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on the Road!
by Mad Dog
youre not already having a hard enough time converting currency exchange rates in
your head ("If six francs equals one dollar, than how many ounces are in a pound
|| A professor at
Germanys University of Erlangen says he has research to prove that after just five
days on vacation "the IQ has dropped by 5 percent and after three weeks by 20
percent." I, for one, believe it.
Having recently taken a trip to Europe I feel Im in a position to verify this. Away
for only 18 days, I had to take three refresher courses when I got back, one in English,
one in math, and one in telling time. The last one wasnt really my fault, nor was it
the result of the IQ plunge the esteemed Professor Lehrl discovered. It actually happened
because all the time zones around the world make my head spin.
It sure would be a lot easier if we just
got rid of them. Doing that would save us from spending our first three days of vacation
converting the time so we can rationalize why we think its dinnertime at 1 AM and
bedtime at sunrise because "its really 10 oclock at home."
Like youre not already having a hard
enough time converting currency exchange rates in your head ("If six francs equals
one dollar, than how many ounces are in a pound today?"). Its sure going to be
nice when they phase in the Eurodollar. Finally we wont have to worry about changing
one set of money that doesnt fit in our wallet for another as we travel through
Europe. Now if theyd only switch to Eurotime along with it wed be in heaven.
Well, assuming heavens a member of the European Union.
Part of the problem is airplanes. Not only
do they warp your sense of time and space by getting you somewhere quickly, but they
deliberately try to reset your internal clock to a time that didnt exist before.
Like 13 o clock.
The pilot gets a round of applause usually reserved for the times he lands the plane with
only one wing intact and one engine working. In pilots lingo, this is a good crowd.
|| Heres a little
quiz for you: If an airplane leaves London at 2:45 PM heading for San Francisco flying at
an altitude of 31,000 feet, why would they think it appropriate to serve dinner an hour
later when its neither dinnertime in London nor in San Francisco, but rather
somewhere in mainland China? This would almost make sense if they were serving Kung Pao
Chicken, but what you actually get is a choice of Beeflike Substance in Brown-Colored
Sauce or Salmon-Tinged Chalk in Goopy Red Stuff. At least they dont call it
This may go a long way
towards explaining why airplane passengers act the way they do. They bring enough bags on
board to keep a Third World nation in clothes for a year. They wrap inflatable half
doughnuts around their necks pretending it will be comfortable enough to help them sleep
sitting up in the middle of the day. And they think that just because youre trapped
in a seat next to them and have to ask nicely every time you want to go to the bathroom
that you want to see pictures of their grandchildren with varying amounts of drool on
their chin, none under 3 quarts.
But none of this helps explain why it is
that when the pilot announces the plane will be delayed because theyre trying to get
enough water pressure so we can use the bathroom during a 10-hour flight no one seems to
notice, being totally absorbed in the joys of the duty-free catalog, this being their last
chance to buy more perfume for grandma that shell never wear. Yet a couple of
minutes later when that same pilot says the temperature in San Francisco is in the upper
60sa full 25 degrees warmer than it is in Parishe gets a round of
applause usually reserved for the times he lands the plane with only one wing intact and
one engine working. In pilots lingo, this is a good crowd.
I know her names probably Heather or Tracey or Amber, but they make everyone who
clears tables in that cafe wear that name tag because as tourists we expect a hefty woman
clearing tables in Prague to be named Olga.
|| So how do we lose those
IQ points when we go on vacation? According to Professor Lehrl, its because so many
of us spend our vacations lying around on the beach or going on package tours that are as
mind numbing as watching TV. But face it, most people go on vacation to relax, and that
includes relaxing their brain. If you want to expand your horizons youll sit home
and watch the Discovery Channel until your eyeballs look like supernovas. Or quasars. I
forget which, but Im sure after the 36th straight hour youd not only know the
difference but be prepared to discuss it with Stephen Hawking.
The truth is, people want to get away. Its nice to explore. It feels good to be
somewhere different, particularly if its in a country where you dont speak the
language, because that way you dont know that everyones having the same
old stale, boring, insipid conversations about the weather, the souvenirs, and how
ridiculous it is that the ice cream cones cost so much. Instead you can listen to the
unusual cadence of their language and pretend theyre discussing philosophy, Proust,
and the intricacies of world politics. Face it, "I wonder where theres a
bathroom I can use without having to buy a soda" sounds infinitely more interesting
in Swedish when you dont understand the language.
Besides, people in other countries work
hard trying to give us the most for our tourist dollar, the least we can do is enjoy it.
Im sitting in a cafe in Prague watching a classically heavyset Eastern Bloc
ex-womans shotput champion clear a table. Her name tag says "Olga". I know
her names probably Heather or Tracey or Amber, but they make everyone who clears
tables in that cafe wear that name tag because as tourists we expect a hefty woman
clearing tables in Prague to be named Olga. Image is important, even in ex-communist
Is this being sexist, xenophobic, and rude?
Nah. I can say things like this because Im American. Im loud, brash,
obnoxious, and opinionated. And Im on vacation, remember? According to Professor
Lehrl that means Im a few IQ points shy of a good exchange rate. But thats
okay, Ill take a refresher course in etiquette when I get back home.
©1998 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
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