By Jim Hunt
When I began traveling many years ago, one of the main things I focused on was not to embarrass myself. As I walked through airports, everyone seemed to know exactly where they were going and what to do. I would fumble at the gates, trying to find my ticket or my ID and look at the people behind me, rolling their eyes at this rookie traveler. Even getting to the airport was a challenge. I would be in a taxi and watch the meter run up to more than all the cash I had in my wallet. All in all, travel is stressful and for someone who never set foot on a plane until I was twenty years old, the risk of doing something stupid, was always lurking in the background.
One of the most embarrassing things I ever did was on a flight across the country to Phoenix, Arizona. I had just bought a pair of Bluetooth earphones to use with my iPhone and had not used them before getting on the flight. I put them in my ears and put on my favorite Beatles album to enjoy the four-hour flight. The technology was new at the time, and I was not sure how loud they would be. I noticed my seatmate giving me a strange look and occasionally, someone from across the aisle would look over with a look of disgust on their face. After enjoying my music for about twenty minutes, the flight attendant came over to me and asked if I would use earphones to listen to my music. It was then that I realized that the iPhone had not connected with the earphones and my music was being blasted out to anyone in earshot of my seat. Needless to say, I was one of the most embarrassed people on the plane.
Hotels were also a source of potential embarrassment. I had several experiences that left me red-faced, including getting locked out of my room, when I moved the room service cart, outside my room. The door locked behind me and there I was, barefoot and dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, in a fancy hotel in Washington, DC. I made my way to the front desk and told the clerk what I had done. He wouldn’t give me a key without identification, and I had to wait while he found someone to walk me to my room to retrieve my wallet, to verify who I was. I could feel the eyes of everyone in the lobby, secretly laughing at this country bumpkin.
Credit cards were a cause for concern for a young guy on a limited income. I would always check my balance and make sure I had enough credit to cover my expected charges. I was on a trip and had to go to two different cities and when I went to check in to the second hotel, my credit card was declined. I went into a panic and assured the clerk that I had enough credit left on my card to cover the charges. When I told him that the card was good at the other hotel, the night before, he smiled and told me that the hotel puts a “hold” on a larger amount than the expected bill and that was probably why it was now declined. He asked me to step to the side so he could check in the other guests and then I could call the credit card company to explain the situation. While I worked it out, I felt like the biggest deadbeat in the world.
For a math challenged guy, tipping would give me fits. I would either miscalculate and tip ten dollars on a fifteen-dollar bill or hand a bellman one dollar to see him still holding out his hand until I dug through my wallet for a five. I finally would go to the bank and get fifty, one-dollar bills and start passing them out like Monopoly money as I walked through the hotel.
I’ve finally realized that embarrassment is part of travel and to just dive in and learn to laugh at yourself. You can never know everything that you need to know, and you can rest easy that there are thousands of other people, out on the road, that are at least as embarrassed as you