Category Archives: Travel

Dear US Airways

Dear US Airways,

I just thought I’d drop you a short note to compliment you on the quite extraordinary level of service you demonstrated on my flight from St.Louis to Pittsburgh yesterday. As you will of course be aware, the flight was supposed to leave at 3:34pm and arrive at 6:15pm, a mere one hour and forty minutes later (when time difference is considered). This short travel time is what encouraged me to choose this direct flight, even though you fly an Embraer regional jet, which as everyone knows, ranks just above sitting on a broken bottle in terms of sheer discomfort.

Imagine my surprise, then, when we discovered that the flight would be delayed for more than 30 minutes. Not that you informed us of this in advance, mind you; I could hear the boarding agent talking on the phone about a 30 minute delay, but you still decided to board us all on time, presumably so we could all exchange our relatively comfortable airline lounge seats, with adjacent coffee bar and lavatories, for a tiny child-sized, cramped seat, with a one inch wide armrest, no legroom and recycled air. Thank you for ensuring that we all received maximum benefit from this experience.

Of course, once we were all duly made captive, your pilot informed us that there would be a delay. What would be the cause? Weather? Maintenance issues? Industrial action, fire, flood or act of God? No, you were waiting for a crew member. Not, I must hasten to add, a crew member to work the Pittsburgh flight, but one who needed a ride to Pittsburgh and whose own plane was running late. So, to recap, you decided to CREATE a delay where none existed, inconveniencing all the PAYING passengers so as to make your own lives easier. How refreshing, in these days of unpredictable weather and schedule issues, to be delayed by an entirely new excuse. Congratulations.

So, as we waited for the oh-so-important traveling pilot to arrive, we watched the sky darken and a storm approach. The pilot arrived, and proceeded to waste time cheerfully explaining to one passenger how he had to fly four times tomorrow. One wondered whether he had any sense of shame. Do you remove that during training, or was that his own work?

By the time we pushed back from the gate (with hardly an apology, and no reference to the arrogant assumption that we all agreed to put our own plans on hold to make US Airways’ life easier) the rain had begun to fall. As we approached the runway my legs had already lost most of their feeling and my arse had assumed the small, square cross section of the seat, but never fear; a further delay was on hand, as the proverbial “golf ball sized hail” started to descend. We waited out the storm and then, of course, had to head back to the terminal for the plane to be checked. Just in case it had been damaged.

(Maybe a plane that can’t withstand hail shouldn’t be allowed to fly commercially – just a thought.)

On returning to the gate we were forced to wait longer, on account of the ramp being closed. Lightning, you understand. Eventually we were sent from the plane and instructed to stay close to the gate; some people tried to figure out how to deal with soon-to-be-missed connections. I actually heard the gate agent tell someone that the delay was the result of weather, and that there was nothing you could do about it. A customer was kind enough to point out that the delay was not caused by weather, only exacerbated by it. By this time, had we not waited for your late employee, we would have been on our final descent into Pittsburgh, instead of sitting in the terminal while our fragile veal-crate of an airplane was checked for holes.

Back on the plane, the eventual departure was not marked by any “mea culpa” or recognition of the delay US Airways had inflicted on us. No additional snacks, bonus soda, or any other consolation prizes were offered to the captive “customers” whose schedules you had unilaterally decided to disrupt FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN YOUR OWN CONVENIENCE.

We arrived in Pittsburgh two and a half hours late. Two and a half hours of my life that I’ll never get back. I waste inordinate amounts of time as it is, dealing with all the unavoidable (or supposedly unavoidable) delays associated with air travel. I have my shoes on and off, my one quart plastic ziploc bag in and out. I sit while flights are delayed, canceled, rerouted, refueled, de-iced and stuck on the tarmac. I put up with crappy seats, miserable flight attendants, no food, turning off my electrical items, putting my seat in the upright position and not congregating around the restroom. I pay stupid prices for tickets that can’t be changed and receive air miles that I can never use. And I do this because I have no fucking choice. All the fucking airlines, to a greater or lesser extent, treat their customers like self-loading freight.

But in all my (according to my luggage tag) millions of miles of flying, this is the first time an airline has simply decided to delay a perfectly on time flight to accommodate one of their staff. With no apology, no compensation for the hours you literally stole from us, no “here, have 10,000 air miles that you’ll never use”, no “how about a voucher good for travel on another US Airways flight until it expires in a month”, not even a bag of fucking pretzels.

Has it got that bad? Has the miserable, pitiful, TSA-ridden, hopelessly inefficient and painful process of taking a flight broken down our expectations to the point that US Airways doesn’t feel the need even to PRETEND to give a shit about customers anymore? Do you no longer feel that people will notice if you screw with them? Did you do this for a bet? Is your idea of customer service that you can treat us pretty much any way you like, and then, should we have the temerity to complain, call the airport police and have us forcibly removed from the flight and sent to the cells? Because that seems to be the reality now. We are herded like sheep, treated like criminals and expected to shut up and put up with whatever you, the almighty airline, deem is appropriate to inflict on us.

I sincerely hope that your airline disappears up its own financial arse, and that the morons who took it upon themselves to take hours of my life away for no good reason, and with no consequence, lose their jobs and have to make a living in the real world, with the rest of us, where those companies who routinely treat their customers like crap go out of business and are replaced by those who do better. Because only in the parallel universe of government services and airlines does it seem to be possible to be so shit and still be in business.

Screw you.

Airline Taking The Piss

The list of things that are a pain in the arse when flying is a long one, made ever longer by the almost unbelievable arrogance of semi-literate so-called security personnel, who have barely graduated from flipping burgers but now have a bright blue TSA uniform, which apparently comes complete with a lobotomy and a massive ego infusion. It’s a pain in the arse getting to the airport, parking at the airport, checking in, shuffling through the security lines, being ordered to perform completely different but equally useless routines in the interests of “security”, traipsing through crappy lounges, consuming overpriced and shitty food and eventually boarding an outdated plane, staffed by surly and ancient flight attendants, determined to get through the flight with the minimum of actual effort, on the basis that they are there “primarily for your security”, i.e. to order you around rather than serve you.

That said, airlines are constantly on the lookout for new ways to fuck with you in-flight, hence the much-heralded decision by All Nippon Airlines to introduce women-only toilets on their planes. It’s bad enough already trying to take a piss on a plane. For a start they don’t want you getting up until well after take-off and they make you sit down more than half an hour before landing, for no fucking good reason. In between time, if you’re not in an aisle seat, good fucking luck getting up, crawling over your corpulent seatmate, getting past the cart in the aisle and getting through the line at the toilet before the seatbelt sign comes on and some miserable flight attendant bitch, made bitter by getting fucked all ways by pilots for forty years and never marrying one, orders you back to your seat.

There are never enough toilets on planes, largely because seats can be sold, whereas toilets are a non-revenue generating waste of space. (Unless you’re that Ryanair wanker who wants to charge for their use.) Taking one of these rare and sacred appliances and turning it over for the exclusive use of women makes no fucking sense.

Apparently the airline did a survey, and women identified dedicated toilets as their number two need (number two – geddit?) right after desserts. (Here’s a thought ladies – if you spent a little less time hitting the desserts you might not have to spend quite so much time in the can.) Why is this? There was some mumbling about men leaving the seat up, or leaving a mess, but I could just as easily complain that they leave the seat down, and what’s more, I am reliably informed that women’s public toilets are by far in worse state than men’s, due in no small part to women’s unwillingness to actually sit on the seat, preferring to spray indiscriminately from a great height.

What pisses me off most is that this is a typical double-standard. If men were granted dedicated urinals on planes there’d be a fucking outcry, with women picketing the airline’s offices and N.O.W. lezzas in full warcry. Besides, regardless of the cause, it’s simply a fact that there are more men flying in business class than women. Always. And there aren’t enough bogs to go around now, so how does it make sense to dedicate one to the two women flying?

Actually I’d suggest that men-only toilets would make a lot more sense. Many’s the time I’ve taken the overnight flight to Europe, where you arrive at around 7am, ready to work a full day. You try and sleep on the plane as long as possible, meaning that ideally you wake up, take a piss and land. But the chances are that one of the two women in business class will scuttle into the toilet clasping her make-up bag and then you can forget about anyone else having access for the rest of the flight. The bitch will be in there for twenty minutes, making herself “presentable”, and emerging just in time for the wizened old flight attendant to order you back to your seat. Again.

The rule should be “The toilet is for piss, shit, and, maybe, just maybe, cleaning your teeth. For anything else please wait until you fucking land. Bitch.”

Of course I’m expecting that the dickheads that All Nippon Airlines did just as good a job polling men on what would make their flight more enjoyable. If so, I shall look forward to the cigar bar, extensive range of scotch, free blow job and full English breakfast on my next flight. Yeah right…

Copyright © 2010 Edward Bison

Ve Haf Vays Of Making You Vait

I always thought the Germans were supposed to be efficient. And I also thought Chennai airport (that’s in India, dumbass) was the worst airport in the civilized world. Well, as of yesterday I have revised my opinion of the Germans, and even though I can’t say that Frankfurt airport is actually worse than Chennai, it comes fucking close, especially when you consider that it has all the supposed benefits of Western European development, and that there are no cows in the road outside or one-legged beggars in the parking lot.

Chennai is bad because it’s badly run. You go to check in at Jet Airlines but you can’t find the desk. Then, when you do find it, you realize that business class check in is a hundred yards away across the concourse. They give you a form when you check in, but they don’t tell you that you need to fill it in before you can go to the next stage. Then you stand in a line for immigration (why do they need to inspect your documents so closely when you’re leaving, for fuck’s sake?), and this can easily take an hour. If you’re lucky you can now sit in an overcrowded lounge while you wait for boarding, but don’t wait too long, because you still have to clear security. That’s the biggest clusterfuck of all, with shiftless workers manning x-ray machines and metal detectors that aren’t paired up. I put my belongings on one belt and then got sent five lanes up for scanning. I swear it’s a miracle that my laptop was still there when I returned. Then they check you documents THREE more times at the gate. Don’t ask me why…

Frankfurt can handle the check-in part OK, but then you clear passport control and head to your gate. I realized there may not be a lounge because the check-in wench didn’t give me an invitation, but I didn’t realize that the gate would have about ten seats for a whole 767 of passengers. We asked a security bloke at the gate if there was an American Airlines lounge, and he said there was, only it was a bit hard to follow his directions, on account of him having a speech impediment which appeared to be linked to significant mental retardation. Nice of the Germans to give him a job – care in the community and all that.

So we walked in the direction he seemed to be indicating (unless that was just a spasm) and found another set of security checks. The staff there directed us back in the opposite direction, and we had a nice fifteen minute walk through the airport, just to satisfy ourselves that there was, indeed, no American Airlines lounge. But by the time we got back to the gate, the security checks had commenced.

In every other airport in the civilized world they have one big set of security checkpoints and you can go through as soon as you’re ready. At Frankfurt they have a little set by gate 6 just for that gate and they don’t open it until less than an hour before the flight boards. The set-up was simple – a long, Disney-style winding line, in order to get to two x-ray machines for your bags, either side of a single walk-through metal detector. People loaded their bags on the machines but they didn’t move, because the bottleneck was the metal detector. Almost anything would set it off, and then the offending passenger would be subjected to a full pat-down and wanding, shoe removal and x-ray. Meanwhile everyone else had to wait. There as one man doing pat-downs for men, and one woman for the women, but only one of them worked at a time.

I was close to the front of the line and it was fucking painful to see such an exercise in complete fucking futility, organized so fucking inefficiently. Even if you believe that this type of security check does anything useful, you might at least expect that it would be organized so as to run smoothly. I stripped everything metal from my body, with the exception of fillings; even my belt, watch and wallet, which don’t EVER set off metal detectors, just so I could avoid having the overtly homosexual German security man rub me down. Then I realized why the process was so fucking slow. In addition to the pointless rub-downs, your bags would be hand-searched, even if nothing suspicious showed on the x-ray. And guess what? It was the retard speech impediment twat who was doing it. Having opened up all the zips on my computer bag and messed everything up, he informed me that my computer power adapter would have to have the cables checked. (At least I think he said that – I have to admit I backed off a little at that point, just to minimize the saliva overspray.) Then he opened my larger bag and rifled through my dirty underwear while other passengers stood by.

[Note to fellow travelers: unless your wiping is of a magnificently high standard I recommend you avoid white underwear. Personally, I only buy black.]

Now you might think that having Helmut the Halfwit rummage through my bag would help save lives and keep America free, but it’s worth noting that he failed to search my trainers, which were in a plastic bag, and were easily the most suspicious thing there, and he also failed to spot that I had an illicit bag with liquids in it (which I noticed when he uncovered it, but which he failed to spot). So why go through the fucking motions, piss me off and have the whole plane waiting in a pointless line, when you’re not even paying attention?

I went to a separate room for my cable check, but what they actually did was an explosive residue test. Sorry Helmut, you weren’t even close.

My colleague asked the Germans at the scanner (you have to do something while you wait) why it was that they didn’t put more people on the line. The old woman at the scanner replied that they didn’t need more people – “less people, but just more time”. That’s the kind of attitude that explains why I will be driving to another country before I leave Europe in future. My parting comment to Frankfurt security:

“With organization like that, no wonder you couldn’t fucking take Stalingrad.”

Wankers.

Copyright © 2010 Edward Bison

It’s Airline Rules Silly Season Again…

I read with dismay the details of the latest attempt by a self-proclaimed al-Quaida terrorist to bring down a US-bound airliner. My dismay does not arise, however, from the fear that I will become the victim of another such atrocity, but from the sure and certain knowledge that this incident will precipitate another round of bizarre, pointless and irritating “additional security measures” from the brainless pricks at the TSA and the airlines.

This Nigerian wanker had not even been charged and there were already reports of important new measures being introduced to ensure our greater security in the air, among them:

  • Passengers to be confined to their seats for an hour prior to landing.
  • Passengers to be forbidden from having anything on their laps (such as, for instance, a laptop)
  • Passengers to be discouraged from bringing on any carry-on bags
  • Passengers to be prevented from accessing their carry-on bags during the flight

Now I would like to point out that the felon in this case had a bomb strapped to his leg, which he apparently attempted to detonate when the plane was coming in to land. It wasn’t in his carry-on, or on his lap. He didn’t get up and get it out of his bag – it was strapped to his fucking leg from the moment he got on the plane. The salient point here is that someone managed to get explosives through security because security is designed not to detect explosives but to prevent you from taking nail clippers, shampoo or bottles of water onto the flight.

Yeah, if Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had attempted to smuggle any shaving cream onto the plane then he’d have been in big shit, but it was only explosives, so he was OK.

So yet again the TSA, in a belated attempt to be seen to be doing something (anything) responds to a problem with a set of entirely unrelated measures, certain that the renewed misery and inconvenience visited upon the traveling public will be interpreted as a sign of vigilance, and that no-one’s complaints will even be considered because this is “an issue of airline security”. In other words, a reason to suspend common sense and all join in the pathetic charade of lining up and allowing ourselves to be treated like shit.

For a start, what is the point of confining people to their seats for the last hour of the flight? Surely that just means that any future explosion will be attempted while the plane is still at 30,000ft. Do you really believe that will cause al-Quaida to think again? “Oh shit! We can’t blow up any more planes because we have to sit in our seats prior to landing. Confound these infidels and their regulatory trickery!”

Did anyone bother to note that theft from checked bags in airports has reached endemic levels? Did you know that it is reported to be up 50% in 2009? It is not safe to check ANY item of value because of the hard to detect and, (thanks to their union) impossible to fire, criminals who infiltrate the ranks of baggage screeners and TSA officials. So if you can’t carry on a bag and are forced to check it, who stands behind you when (not “if”, you will note) your valuables are stolen? Not the airline, that’s for sure; they will quote their terms of carriage, disavow any liability and leave you on your own to file a report with the airport police and kiss your possessions goodbye forever. (See WSJ article HERE.)

So if you can’t carry anything onto the plane because it’s a “security risk” and you can’t check it because there are so many organized thieves in baggage handling and “we cannot be responsible for any losses” what fucking use is an airplane ride? The TSA even boasts that their rules are not consistent, as they are designed to confuse potential terrorists. Really? Seems like they’re designed to piss off travelers and yet again provide the pretense of action in the face of political paralysis.

Anyone notice that the screeners at O’Hare used to demand that you put your shoes directly on the belt? If you put them in a tray they would make you take them out. Until last week, when suddenly, for no accountable reason, trays were OK again, just like they are at every other fucking airport. If you couldn’t x-ray shoes through a tray I could understand the issue, but that can’t be the case, otherwise every other airport in the world wouldn’t be wasting their time making us take off our shoes and put them in a tray, would they? So if there’s absolutely no security value, why can’t they at least be consistent, and sensible?

Don’t waste time stopping frequent fliers from accessing their laptops during a flight, and don’t prevent people from taking a piss for an hour before landing. It is an insult to our intelligence when I see people in loose-fitting clothing, or apparently obese people, waltzing through security with enough room on their person to conceal any number of bombs, and no-one is taking the time to pat them down. How about starting with anyone in a hijab? Fuck their human rights – why should their right to dress funny trump our right to live. It’s not like there’s any debate that al-Quaida is an Islamic terrorist organization is there?

If this Nigerian twat smuggled a powder-based bomb through security under his clothing then come up with something to address the real threat, like explosive detection, or pat-downs of all people on a terrorist watch-list, and not a knee-jerk set of pointless rules in a pathetic attempt to divert our attention and make all the sheep believe that “something is being done”.

I won’t be holding my breath. I just plan to show up at the airport next week in a Speedo. “Is that an explosive device, sir, or are you just pleased to see me?”

Copyright © 2009 Edward Bison

Sheraton Shit

And the award for Shittest Hotel Of The Week goes to …. the Sheraton! I checked out of the Sheraton at Brussels Airport yesterday, having done nothing but sleep, make two phone calls (using a free-phone number) and eat their crappy buffet breakfast. At check out I was presented with a bill which included two charges of 2.75 Euro each (nearly $4 each) for the two phone calls.

Leaving aside the fact that they don’t make their habit of charging for using the phone for a free call obvious by, say, putting a sign on the phone, the fact that they charge at all is complete bullshit. When I’m paying the equivalent of $240 a night for a hotel room, I expect it to come with a few basics, like a TV, a shower, some shampoo and a working telephone. There’s no cost for them if I make a free phone call, so why are they charging me? The argument I’ve heard in the past is that it covers the cost of maintaining the phone system, but they don’t charge separately per viewing hour to maintain the TV system, and they don’t charge you each time you flush the bog to cover the cost of the plumbing so this is obviously bollocks.

The dopey bitch at the checkout desk had the cheek to ask if I wanted to accept the donation on my bill to a charity that they had added. I refused and suggested they take the donation out of their bullshit thieving telephone charge instead. Fucking wankers.

Road Trip

It’s Spring Break here in St.Louis so, contrary to normal practice, we decided actually to go away for a few days. Since I’d rather stick pins in my gonads than pay to be treated like shit by an airline, we set off by car for Big Cedar Lodge, down in Southern Missouri by Table Rock Lake. This is about a four hour drive from St.Louis, providing the opportunity to experience the very best of highway-side Missouri entertainment along the way.

I have to assume that the places dotted along the highway are examples of what is known as “small town America”, albeit somewhat corrupted by the influence of so many passing travelers just begging to be separated from their dollars. It must be interesting to live there – it’s not at all clear what you’d do by way of entertainment, unless you have an inclination to junk food, fireworks or pornography, because that’s all you see along the road.

One of the large signs proclaimed “The World’s Biggest Rocking Chair” was nearby, begging the question “Who gives a shit?”.

One of the great benefits of I-44 is that you have plenty of gigantic billboards to help ensure that you don’t miss any of the fine roadside establishments that grace the highway. On the way down we were still two hours out of Branson when we began to be bombarded with invitations to stop off for Branson coupons, or to see the big-name tacky shows that infest this otherwise meaningless town. Of course there are also many artery-hardening junk food emporia peddling their greasy wares, but by far the most entertaining signs are those advertising “ADULT STORES”. The signs are invariably large and yellow, whereas the stores themselves appear small and seedy, although judging by the number of cars parked outside they weren’t hurting for business, even before midday. Isn’t there some sort of basic principle of decency that you shouldn’t hit the scud mag store before lunch? It’s like drinking – perfectly understandable if you do it in the evening, but if it’s the first thing on your mind when you get out of bed then you’ve probably got a problem. The exotic dancers at the place next to Big Louie’s apparently start at 11am, in case you’re interested…

My favorite store sign was the one for what I believe was called the Lions Den establishment just outide Waynesville. It apparently offers a new video arcade, which cannot help but to conjure up images of people tugging themselves off in little cubicles. No-one watches porn unless they plan to “take Captain Picard to warp speed” do they? Can these people really not wait until they get home to rub one out? Or maybe they can’t take the porn home in case the missus finds it, in which case this is less of a porn shop and more like a porn library. (Silence please!)

Anyway, this store was almost next door to the Grace Covenant Christian Center, which seems like unfortunate planning on someone’s part. Maybe the Lions Den name was an oblique biblical reference, although I don’t recall Daniel pulling his pud when he was thrown in with the big cats. What really got my attention was the giant bowling pin eight in front of the Adult Store sign. Maybe there was also a bowling alley nearby, but it just seemed to me like they couldn’t quite get planning consent for a huge pink dildo to advertise their store, and consequently had to make do with a bowling pin.

In between the Christian Center and the Porn Warehouse was McDonalds. Now we know they don’t site their stores by accident – they pay great attention to traffic patterns; clearly plenty of people frequent the video arcade. Or perhaps they just have an outlet for all the man-mess generated. What’s that funny sauce they put on the Fillet O Fish called again?

Copyright © 2009 Edward Bison

Day Trip To Brussels

I happened to look in the mirror today and notice that I still look like crap, a fact confirmed by my family back in the UK when I spoke to them via Skype. I didn’t think the picture resolution was that detailed, but apparently I look every bit as knackered as I feel. This in spite of the fact that the “Day Trip to Brussels” that was probably responsible for much of my haggard demeanor happened more than a week ago.

The plan was simple: throw a change of clothes in a bag and buy a ticket Tuesday morning (last minute – when I say “plan” I don’t mean “in advance”). Leave Tuesday afternoon, fly overnight and arrive Brussels airport 7:30am Wednesday. Be at the office by 8:30am, shower and start work by 9:00. Fuck up a couple of people’s days and then have dinner with a colleague and his wife Wednesday evening before crashing at a hotel. Head back to the airport Thursday morning and catch the 10:40am flight back through Chicago. Simple, right?

It worked fine right up to the part where I got to the airport on Thursday and found the flight was delayed. Mechanical problems. The airline wanted to route me back via New York but then send me on a five hour misery journey via Raleigh Durham (where the fuck is that?) on a tiny runt of a regional jet. Since my arse falls asleep after thirty minutes stuck in one of those things, and given that my delayed flight through Chicago was still showing an earlier arrival in St.Louis than the alternative, I rolled the dice that the plane would be repaired.

Turns out that it couldn’t, but of course we didn’t get to hear that until after the departure time had been repeatedly put back for an hour at a time. The airline rep, a half-Asian woman who apparently possessed half a brain, was so clearly not in the loop that any conversation with her was pointless. Initially the delays were met with good humor but eventually I gave up and pointed out that she had no information of any use and that she was clearly not being informed by her airline about what was really happening. She argued that she was being kept very well informed, at which point a fellow passenger interrupted to tell us that the flight had just been canceled, thus rather neatly proving my assertion and causing her to scurry off.

We got 13 Euros worth of food vouchers but since I stuffed myself with sandwiches in the British Airways lounge I used them instead to buy Mars bars to take home to Mrs Bison. Chocolate over there just shits all over the stuff we get here, even when the brand name is the same.

So we all got marched over to a nearby hotel for the night. By this time I had got talking to the fellow passenger, a woman also heading back to the US who was conveniently plain enough to banish any “readers’ letters” fantasies from my mind, but good company under the circumstances compared to the rest of the sheep with whom we were surrounded.

They checked us into the hotel, but since it was being paid for by the airline we weren’t “real” customers, and so they’d turned off access to any “pay” features in the room. No high speed internet, no phone calls (even to free numbers) and no soft pornographic movies. You’d think after fucking up the whole day the least they could do would be to let their customers rub one out in the comfort of their hotel room, but apparently not. I had work to do so I ordered a room service burger (shouldn’t have been able to do that either, but I don’t think their system can block it) and tried to get the internet working by giving a credit card at the front desk. The people at the hotel (are you reading this, Sheraton?) were completely and utterly fucking useless, and couldn’t figure out how to take the “block” off my room, so I had to go down to the lobby and use the free wireless. All I needed to do was enter my name and room number, but when I tried I got an error. “Incorrect name”.

Fucking morons had entered my name wrong when I checked in, but I had no way of knowing what they’d put instead. How fucking hard can it be to enter five letters when they’re written down in front of you in capitals? And now there was a line of people checking in half way to the door, so I had to cut in and ask the useless Belgian motherfucker at the desk exactly what fucking absurd spelling of my name he’d used so I could get online. It had been a long day.

The following day we were supposed to be at the check-in desk at 8:40am, not a significant challenge since the hotel is right at the airport and walking over takes about sixty seconds. I booked a wake-up call but the airline also booked calls for all of us. Obviously they have problems with the sheep getting ready on time because I got seven wake-up calls before I could finish showering and get downstairs. On the last one I asked them how many fucking calls they thought I needed and they apologized. After breakfast I went back to my room and got another wake-up call. I asked why – the response was that I didn’t answer when they’d called earlier I pointed out that this was because I had been eating breakfast downstairs after the previous seven wake-up calls. Jesus! Some people shouldn’t be allowed to leave their house unsupervised, let alone work in the hospitality industry, where they have to have contact with the rest of us.

At the check-in desk the bad news was that our plane was still not repaired; on the plus side they’d canceled the New York flight instead and given us that plane, so we left on time and arrived in Chicago, where I discovered that as a permanent resident I now have to stand in the Visitors line at immigration, a line which move about a foot every hour and which is filled with Indians, all holding documents which the immigration officials have clearly never seen before, with about eight mistakes in, and all attempting to import eleven relatives spanning three generations. And a water buffalo.

So no, global travel isn’t glamorous. In fact it sucks arse, and will probably be responsible for me dying early, with more wrinkles and less hair than I deserve. And if I didn’t live a worthy life, I’m sure my time in hell will be reassuringly familiar – seven wake-up calls every day, an endless queue and absolutely no porn. Can’t fucking wait…

Copyright © 2009 Edward Bison

At The Dreupelkot

I spent the early part of this week in the Belgian town of Gent, a wonderful historic city in the Flanders region. Of course, I spent most of the time in meetings, but we did have a couple of good dinners along the way. One of the problems with Belgian dinners, as I’ve noted before, is that in upmarket restaurants they tend to last about four hours. During this time I lose all feeling below the waist, along with the will to live. This week’s dinners were only about three hours long, but even so, I was delighted to get up at the end and restore the flow of blood to my legs.

It was therefore not hard to persuade me to take a short walk to the Dreupelkot, for a couple of genevas. This place is a famous bar, about the size of a suburban living room, tended by its white-haired owner, Pol, who dispenses more than two hundred versions of the Belgian hard liquor called geneva. It’s a tiny place, already crowded with only fifteen people in it, just round the corner from the Hot Club, where they play excellent jazz. This is a place with character, just a few tables and a bar, most people standing up (because that’s the only option) and a sign asking people to use the toilet (which appears to be in a cupboard) rather than the alley out the back.

Geneva is an excellent end-of-evening drink. It’s taken neat, in small glasses which Pol fills to the brim, so that there’s a positive meniscus on each one (look it up in your kid’s science book). He has all sorts of frou-frou genevas with vanilla, chocolate, cream and stuff like that in them (which attracts drunken students) but real geneva is either clear or slightly brown, like diluted whisky. Some purists maintain that only the clear stuff is truly authentic but they both taste good to me.

Anyway, about four of us wandered in and squeezed up to the side of the tiny bar. We worked our way through five glasses, along with some blokes from Ecuador that we struck up a conversation with. Along the way we noticed that amongst the group of studenty types in the center of the room there were two girls giving a lesbian kissing display. You could tell they were real lesbians and not just two drunk girls showing off, because one of them was ugly.

The thing about geneva is that it stimulates the brain cells. It got me thinking, and I have to say that it led me to revise one of my theories about lesbian couples. I used to believe that the reason one of the lesbians is always bloke-like is that the other one really wants a bloke. She’s therefore losing out because she gets all the boot-faced hairy ugliness of a bloke, but without the benefit of a penis, necessitating the purchase of strap-ons, etc.

It occurred to me, though, that I was missing the point – it was the ugly one who was the “aggressor” and it suddenly became obvious – she knew she was a boiler and her decision to go with women had to be based on one of two subconscious drivers:

1. She resents pretty girls because she’ll never be one, so she picks them up to vicariously experience prettiness.

2. She resents blokes because they like pretty girls and not her, and so she picks them up to reduce the number available for us, thus pissing us off.

Personally I tend towards theory number 2, but in either case the implication is that the “blokey” lesbian is motivated by spite and bitterness. This would lead you to expect that manly lezzas would be bitter, moany, resentful creatures; well bugger me if that isn’t exactly what we observe in nature. Quod erat demonstrandum, as they say…

Well I’m glad we sorted that out. Now can someone pass me another geneva?

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison

Why Now?

So there I was on the flight from Boston to Paris last Thursday. It’s a short flight so I was in two minds whether to drug myself and sleep, in case I was still a zombie when we landed. (I had to shower and go straight to a four hour meeting at the other end.) I was in my seat as the other passengers boarded, and who should come and sit in the window seat next to me but this gorgeous blonde. (By this I mean “natural gorgeous, not fake tits and make-up.)

We took off, and I was just thinking how nice it was to have bonus seat-mate quality, when the flight attendant came over and tapped me on the shoulder. “Mr Bison – we have two open seats behind you here, if you’d like to move over?”

What could I say? I love having the empty seat next to me, to put all my crap in during the flight, and the poor blonde wouldn’t have to climb over my comatose form to get out of her seat if I moved. So I did. I have to say, though, that it was not without sadness. It’s not that I was going to actually talk to her during the flight – I was going to be comatose, remember – but it’s such a waste only to have the option to move when my seatmate is small and attractive, rather than the obese, snoring gutbucket that I usually get stuck next to.

Funny how the little things bother you when you travel…

Nothing To Be Proud Of

I’m in Tokyo for the day, and managed to grab lunch at an excellent tempura restaurant in the Ote Center. We sat at the bar while the third-generation chef/owner dipped all the various pieces of fish and vegetable in light batter and fried them, before depositing them fresh in front of us. His pride in his work was obvious, and the meal was just outstanding. Tonight I’ll probably eat sushi, which I also expect to be excellent. One day I’ll host some of my Japanese contacts in St Louis but this raises a question: just what the fuck will I feed them?

What would I hold out as a fine example of St Louis cuisine in return for the wonderful food I’ve enjoyed in Japan? Once you rule out all the shite chain restaurants, and the overpriced and overrated mock-Italian crap on The Hill there isn’t much left. And a lot of that isn’t in the slightest bit “St Louis” – most of the good food is “ethnic”. Fuck me, if I based my decision on the places I like to eat we’d end up going for sushi again. I guess I’d settle for the burger at O’Connells, medium rare, of course – I’ve never had a better burger anywhere in the world. By the way, if you were going to suggest Imo’s pizza or toasted ravioli, washed down with Budweiser, I strongly suggest you stick your head up your arse and whistle through your colon in an attempt to wake up your brain…