Tag Archives: traveling

Some Spacial Awareness, If You Please

12 Dec

I know I’ve been a little quiet lately but I blame the fact that I have been working like a crazy person. I also blame the amount I have been working on this massive cold I have come down with. It is epic. Seriously, I woke up yesterday and my snot was the color of a locally sourced organic egg. Orange. It was horrifying. I guess this is what you get for working regularly in 3 different bars, and occasionally working in two bars in one day. And then working the following night in bar number 3. You just end up coming in contact with all sorts of nasty things. Dirty glasses, people who blow their noses and then leave the tissues on the bar for you to pick up and lots and lots of one of the dirtiest thing out there: money. I touch a lot of money. And when I don’t put a small piece of fruit or a glass with some water near my register I end up licking my fingers a lot to get the change. I touch the money and then lick my fingers and then touch the money again. I can actually taste the grime. I don’t even want to know what kind of shit I am putting in my body on the regular. Probably the kind of shit that gave me the cold that I now have. Probably the kind of shit that caused me to have snot that resembles a box of Crayola crayons.

Anyway, not the point. The point is spatial awareness. I have been noticing recently, and I don’t really know why this is surprising to me, that people have absolutely no idea that they do not own whatever piece of ground they happen to be traveling over. I get it. This is a city inhabited by a huge number of self-involved pricks but if ever there is a time to think communally it is when you are traversing the grid. Or when you are traveling on the bus or subway. There is a finite amount of space, people. You gotta share it. So I decided to compile a list-like thing with some of the areas that could use some, er, improvement. And I am sorry for the quality of writing here. I blame the aforementioned snot infestation of my brain.

1. Umbrellas

Back in the day when MySpace was a thing that non-musicians used, I wrote a blog all about proper umbrella courtesy. I think about that blog often, mostly every time it rains and I almost get my eye poked out with someone’s mishandled golf umbrella. A size of umbrella, by the way, that has absolutely no place in a city like New York. I just feel as though the sidewalks are only so big and when your umbrella takes up the whole thing so that other pedestrians are forced into the street where they are likely to get soaked when a passing car plows through a puddle well, that’s a problem. And I get it, buying an umbrella from the “UM-brella, UM-brella” guys on the corner seems silly since those things last two, maybe three good rains but at least they leave space for the rest of us, ya know? I would take an UM-brella toter over a golf umbrella person any day, even though sometimes one of the prongs on the UM-brella is sticking out at an odd angle, making passing the UM-brella person a bit, er, treacherous. I fear for my eyeballs when it rains, I really do.

Since I am on about umbrellas, I have a few more little things to mention. There are some times when having your umbrella open is simply unnecessary. One instance that comes immediately to mind is when you are walking underneath some scaffolding. Scaffolding is like an umbrella, in that it blocks the rain from falling on you, only it is shareable in a non-awkward way and made of wood. There is no need to double up, folks, because when you do other people, people who maybe left the house without an umbrella and haven’t gotten a chance to buy a new one, are forced onto the street where they inevitably get wet. And there you are, safely walking under not one but two devices keeping your precious clothing bone dry. It just ain’t right.

And one other thing, when you are walking down to the subway or up from the subway, put your umbrella down. Especially if you have a golf umbrella. I know it sucks to get a little wet but come on. When you have a golf umbrella you are the only person that can fit on those narrow subway stairs because you are carrying a huge, unwieldy felt weapon that could blow in any direction at any time, splattering passers-by with rain droplets and maybe, just maybe, skewering an eye or two (are you sensing a theme here?). I have missed more than one train because some asshole with an oversized umbrella blocked the entrance to the subway and I was none too pleased about it. None. Too. Pleased.

2. Strollers

You guys, with the strollers, come ON. I honestly think, and correct me if I am wrong here, that double-wide strollers should simply be outlawed in New York City. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to have such a law on the books because people would have enough sense to get those like stacking strollers, or the kids-facing-each-other strollers, but no. People in this city INSIST on the double-wide which, you know, takes up the entire sidewalk and then those people act inconvenienced when the stroller doesn’t fit in a store, or isn’t allowed in a restaurant. If your stroller can’t fit comfortably through a normal-sized doorway, then you shouldn’t be using the stroller. End of story.

Then there is this other thing that I have been noticing recently. On more than one occasion in the past few weeks I have noticed a dude walking down the street with a stroller, seemingly taking his child on some errands, or for some fresh air, or whatever it is that parents with kids do which I imagine is not that different from some of the things that I do only I do my things unencumbered by anything other than a shoulder bag. But here is the kicker: instead of walking directly behind the stroller, he walks behind the stroller and to the left, pushing the stroller with his right hand. He is not doing this so he can walk alongside the stroller and have a conversation with his kid which would still be annoying but at least would make sense. He is just casually walking down the street, paying the kid no mind, and meanwhile taking up the entire sidewalk. It’s like, dude, it doesn’t matter how far away you walk from the stroller we all know the stroller, and the child it contains, belongs to you. And if that is embarrassing to you for some reason, get one of those damn Bjorn things and give the rest of us some damn space.

On a side note does anyone else find it sort of off-putting when people go to the store without their kids but with their strollers and put their grocery shopping in the stroller where the kid would normally be? I am sure there is a reasonable explanation for this – the parent dropped the kid off somewhere and decided, since they already had the stroller in tow, to use it for other things – but it always gets my mind running. Makes me feel like I am in the middle of some horror film. Like, this kid got kidnapped and the parent never leaves the home without the stroller just in case she runs into the kid on the street even though the kidnapping happened like 15 years ago and the kid wouldn’t even fit in the stroller anymore if the kid was to turn up. Dun dun duuuuuuuuuun!

3. Hand holders, butt pocket hand-putter-inners, waist encirclers, etc.

Let me just start off by saying these two things: (1) I am not one of those angry anti-relationship, anti-PDA people who gets offended by people proclaiming their love for their partner, or their appreciation for their friend; and (2) I, personally, do not like hand-holding but that has nothing to do with this particular entry in the list. This is all about the space. Because what I have noticed, and maybe I am wrong, is that when people are holding on to another person in some manner or another they tend to amble along rather slowly. I’m no speed walker or whatever but I, like most New Yorkers, have a rather brisk gate. I might not have anywhere that I have to be at any particular time, but I will get there at a decent clip, ya know? I don’t actually mind a solo ambler, but it does become a little difficult when amblers attach to other amblers and they then create this impenetrable fortress of amble. Then you have to either slow down to their pace (well, I never!) or else step into the street and risk being run into by an overly aggressive cycler who may or may not be riding on the wrong side of the road. Treacherous.

4. Scooters

In the interest of full disclosure I need to make this one thing clear: I despise scooters. Oh man they make me so mad. I know that this is unreasonable but it’s a fact. So this paragraph will be dripping with disdain. Just so you know. Don’t take it personally but I hate your scooter and when you are on it, I hate you a little bit also. (Kidding. Maybe.) I think that adults look ridiculous on them and, honestly, if you ride a scooter as an adult you should ride in the bike lane along with the people riding respectable modes of transportation like bicycles and skateboards. As for kids on scooters, well that’s a whole other thing. Kids on scooters are my second worst New York City transportation nightmare, just after riding on a train with a bunch of middle school students that just get let out of class for Christmas break or some shit. Kids on scooters are a force to be reckoned with. They go so fast and a lot of times they don’t really know how to control their scooters and it’s like this horrible game of chicken only they are wearing helmets and you are not. Take one scooter-powered helmet to the hip and you’ll understand my concern. That’s a bruise.

I just actually had this flashback. So there was this girl in high school who got one of those rolly backpacks. She was this little slip of a thing and she was taking ALL of the classes so she always had so many books and she put them in her backpack, only it wasn’t really a backpack it was like a rocket-powered travel suitcase and the “rocket power” came from her, running full speed through the hallways so she could get the best seat in class. That’s what I always figured, anyway. I was always a little annoyed by her until one day, on my way to class, she ran right into me! And I fell down! In the hallway! And she didn’t even apologize, she barely even stopped, she just zoomed off down the hallway to class. I was furious. So what did I do? I wrote an article in the school newspaper about the perils of getting to class in the age of rolly backpacks. I am pretty sure I got called into the principal’s office over that one because this one girl was the only one in the school that had such a backpack and the principal thought it sounded like a personal attack, which it was, but it was too late because it was already printed. Rolly backpack girl knocked over the wrong spiteful writer!

By the way, I take some comfort in the fact that my disdain is at least consistent.

5. Gaggles

I like to travel in a good gaggle just like the next gal but when gaggle traveling it is important to be aware of the scope and size of your gaggle. A gaggle takes up more space than a duo, or a trio even (trios being problematic because of the odd-numbered nature of the crew), and so it is good to break off into groups in an effort to share the sidewalk.

Okay, you guys, I actually don’t encounter gaggles all that often I just really like the word. Gaggle, gaggle, gaggle. It’s so fun. And, yea, it is annoying when you see a gaggle and you have to go around them but whenever I see one I always just giggle about the gaggle and it makes the slight inconvenience of passing them by totally worthwhile. Hopefully I will see a gaggle today. I could use a good gaggle giggle. Actually, just typing “gaggle giggle” did the trick.


This post brought to you by my snot-infested brain. You’re welcome.

The Time I Slept on a Marble Slab in the Aiport and Lived to tell the Tale

10 Jul

So you guys.  The other day I had one of the most epic travel journeys of my entire traveling life.  Those of you who know me (which, at this point, is most of you because you are the only people who would happily put up with my sort of unfocused rambling) know that I do a fair bit of traveling. I have been a number of places.  I love leaving the country.  I love seeing how other people live their lives and having a context for all the international things I like to read about.  I also really like eating fruit so I tend to go to fruit-heavy places.  I am one of those people who does not think that papayas taste like vomit.  Anyway, one of the things about traveling is that you have to actually get to and from the places you are going which can be the most trying part of it all especially when you book flights ass-early in the morning.  Clearly, I always book my flights at the most inconvenient times possible because it makes them cheaper but it also means that I get sort of stressed out and occasionally have to sleep in airports.  Sleeping in airports is pretty much as shitty as it sounds.  So, here’s the story.

A little over a week ago I traveled to Merida, Mexico to visit a good friend of mine from graduate school.  My flight there left at 7am from JFK.  No problem, I had my favorite driving friend pick me up from my house at 4:30am and take me to the airport.  I took the direct flight and then waited in the airport for like two hours reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and then I got on a bus for 4 hours and voila!  There was my friend and her friend, who is also now my friend (yay!), waiting in the bus station when I got there!  The way back was not nearly as neat and clean.

We had decided to travel a little bit the last weekend I was in town and ended up at this cute little town on the water called Mahahual.  It was fun and nice only the cash machines all had no money in them and a lot of the places didn’t accept credit cards.  It was slightly problematic but we made due.  We left super early on Sunday morning, the day before the flight, in order to drive up to Cancun and spend the day at Isla Mujeres which is slightly less touristy and bro-infested.  As a side note, we stopped at a gas station and although the original guy we asked said they accepted cards it turned out, once the gas had been pumped, that they actually did not.  Clearly, we had no cash other than American currency which they also didn’t accept.  In the end one of the dudes ended up climbing on top of an adjacent building to try and get service to run the card.  It worked and it was hilarious.  Made my day.

So, we drove up to Cancun, parked in a lot, and took a ferry across to Isla.  Keep in mind that at this point it was like, 1:30 and we had been traveling since like 7:30 am.  My flight was the next morning at 6:10am.  Obviously.  I figured I would take the last ferry off Isla at midnight, take a bus to the airport, get there around 1:30 and just wait till my flight.  Just to be sure I looked online.  At 8pm I discovered that there were no buses that left from the Centro to the airport after 10pm and a taxi from the ferry to the airport was going to cost me $70.  It was decided that I would take the previous ferry, at 9pm, grab a cab to the Centro, take a bus to the airport and then wait. I got to the airport at 10:30.  I wanted to die.  After eating some toast (nothing on the menu at the only open restaurant in the airport was meat-free) I found a nice little slab of marble to attempt to nap on.  At around 12:30 I put my bag on the floor, extracted a sweatshirt to pad my hip, and laid down, using my luggage as a pillow and hugging my purse like a teddy bear.  It was the coldest, hardest, florescent-lightiest piece of marble in the world.  I’m serious.  I set my alarm for 4:45am because there was NO WAY I was going to oversleep my flight but it was unnecessary, I didn’t sleep.  At 3:45 I grew tired of pretending to sleep, checked into my flight and went through security.  It was then that I discovered that the Cancun airport is infested with the biggest, grossest cockroaches I have ever seen outside of the Benares train station in India.  Those fuckers were the size of rats.  I thanked my lucky stars that I had not discovered them the previous night because then my bed of marble would have been entirely out of the question.  Finally I boarded my flight.  But that’s not all!

My first flight went from Cancun to Mexico City.  Then I transfered to another plane there and flew from Mexico City to Hermosillo.  The international wing of the Hermosillo Airport was the same as the domestic wing of the Hermosillo Airport and probably if I threw a rock as hard as I could I could make it land clear on the other side.  Of the entire airport.  A rock.  Me.  I do not have a good throwing arm.  Also, there was a Subway there and the entire teeny tiny airport smelled like Subway sandwiches which is really gross.  I ate Pretzel M&Ms for lunch.  I then boarded a new plane with the same flight number at Hermosillo to fly to my 4th and final airport of the day.  It was so small.  So bumpy.  Not my favorite ever plane by far.  Finally, 17 hours after leaving Isla Mujeres I had arrived in the Phoenix Airport.  But that wasn’t the end!  I still had to get to Tucson!  My friend was outside waiting to pick me up only the Phoenix Airport is roughly the size of my hometown and I got lost like 12 times.  But I persevered!  I made it outside and we headed back to her house.  But first….

We stopped at an Ostrich Farm where we fed ostriches and deer and donkeys! It turns out ostriches are scary.

The end.

Oh, wait, one more thing.  Tomorrow morning I have a flight out of Phoenix at, you guessed it, 6am.  Have a shuttle picking me up at 2:50am.  Stay tuned.

You Live Here, Why Not Travel There: The Case for Sustained Female Tourism to India

12 Jun

I traveled to India for the first time in December of 2003 with 21 other students and a few professors.  We spent about 8 weeks learning about sustainability, the economy, tourism, ecology, agriculture.  We spent a good amount of time in the homes of different families who welcomed us with open arms  (well, for the most part).  I returned just after I graduated college in the fall of 2005 with a good friend of mine, Abby, and spent about 4 months traversing the sub-continent.  It was an amazing trip, cut short mostly by the fact that I had run my travel fund dry.  I spent my entire trip in the company of others and the only close-call of a sexual nature came at the hands of a fellow traveler.  I went back for a third time in the summer of 2011 with two of my girlfriends from graduate school, one of whom is fluent in Hindi.  This led to some surprised faces and a pretty awesome night in which the operators of a government bus hand delivered us to our hotel so we wouldn’t have to face tracking down an auto rickshaw after midnight on our own.  I would go back in a heartbeat if I could find a companion and if time and finances allowed.

So I must say I am more than a little saddened by the recent reports that, due to highly publicized sexual assaults in India, tourism has dropped, and especially amongst females.  A June 10th article on the New York Times blog, India Ink entitled “India Scrambles to Reassure Tourists Shaken by Recent Attacks on Women,” discusses the issue.  The article, by Neha Thirani Bagri and Heather Timmons, explains that in the first three months of this year visits by females to India fell by 35%.  Thisfall-off has been linked by many to the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi this past December.  There have also been assaults and rapes reported by tourists over the last few months, including a 30-year-old woman who was gang-raped in a resort town in the north and a 39-year-old Swiss tourist who was raped by four men in Madhya Pradesh.  Listen, I get it, the prospect of being raped or sexually assaulted in a foreign country where you’re not familiar with the language, the customs, or the legal system and where you are far from home and your friends and family is terrifying.  But the thing is that, as a female, I live in almost constant, albeit dull, fear of being sexually assaulted and I think, when pressed, many women would agree.  In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a woman in your life who has been neither threatened with sexual violence nor had sexual violence committed against her.  For my part I have been groped and spit on in the street, been the victim of an attempted rape in my own home, and ran screaming from the house of someone I considered a friend, although not a close one, when my strong and loud repetition of the word “no” went unheard.  My stories are not unique.  And every single one of them happened here, in the United States.

That’s not even the point.  I am not here arguing that there are more rapes in the United States than elsewhere.  I don’t know that we could ever accurately know that given the poor reporting rates at the global level, a fact I have discussed elsewhere in this blog.  Clearly, I have spent more of my life here and so it would follow that most of the bad things that have happened to me also would have happened here.  What I am saying is that the articles covering the decrease in tourism have not done much to reverse this trend by encouraging a more nuanced discussion.  So, here’s my attempt.

As a commenter on an article I read said, India is a very big country, 1,269,219 square miles, with a lot of people living in it, over 1.2 billion according to the 2011 census.  There are places that are more safe and places that are less safe, much like here.  There are people who are likely to rape and people who are unlikely to rape, much like here.  In the Times article, the authors quoted a 24-year-old from San Francisco, Corinne Aparis, as saying “It scares me to think that there’s that type of deep hatred toward women — that just being a woman is enough of a target and reason for some men to inflict such violence on me.”  The thing is, she could be talking about anywhere.  This quote is taken as something specific to the Indian context but that could not be further from the truth.  For evidence of that fact just watch the movie Compliance, read about the Cleveland, Texas gang rape of an 11-year-old, talk to some of your female friends.

You know what is different about India?  The response.  I doubt we would have learned nearly as much about the horrific December Delhi rape if it weren’t for the response of Indians.  According to the Times article once again, “The public outrage over the December attack led to the passage of a new sexual offense law in March that imposes stronger penalties for violence against women and criminalizes actions like stalking and voyeurism.”  I personally do not remember a time in the United States when protesters lined the streets for a day, let alone weeks, in response to a rape and the subsequent handling of the case by authorities.  I do not remember a time in the United States when the national dialogue wasn’t seemingly dominated by the endless repetition of “boys will be boys,” “why was she out at that time wearing that outfit,” and “where was her mother?”  Let’s just think back to the recent events in Steubenville.  Just this past Thursday, on June 6th, Mother Jones printed an article that reported that where the two rapists in the Steubenville case got a 1-and-2-year prison sentence, one of the hackers who broke the case open is facing up to 10-years in jail for hacking-related crimes.  To me, that says a lot about this country’s priorities.

Listen, I am not saying that people’s feelings regarding safety when traveling are unjustified.  If you feel unsafe for any reason, that is your prerogative.  What I am saying is that let’s put this into a larger context.  This is not an India problem, this is an everywhere problem.  But I would go so far as to say that the Indian population at large, at least recently, has a much more proactive attitude towards securing safety from sexual violence for women and men, and towards ensuring the proper handling of sexual assault cases.  We should be so vociferous.  Rather than write India off as unsafe for women, we should follow in the population’s footsteps.  We should stand in support of sexual assault victims, try to get our justice system to do right by them, by us, and change our rape culture.