When I was working in Corporate America, I never envied the Road Warriors — those intrepid travelers who logged countless hours on the road. Traveling, while it can certainly be enjoyable even on business, is trying. It requires mingling with large groups of people in airports, taxi lines, and train/bus/metro stations at all hours. It requires patience which is typically in short supply on a long or harried trip.
Having become something of a Road Warrior myself in the last three years, I’ve recognized that we live among some narcisstic nincompoops who make life on the road uncomfortable, and even downright unbearable, at times. Here’s a brief, descriptive list of the totally clueless you’re likely to meet — and should try to avoid — on the road.
The Talkers: Planes, train, and buses are small, loud sardine cans. People are packaged inside accordingly. Most sardines sit quietly and patiently wait for the trip to end and the can to open so that they can escape. Not The Talkers. They pass the time by emitting noise. They chat for the length of the trip, pausing only to suck in air so that they can continue emitting noise. If traveling alone, they whip out a cellphone or trap the poor sardine beside them in endless, inane conversation. Of course, it never occurs to The Talkers that the people around them aren’t interested in their noise and really just want them to plug their gills.
The Stallers: Moving vast amounts of people through comparably small places requires a continuous flow forward. It doesn’t have to be fast, but it does need to be continuous; otherwise, collisions occur, pedestrian jams ensue and forward momentum comes to a grinding halt. But some people function like stalled cars. You’ll know The Staller when you have the misfortune to get behind one. She stops at the top of an escalator, oblivious to those behind her performing cartwheels to avoid slamming into her. He’s the guy who stands in the aisle of the plane/train/bus who slowly takes off his jacket, empties his pockets and puts the contents in his bag before loading it in the overhead rack. Just when his fellow passengers can finally get by, he takes the bag down AGAIN. I fantasize about putting him in the overhead bin.
The Blockers: Natural laws are pretty concrete and rather simple to grasp. You drop something, it falls. A solid mass is…well, solid, meaning you can’t pass through it. Try telling this to The Blocker (not to be confused with The Bulldozer). You know that person who stands in the middle of the doorway trying to get on a train when others are trying to get off? The Blocker ignores those illustrative yellow arrows on the floor that show really dense people how to stand to the side of the opening train door to facilitate a quick exit for those trying to get off the train. But no, The Blocker thinks he/she can defy the laws of physics and pass through a solid mass of people trying to exit the train. The result? Everything comes to a stop as people navigate around the Blocker. On my uncharitable days, I make like a middle linebacker and plow through the blocker, creating a nice hole for those in my wake to follow.
The Weavers: Ever get stuck behind a Weaver in a museum or when simply walking down the street? Weavers careen from left to right even while sober. As soon as you attempt to pass them on the left, they veer in front of you. Forget going right. As soon as you take one step in that direction, their internal magnets lock on to you and they careen your way. They’re like Weebles–they wobble, but never fall down. Would I be a sadist if I stuck a red ball on their noses and treated them like a Bozo clown punching bag?
The Screamers: Parental permissiveness creates these pint-sized nightmares. I recounted a recent experience with a Screamer in Meltdown at 30,000 Feet. Next time you encounter a Screamer ignore the little tyke and look at all the adults staring disapprovingly at the kid, secretly wishing they could dump a bucket of water on his/her head. Not me. I want to waterboard the parents. Look, you don’t want to teach your child that screaming is inappropriate, counterproductive behavior? No problem. Just don’t take him/her out of the there-are-no-consequences bubble you call home. That means planes, trains, buses, restaurants, museums, parks — any PUBLIC place — is off limits.
The Bureaucrats: A little power in the hands of an otherwise unempowered person can lead a presumably smart, nice person to do dumb, nasty things. Like the airline security agent who makes you empty the contents of your entire carryon, and finding nothing to indicate that you’re a terrorist, hijacker, or serial killer takes the batteries out of your electric razor and puts them in your coat pocket. Don’t you feel safer knowing that the batteries are not in the razor, not in a trash can, but in the coat pocket of the razor’s owner? Or how about the British border guard who allows the woman in front of you to enter the U.K. with her 7-year-old child sans passport, but detains you, snidely questioning your ability to read because you overlooked line 3c on a customs form. “Yes, m’am, they do teach us to read in America. May I read you the riot act?”
The Technoids: Mobile technology feeds our narcisstic tendencies and no where is this more evident than on the road. From the texter who runs into or over you because he’s too engrossed in his cyber life to pay attention to the young woman so obsessed with preening for a selfie she swats you in the head with a mile-long selfie stick, The Technoids are oblivious to anyone or anything outside their small screen. I admit to horrible fantasies involving selfie sticks. For example, after watching a young woman behaving as if she were on a Vogue fashion shoot in front of a historic monument, I had to smother the urge to spank her with her obnoxious selfie stick. Then there was the young man on a guided tour who kept raising his selfie stick and blocking the view of several people around him. I had to put my hands in my pockets and breathe deeply to prevent myself from taking the stupid stick and shoving it where the sun has never shone — but as an addicted Technoid, he would probably just think it was another photo opportunity.
The Bulldozer: Not to be confused with The Blocker, The Bulldozer is that bulldog-like individual who thinks that no one needs to get anywhere as quickly as he needs to. To ensure that he is first, the Bulldozer pushes his way through a crowd, cuts to the front of long lines and would knock a mother pushing a stroller out of the way if it meant he got a step ahead of her. I think Bulldozers moonlight as bullies. Confronting Bulldozers headon is doable, even advisable, particularly if you outweigh them. If not, a well-placed elbow to the ribs may not stop them, but it is certainly satisfying.
Take it from a Road Warrior, if while travelling you suspect a Talker, Weaver, Staller, Blocker, Screamer, Bureaucrat, Technoid or Bulldozer is about to dampen your day — simply kill them. With kindness, of course.
(In the interest of full transparency, I periodically tend to weave. Best to avoid me on these occasions. I also caution you not to get anywhere near me if you have a selfie stick.)