their Spanks and strut their stuff down the aisle. Perhaps everyone has to be in the nude including his family, her family, the justice of the piece (sorry I mean peace – that was a Freudian slip).
I can’t see it myself – in fact that’s the whole problem – I can see it all too clearly in my mind and it’s not pretty!
Ms Jet Lag is a strange creature. She creeps up on you at strange moments like just after you’ve downed a double double expresso Americano. Hey – what the hell was that? I am loaded up with caffeine…. back off already! Oh but she’s a determined dame. Before you know it waves of fatigue are sweeping over your body and you long to lie down…. anywhere, really. Right here on the supermarket floor would be just fine!
When you finally give in to her seductive promise of hours and hours of sleep she cruelly wakes you up at 4 am and wires up your brain with chaotic thoughts of work, kids, bills, laundry and impending disasters. Yes you can try and snuggle down again and pull the duvet over your head. Forget it. You can’t escape her. She will taunt you with all the things that need to be done…. NOW. Even though its 4 am and freezing cold the compulsion to get downstairs and fire up the old lap top is hard to conquer.
Just a couple of days ago I woke at some strange hour at home in my own bed but lay there like someone who has awoken from a 10 year coma – wide eyed and not quite sure where I was. Without moving a muscle I checked out the room. Window, curtains, dark. Oh of course – this was the Transit Hotel in Seoul airport. Hang on… what’s my mom’s hat doing hanging on the back of the door. Come on Lesley – you can do it. Think…..
It was quite a shock to realise that I was at home in my own bed and that in fact I had already flown from Seoul to Vancouver, then Vancouver to Calgary. It was all like a bit of a black hole. I sat up in bed bewildered and confused and I could almost hear the smirk on Ms Jet Lag’s lipstick red lips.
We have cruised overnight across Tonle Sap lake and are now on the Tonle Sap river. Recent floods have widened the river which is dotted with floating hyacinth, stilted houses and the odd small island. We disembarked this morning to visit the floating village of Kampong Chhnang by small motor boat. As we cruised the waterways children jumped up and down and waved but for the most part life went on as usual at the floating school, the floating shop and numerous other floating businesses.
Finally we docked at the pier and went on a walking tour. The poverty is amazing and yet everyone is clean, well fed and seem to be happy. How little they want from life. Unlike many other places I have visited where a photo means a dollar or two – here the children were more than happy to have their picture taken and then to have a chance to look at the digital image in the camera. Big smiles blossomed when they recognised their faces.
We could see the French influence at the market bread store where baskets of golden baked baguettes were laid out for sale – but the amazing thing was that this was bread made out of rice flour. What a boost that would be in Canada for people with wheat allergies.
After touring the village we got back onto our motor boat and travelled back to our luxurious river boat – what a strange contrast it is. We float down the river in such luxury with air conditioning, ice clinking in our drinks and crisp white sheets on our beds. Somehow it seems a bit wrong.
Girls just love shopping – so when my sister arrived to join me in Hanoi it was a given that we would hit the shops. Well this is a little different to heading over to Chinook Mall for a dose of retail therapy followed by a Vente skinny latte. Nevertheless we knew what we wanted – a traditional Vietnamese suit called “ao dai” which is a long slit tunic worn over wide pants.
Cruising along the streets I spotted a colourful tunic hanging on the wall next to a dark narrow alley. Quick as a flash a tiny smiling Vietnamese lady bobbed up. “Bonjour… you like… come come” she beckoned. I followed her down the tiny alley squeezing past parked scooters until we came to – literally – a hole in the wall lined with shelves and packed with colourful silk garments. She eyed me up and down and quickly assessed my size and pulled out a silk tunic from a shelf. Bloody hell! It said extra large on the tag. Oh well – I guess in this land of exquisitely tiny women I must be like a giant.
“Come come you try” she urged – pulling off my shirt. There I stood in my bra, in the alleyway while busy commuters made their way down the alley pausing only momentarily to glance at this crazy half dressed tourist. Next thing came the silk trousers. Again she urged me to try them on by tugging at my shorts. Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound (or a dong…. well I am in Vietnam after all). At this stage she realised that her husband/father/brother or whoever was watching all this anxiously – clearly wanting the sale. She also realised that maybe a little privacy would be in order and with a big smile she pulled across a curtain which covered half of the room and only a quarter of my fat butt.
Look, I thought to myself – I will never see these people again.
The situation deteriorated however when my sister spotted a cotton blouse further down the road. Again we were seduced down a long narrow alleyway but this time there was no hole in the wall – just a table with piles of shirts at a busy intersection of alleyways. No curtains here – just Trish in her bra trying on the blouse while two suit-clad ladies squeezed past her with their scooters in full rev mode. What were we thinking????
There lies my suitcase – on the living room floor – and it’s packed. The remarkable thing about this is that it was packed a good 36 hours before I am due to leave the house and head for the airport. This must constitute a record. It is such an amazing occurrence it has been giving me a headache and caused me to wake up in the middle of the night wondering if I have finally gone off my rocker! People, this is an unheard of phenomenon. I have been known to finish my packing with the taxi waiting at the front door. This has caused huge distraction and lack of concentration – like the time we drove all the way to Calgary airport and left my bag sitting on the floor of the garage. Or the time I completely forgot to pack my underwear. Yes, you try wearing a pair of your husband’s tighty whities under your skirt and see how it feels.
Tighty Whities - or what I would call Y-Fronts
So I am feeling rather smug at the moment – which is not a good thing as I know from experience. I am heading into untrodden territory – at least for me. First stop is Hanoi, followed by Ha Long Bay, Siem Reap and the Mekong. Wow – I feel dizzy at the thought. Have I really packed the right stuff – maybe I should go through it all just one more time…. just to be sure.
Stop it Lesley – it will be fine. The bag is packed – let it be….. but just double check you packed your knickers.
We all moan about airport security, body scans, little baggies for our “fluids” and how much time this adds onto the whole commute but really – that is not the worst thing about flying. There is something about getting on an aircraft that brings out those “Naked Ape” (1) instincts. First of all there is the gate. You get there extra early so you can be first in line when the gatekeeper comes on duty. While waiting for said gatekeeper you eye up any competition for the front of line and by subtle body movements make it clear that you were there first and will kill anyone who steps in front of you. After all the only thing you want to is get out of that dreaded middle seat. An upgrade wouldn’t be bad either if you can smile ingratiatingly to the girl or guy on the desk. Don’t bother however. Those days are long gone. You will likely only ever get an upgrade when you are about to be bumped, unless you happen to be a Premium 5 Diamond Gold Covered Elite super hero.
Then they do the pre-boarding. George Carlin summed it up well –
What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?
– George Carlin
Some airlines will board by row number from the back of the plane but that usually deteriorates into a scrum as everyone wants to get onto the plane first to grab that overhead bin. And how many times have you stood in the aisle while someone takes their coat off, folds it up, puts it in the bin, arranges their overnight bag in the bin, almost sits down and then remembers that they need their newspaper. Come on people – get organised.
Then we have to do the whole procedure in reverse. Despite the flight attendants requesting everyone to keep seat belts fastened while we taxi to the gate there is always some bright spark who chooses to ignore that. And holy cow when the announcement is made that you can use a cell phone you would think the whole plane was full of Very Important People as phones are whipped out of pockets, purses and briefcases.
Just got to text my driver
And the Blackberries are in the lead followed closely by the iPhone. But wait, as they come round the corner a lone Android is closing the gap. Oh wait – a disaster – the Blackberries are down and the iPhones romp home.
By now everyone is standing up even though we are not even connected to the gate. I know, I know, I do it too. No point in denying it. It’s just that competitive instinct. I know I am in row 23 but damn I am going to get off this plane first if it kills me.
No wonder high speed trains are so popular in Europe.
(1) The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris – also a good read The Human Zoo by the same author.