We Reserve The Right: Cologne, Germany

People often ask me how I like living in Germany. “It is,” I say with characteristic melodrama, “a mixed bag.” In terms of purchasing power, middle-class Germans would qualify in America as poor. Just one typical example: my wife and I are professionals and we have a combined income that is quite respectable and yet purchasing and paying for the operating costs of a clothing dryer remains a dream for us. In the meantime, we hang out clothes to dry.

But for every advantage of life in America, there seems to be a counterexample in Germany. Perhaps the biggest difference is the unbridled power of trial-lawyers in the U.S. America is the most litigious society in the history of the world. Individuals and businesses are forced to constantly look over their shoulder for the next lawsuit to come down the pike. How refreshing, then, to live much of each year in a place where trial lawyers know their place.

For example, in Germany it’s understood that you don’t lose your rights when you become a business owner. Take this guy, for example. I hear some say “He has a right to wear whatever he wants on a plane.” But what about U.S. Airways’ rights? True, U.S. Airways probably lacks the courage – much less the good PR sense – to turn him away. But commonsense suggests that individual rights – of which you’ll not find a bigger fan then me – are often in conflict. American culture essentially says “Screw the rights of the other 200 people on the plane – it’s the rights of this guy we’re going to honor.”

How refreshing, then, to see signs like this unabashedly displayed outside some German establishments. There is no gnashing of teeth, no rending of garments, no trial lawyer with flashing camera bulbs in tow. Just an acknowledgement that kooks don’t have a monopoly on rights.

The Coffee Machine Is Out Of Order? I’m Out Of Order!

Dear XXXXX XXXXXXXXX (name of cruise line redacted) – I want to personally apologize for the coffee machine being out of order. I was completely out of line and give you my word that I won’t again do… whatever it was that I did.

It wasn’t until I read the “Out Of Order” sign that I understood the gravity of my nebulous misdeed. As one of your loyal customers I have a special responsibility to ensure that your coffee machine – indeed, everything on the ship – is operating smoothly.

Speaking of which, I took the liberty of repairing the security cameras in the ceiling of the buffet. I am aware that historically one expects to find cruise ship security cameras only at the front desk, the casino and possibly the shower of my cabin. But in today’s day and age when large white males are routinely seen drinking gravy directly from the ladle, I’m sure you appreciate my proactive approach.

As long as I have your ear, I want to express my appreciation that my stateroom t.v. has both a front-of-the-ship and a back-of-the-ship channel. I even watch them at night. Personally, I find the back-of-the-ship channel a little too stimulating but I appreciate having both options.

As one who lives on “the passenger street”, there are certain trends I’ve noticed and I believe I possess certain insights that will enhance your product.

First, a suggestion for the photography department: I think pictures of ugly people should cost less money than the other photographs. Develop some kind of sliding-scale fee.

Also, I have noticed that there are two types of passengers onboard: those who understand that there will always be another elevator and those who act as if the elevator is the last helicopter leaving Vietnam. Given the extreme reluctance of passengers to use the stairs, I humbly suggest that you experiment with lacing the stairwells with bacon.

I’m sure you know that as a guest entertainer, I am guaranteed an outside cabin. However, the one I am situated in currently is particularly windy. Can this issue be resolved? (My cabin steward, on the other hand, is fantastic! He’s from India and each night when I return to my stateroom, right there in the middle of my pillow… is a dollop of chicken curry. At least I think it’s curry – then again I do sleep in the nude with a pillow between my legs. Anyway, it’s yummy).

One more thing: the foghorn is loud! I think even other ships can hear it. Please look into this.

Thank you for your time and again, my sincere apologies for the inconvenience.

– David Deeble

Public Service Announcements – Mumbai, India

Did you now that while under British rule Bombay was known as “The Queen’s Necklace”? If that’s the case, I can only say that the King clearly did NOT go to Jared.

Let’s face it: Bombay is a dump. Changing its name to “Mumbai” won’t change that. If cleanliness is really next to Godliness then Godliness isn’t in the same hemisphere as Bombay.

Don’t get me wrong – the people are wonderful. During my stay I was honored to be given the key to the city. It was a busted rat trap, but still…

I must admit it’s a bit odd, though, that even the anti-littering public service announcements look as if they were flushed down the toilet, removed from the sewer and then hastily re-pasted to the billboard. But this is impossible, as Bombay has no sewers.

Life’s riddles!

Helpful Buffet Signs – Celebrity Cruises

Nothing says “We’re here to help” like buffet signs that give the names of entrèes in English, Spanish and French. This photo provides an excellent example. Did you know that the delicious Indian dish Aloo Bonda, for example, is called “Aloo Bonda” in Spanish? The French refer to it as “Aloo Bonda”. Here in the English-speaking world, of course, it’s just “Aloo Bonda.”

If it weren’t for the English translations, frankly, I’d be completely lost. How can I be expected to know that the hyper-sophisticated-sounding “Duck l’Orange” is nothing more than duck l’Orange? That “Chicken Kiev” is really just run-of-the-mill chicken Kiev? That the exotic-sounding “Pizza” is nothing more than commonplace pizza? It’s enough to make you feel continental!

Using this helpful system I was able to ascertain the meaning of such items as sushi, chicken parmesan and sauerkraut.

Modern Day Pirates – Gulf Of Aden

Nothing says “luxury cruise” like a gorgeous ship, exotic ports, world-class cuisine and lengths of barbed wire for fending off Somali pirates.

If you watch CNN, FOX or any of the major tv networks, you know that pirates are once again a fact of life – especially on slow news days.

Coming face-to-face with a pirate is every cruise vacationer’s worst nightmare: one moment you’re embracing your spouse at the black-and-white ball and the next thing you know you’ve got more than a little Captain Morgan in you.

With that in mind, it’s important to pay attention during the Emergency Lifeboat Drill at the very beginning of your cruise. Learn and memorize the basics: Four blasts of the ship’s whistle? Man overboard. Two short blasts followed by one long blast? Go immediately to your muster stations. Three short blasts? Johnny Depp.

The vessel in this photograph features a sophisticated, multi-tiered security system for fending off pirates. Barbed wire is only the outermost obstacle: pirates must also overcome a well-trained security team, shoulder-mounted rocket launchers and limited buffet service after two a.m.

The worst-case scenario is that you, an innocent traveler, will come face to face with a pirate. So what should we do with a drunken sailor? Whatever you do, be conciliatory. Congratulate him on the United Nation’s official recognition of “Talk Like A Pirate Day.” Share with him your dream that the pirate diaspora will one day come together and form a single nation where rape, pillaging and plunder are officially sanctioned (i.e., Yemen).

If all else fails, buy him a rum-based beverage and check with the cruise line to see if poolside bingo has been moved inside because of the rain.

Liquid Dispensers – Ensenada, Mexico

Dear Hotel Motel Colon – When I first learned the name of your, ahem, motel – from my travel documents, I thought “These are people with a sense of humor.” I am referring, of course, both to the name of your motel and the people who booked my travel.

I want you to know that I appreciate the fact that you stock every shower in every room of your, ahem, motel with a dispenser containing three… liquids of some kind. Other establishments might be tempted to label each liquid – “shampoo”, “conditioner” and “body wash”, for example. But you seem to intuitively understand that guessing what I’m rubbing all over my body is half the fun.

Am I washing my hair with body scrub? Am I rubbing conditioner all over my skin? Is one of these actually a skin lotion for use after the shower? I take comfort in knowing that you have the answers – because I sure as hell don’t.

I also appreciate that by resisting the temptation to label each liquid you help to keep costs down for your guests. If I want luxuries such as fresh towels, clean sheets or a clue as to what I’m rubbing onto my noggin, I can always splurge and stay at a Motel 6.

Outsourcing – Kotor, India

Let’s face it – millions of American jobs are being outsourced to India. Whether it’s customer support, manufacturing or textiles, Indians are increasingly doing the work once performed with pride by Americans. Take the snake charming industry, for example.

No one disputes that Americans can charm the sock off a snake. (If anything, it’s putting the snake in the sock where we don’t compete globally, but that’s another sector of the economy altogether). And American consumers know the telltale signs of an inferior snake charmer: multiple snake bites, crude marionettes in place of real cobras, etc.) The issue is not is quality, it is cost: how many Americans can be expected to earn a living wage mesmerizing snakes when millions of Indians will gladly do so at a fraction of the wage?

It’s not enough to “Buy American”. As a matter of principle, I hire exclusively Americans for all of my snake-charming needs. But that makes little difference when the flute parts are made in Bangalore, assembled in Mumbai and the snake is imported from God-knows-where-istan.

Restroom Icons – Venice, Italy

Who doesn’t love Italy? Delicious food, world-class wine, open and engaging people – and such pronounced male peacockery that men require twice as many restrooms as women. And what about  that sign on the lower right? Does it mean there are restrooms for men, women and the handicapped in that direction? Or does it mean there is wheelchair access to the wedding chapel?

And why must the wheelchair on these signs always be so wildly-out-of-scale with its’ occupant? It’s huge, as if it’s the wheelchair version of the very first bicycles. Same thing for the Antebellum, Gone-With-The-Wind maternity skirt the female icon is always wearing. And where are her arms? Sure, it’s only an icon, yet that didn’t prevent the male icon from having arms. What gives? Maybe her arms are obscured because she’s holding down her Wimbledon-roof skirt, alà Marilyn Monroe in that famous photograph. Yet if anyone seems to be standing over a street vent it’s the male icon – notice the shoulder-width stance.