Thursday, November 29, 2012
"You're going to a country where tourist dollars go straight into the pockets of dictators?" I ask.
Raoul sighs. "Well," he says, "after comparing the last two Olympics opening ceremonies -- the one where ten thousand Chinese dancers move in unbelievably precise synchronization, and the one where a pigtailed British milkmaid cavorts on Astroturf -- I'm not sure where I stand dictatorship-wise."
I'd prefer a neighborhood Starbucks, but I say sure. Next thing you know we're checking into the Ayarwaddy River View Hotel in Mandalay.
A nondescript desk clerk checks us in, and we walk upstairs to the room. It's perfectly okay. I've been warned to lower my standards with Myanmar. In the entire country, supposedly, they have only a couple thousand hotel rooms that wouldn't send Americans screaming for a Motel 6. This room wasn't exactly designed by David Bromstad, with its eight shades of brown screaming for a pop of red or neon green, but it's clean and comfortable and the second-story window shows a fetching panorama of gold-plated temples and scruffy men leading ox carts. I haven't seen Raoul in something like six months so the enormous bed beckons me.
We've just about finished unpacking when there's a knock at the door. It's the building's Assistant Manager. He's a not-unattractive man with the authoritative air of the high school principal in a 60s surfing movie, but for some reason he's out of breath and sweating like a Nazi in Indiana Jones. "I'm sorry," he says shakily, "but this room is already taken. However, we have another room that is even better, and offer it to you at the same price."
I barely have time to absorb this information when red flags go flying in my head. "It's 'taken'?" I repeat. "How is it 'taken'?"
He pauses to think. "Someone else has called up and requested it."
"You mean it's reserved?" I ask. "Like I reserved it?"
He nods. "Yes," he says, "it's reserved. They will be very disappointed if they don't get it."
This added information just deepens my confusion, so I struggle to make sense of it. The "request" for this room must have come from a valued customer, because if it was just some regular Joe then we'd be on equal footing and the Assistant Manager wouldn't give a damn. So a valued customer called the hotel at some point and requested a standard $46 room. We were mistakenly given the last $46 room, though, so the Assistant Manager had to bump us into one of the deluxe $69 rooms to keep the other guy happy.
If the other guy was a valued customer, though, why is the Assistant Manager kicking us upstairs? "No matter what happens," the other guy must have said, "don't upgrade me. Do not try to put me in a deluxe $69 room at no additional charge, because I don't want it. Foist your better rooms on strangers from foreign countries, because I'm not putting up with it. It's your standard $46 room or you're in trouble, buddy!"
"It's a better room?" I ask.
The Assistant Manager nods. "It's bigger," he confirms.
It still makes no sense but who are we to argue? Raoul and I pack up our belongings and follow the Assistant Manager to the new room, where the clouds of confusion part. It's pretty much like I suspected. Raoul and I okay the room, the Assistant Manager leaves -- now markedly more relaxed -- and we start to unpack. It's an okay room, almost undistinguishable from the last if not for the extra sitting area, the better view, and the two single beds.
Raoul looks at me. I look at Raoul. "Hey, how about those Olympics?" I say.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
- Put up a sign that says, "Everybody with no eyelids has to leave."
- Stand outside your hotel room door and pretend you're a mealworm.
- Point your blow-dryer at them. Geckos hate having their hair messed up.
- Tempt it away with a female gecko and a tiny picnic table.
- Ask the desk clerk if you can borrow a mongoose.
Monday, November 26, 2012
With all the vast new possibilities now open to me, it's understandable I came home with a great new hobby:
Sitting in between a couple on an airline flight and acting really creepy.
See, there's this tactic that "smart" travelers use to get more room on an airline flight. In the center section of a plane, there are usually three seats across. If you're traveling with a partner, you'll automatically be assigned two adjacent seats, which means there will still be an aisle seat available. Aisle seats are perfectly acceptable to the single traveler, since there's a person on one side and an aisle on the other, and odds are somebody will take that seat. Which means you and your partner won't have much spare room.
"Smart" travelers, then, sign up for the two aisle seats, leaving the middle seat empty. Why? Because no single traveler is going to take that middle seat, squashed in between two strangers, unless every other option is exhausted. And planes never get that full. In the very slim chance that somebody does take the middle seat, the couple make an offer to the single person: swap that middle seat for either aisle. Only an idiot would refuse.
Best case scenario: the devious duo get an entire row to themselves. Worst case scenario: they sit next to each other, in two seats. You know, like everyone else.
Like geckos, lunch meat, and white people with dreadlocks, this strategy really annoys me. It rewards conniving folks while regular people get screwed. During a nine-hour layover in Bangkok, I devised a way to throw a wrench into the works.
I ran over to the American Airlines counter where a clerk who looked like Amy Winehouse in a polyester uniform finally deigned to look at me. "I need to change seats," I said. "Is there a row where the two aisle seats are taken but the middle is available?" She shot me a curious glare, like this was the one question she hadn't heard a million times before. She flipped through some screens on her computer before announcing that roughly a hundred and forty rows fit this criterion.
I told her to pick one at random and stick me in the middle, and when the flight boarded, some five hours later, my fingers were crossed and my new boarding pass was clutched to my chest. Spotting the matched pair of hetero, thirtyish white people on both ends of my row, I knew I'd hit pay dirt.
I shoved my oversized bag into the overhead compartment and stepped over the man's legs into the middle seat. In my peripheral vision I noticed him shooting me an irritated look, but I ignored it and grabbed the Sky Mall magazine. I was just about to buy a baseball cap that cures baldness when the inevitable question came. "Hey, you want to swap seats with me?" the guy asked. "That way you can sit on the aisle, and I can sit next to my wife."
I shrugged. "I'm cool," I said, flipping to the next page in my magazine and spotting a toaster you can use underwater. "I like being the meat in a hot-couple sandwich," I added with a wink. I pulled a bag of peanut M&Ms out of my pocket and tossed a handful into my mouth, then choked like my throat hadn't been expecting food. "You two having a fight or something?" I asked, feigning cluelessness. "Well, maybe I can cheer you up. Look at these drawings I did of Spock and Captain Kirk making out."
Whatever the opposite of a high-five is, these two were doing it. "We'd really appreciate it if you'd switch with one of us," the wife said. "Sixteen hours is a long time to fly without talking."
"I'll relay anything you want to tell your hubby," I said. "Even your naughtiest thoughts." I moved my face about four inches from hers and inhaled deep, though my nose didn't register anything other than the half-cup of Paco Rabanne "One Million" I'd doused myself with at Duty-Free. "Besides, it looks like you enjoy rubbing up against strangers. Unless something else wore off all the God-given hair on your arms?"
I'd barely gotten the words out when the woman switched off her overhead light, slapped on an eye mask, and feigned sleep. Hubby quickly followed suit. With his tousled hair and strong jaw, he actually wasn't bad looking, though everybody looks better with a Fu Manchu. "I'll be cool!" I yelled at him after earplugs went in. "I can climb over you if I need to. Or, you know, if I want to get out."
They simultaneously disappeared beneath blankets and I knew for the next sixteen hours that would be that. Swapping Sky Mall for a copy of Real Simple, I congratulated myself. They'd never try that little ploy again, I thought. I'd taught them an important lesson. And in the end, I'd probably improved their vacation, because what is travel about unless it's finding out what the rest of the world is like?
Friday, November 23, 2012
Frankly, we were blindsided by the uproar. We know Americans like a bargain, which is why Wal-Mart is the number-one shopping destination in this great land. But we were totally taken aback when literally thousands of people turned up at every single Wal-Mart store to buy a full ounce of primo Lebanese weed for just ninety-nine cents. We knew our customers would be excited by the prospect of premium high-class pussy for $3.99, but we never could have guessed that it'd attract virtually every man who owns a baseball cap in these fifty states.
We wouldn't have believed it if we hadn't seen the videos on YouTube along with two million other shocked Americans.
I mean, it's not like we're clueless. We learned our lesson last year, when we offered 52" TVs for $79 and eighteen unlucky, slow-moving grandmas were trampled so flat they could have been slid under the doors of their funeral homes. Never again will we offer a big-screen TV for under a hundred dollars, we promised. We didn't want to disappoint our loyal shoppers, though, so this year we decided to offer the primo combo of weed and pussy and give you change back from a five.
There's absolutely no way we could have anticipated the reaction.
Sure, we knew it was a bargain, but we were confident that people would wait quietly in line while drinking their frappuccinos until the doors opened, whereupon they'd file inside and casually stroll over to the appropriate department with fingers crossed that they'd be one of the first twelve. We had absolutely no idea that in virtually every location impatient shoppers would smash through the locked glass doors the second they caught sight of the half-naked hookers huffing on enormous doobies inside.
Now, though, I can say we've definitely learned our lesson. We promise that the mayhem we saw this morning will never happen again. And to our faithful Wal-Mart shoppers, we'll make it up to you. We're already planning next year's Black Friday specials, and if you like Oxycodone or sloppy blowjobs you'll want to put us on your shopping list.