(Originally Posted on neobuggy.net back in 2009)
Travelling is the worst invention since Christmas music and decorations. Both are enough to make you physically sick! I have done a fair share of travelling in the recent years, and don’t get me wrong, I feel extremely lucky, that even as a tall silly looking student that can hardly pay the rent each month, I have been given the great opportunity to race RC cars all around the world. Seeing new places, learning about different cultures by meeting new people, that’s one of the best parts of this great hobby of ours. BUT, it’s the getting to all these places, and then getting home that’s a real pain in the posterior. If you have not, seriously, contemplated suicide, thought about how to open the emergency exit door on the plane for example, you have not travelled enough. In my best/worst travelling spree, I raced in 4 different countries, on 3 different continents, 6 weekends out of 7, and the countries were Finland, Italy, USA and Indonesia. After the final flight back from USA I was ready to become a monk and spend the rest of my days in solitude on some quiet mountain in Tibet.
Being cramped in a long aluminium tube with no legroom for way too long is annoying enough, but usually that’s not even the main problem. It’s everything else. It’s the connecting flights, the oversized or overweight baggage, it’s the endlessly annoying tourists with their shirts tucked into their khaki shorts which are pulled up to their armpits and their ludicrous looking socks in their sandles, it’s the transmitter and RC car that look like tactical nuclear devices, it’s the dealing with airport staff that have been selected due to the reason that they have no manners or humour, and have never heard of “common sense”.
Let’s start at the beginning, checking in. I have become somewhat of a legend in the aviation industry. I have the world record for lost luggage. Somehow, the airport staff has managed to lose my luggage on a direct 3 hour flight. This to me is incredible! Absolutely incredible! Another time, instead of my bags going Helsinki-Copenhagen-Bangkok-Jakarta, one bag, and obviously the one I needed the most, went Helsinki-Copenhagen-Paris-Moscow-Singapore-Jakarta, then sat there for a day or two, and then they brought it to me.
Another interesting case, was when I went to Italy for a race. I lost all my bags. I only had my transmitter and my car, but I managed to win the race. I had to borrow everything, but somehow that translated into a brilliant race. The bags arrived at my hotel about 20min before the A-main. They had been in Italy since Friday night, or Saturday morning, but I couldn’t get them, because no one knew exactly where they were, because the delivery guy had taken them, and they didn’t deliver bags on Saturdays.
Two things that make travelling a lot harder than it needs to be, are facist nations when it comes to airports, rules and regulations, and stupid people. Stupid people can be found everywhere, at airports all over the world, but so far, my list of facist nations include, France, Great Britain and the Unites States of America. The airport personnel in these countries are selected, as in other countries, based on their personality, manners and level of intelligence. If they have any one of these, they don’t get the job. But in these 3 nations, the people must be groomed from an early age into the robotic like no-compromise super-rude staff where the words “common sense” isn’t included in their vocabulary.
Let me give you a few examples. In the UK, only one hand luggage is allowed per passenger. Once I had two, and did not manage to smuggle them past the 10 security officers. I said look, this other one is so small it would fit inside the other one. “You are only allowed one bag sir”. But look how small this is! “You are only allowed one bag sir”. What if I put the small one inside the big one? “You are only allowed one bag sir”. So I jammed the smaller bag into the big one, went through security, and then took it out again afterwards.
USA has the most ridiculous immigration of any country I have ever visited. On my second visit to USA I got into trouble because I didn’t have an address for where I was staying. It just so happened that Paul Coleman was picking me up, which spiced things up nicely. I said my friend is picking me up, and I don’t have an address: “We need your address sir”. I said I don’t have it. “We need your address sir”. I said how about I just make one up, you don’t check anyway. “We need your address sir, the real one where you are staying.” But you have no way of checking, so why don’t I just write anything, you wont know anyway, can’t you see how the system is flawed. “Please step back sir, I will call someone to deal with you.” A lady arrived and it turns out I needed an address or I would be sent back to Finland. I was going to write one I just invented, but was told that if I lie, I would be put in prison. So instead I said I would call Paul. I was not allowed to call anyone. The lady asked if Paul was waiting for me outside, and what he looked like. I replied: “Yes, Paul is the biggest black man out there.” That didn’t help my case at all I tell you! I spent the next hour waiting for them to contact Paul, and get an address. In the end, Paul gave them the wrong one by accident, as he had recently moved. LOL, nice one!
France has the worst designed airport in the world, with Charles de Gaulle in Paris. No wonder they keep losing luggage in that maze. Also, the staff there will not compromise in anything, in any way. It is amazing. If your luggage is 200 grams overweight, you will have to remove a t-shirt and wear it. This is how stupid some people are. The t-shirt will still be going on the same plane…oh well.
Also, does it not strike you as a little bit odd, that you can’t carry a bottle of water onto a plane, or some nail clippers, but you can carry a mobile phone, or a RC car transmitter, no problem, both of which are devices that could easily be used to trigger bombs or other nasty stuff. I just find it hard to imagine someone trying to hijack a plane with a pair of nail-clippers or a bottle of milk. Last time I flew to Hong Kong, I had to buy some batteries for my mp3 player. The package was specially sealed with some tape, with the text: “Do not open until you have exited European Airspace” You have got to be joking. Who invented this BS? Are they seriously trying to tell me that there are people that would kindly wait, and ask the stewardess when it would be ok to open the pack of batteries? No wonder the world is so messed up when people are so dim-witted that they can invent something as ridiculous as that law.
Here’s my top 3 list of advice how to deal with stupidity and facism at airports:
1. Never be honest if there is even the slightest risk of a stupid member of staff being able to make your life miserable because of it. I once made a huge mistake, I blame it on me being tired. I was asked if I had anything fragile in my luggage. I said yes. Mistake number 1. Next I was asked if there was a bottle inside and I said “Yes, two.” As soon as I said that I felt like punching myself in the face. NEVER give extra information at airports. Turns out, only one bottle was allowed. The lady checked the weight of the bag, and said, go take it out, and come back, I expect the bag to be lighter when you return.” I went round the corner, and took my toolbox and packed it in my other bag that she didn’t weigh. Then I went back and said I didn’t have any bottles anymore.
2. In 3rd world countries, or developing countries, whatever they should be called, usually the airport staff get a monthly salary of a couple of handfuls of rice, and a small bag of peanuts. This is why, if there is something that you need, for example lounge access, it can usually be arranged by paying the doorman what to you is a couple of BigMac meals, but to him is half his monthly salary. This is a good thing to keep in mind. Its not that these countries are any more corrupt than western countries, it’s just that you can make things happen with less money. Let me give you an example. Staff in an airport lounge in Finland, will not let you into the lounges if you don’t have a business class ticket or a membership card of the correct level. If you offer to pay 20 euros they will not budge, because 20 euros is not worth it in Finland. But if you offered, say 750 euros, they would definitely take the situation a bit more seriously. See what I mean?
3. One of the favourite pastimes of facists at airports, is to charge innocent passengers 300 euros per milligram of overweight luggage. There are a number of ways to negotiate your way out of these tricky situations, or to avoid them in the first place. First of all, try and distract the person checking you in. If you are flying home from a race, put any possible trophy on the desk while looking for your passport, that always helps. Ask if the flight is full, how long it is, if there are any exit row seats, if everyone has a TV. Keep talking, then always put the lightest bag first, because sometimes they make the mistake of sending it on its way because it seems insignificant, and if they do, they cant get it back, and you can claim it only weighed 1kg, and they cant do anything. When putting the heaviest bag on the conveyor belt, place it so some of the weight is supported by your knee, or the side railing or whatever. If everything fails, and they charge you with 1758 euros of overweight luggage, next step is to stay calm and explain the situation. Dig out all the money you have, which in my case is usually somewhere between 20-40 euros, also pile the change on the counter, explain that you really want to get home, and there’s nothing you can leave behind. To this day it has always worked. Pure genius. Oh and never ever go to a desk with an old lady, or someone that is new, and still wearing a “Training” badge.
Travelling with RC equipment can be a hassle, but so far I have only once been forced to check my hand luggage in. It was in Paris, after I was able to deny, and prove wrong all their accusations of explosive gasses and dangerous substances; I had to check the bag in, because the car had a “metal part”, which was the rear shock tower. At this point I gave up. I asked if I should also check in my key, so I wouldn’t be able to poke someone’s eye out with it, but my key was ok, as was my 30cm long steel ruler.
Preparation is key, try to travel with a clean car, and remove the fuel tank and tubing, and the battery from the transmitter. Then carry the car and transmitter in hand luggage. There shouldn’t be a problem.
Here are a few examples of silly questions, and even sillier answers. I use these on a regular basis, so I know they work.
“What is this, does it run on petrol?”
– It’s an electric RC car, but I have removed all electrical components
“What is this thing that looks like a pipe?”
– It’s is just there to make it look more realistic, that’s the cooling fins for the speed controller.(pointing to the cooling head) But the batteries aren’t here.
“What is this, do you use this to control the car?”
Yes, but it doesn’t work, it needs a power supply, but I don’t have it here
Here’s my top 5 list of JQ’s travel Disasters
1. Getting food poisoning a few hours before boarding a 14h flight from LA to somewhere in Europe. I puked the first time on take off, filled 2 bags, and then puked every 2 hours for the rest of the flight. I felt the worst I have ever felt. I gained high respect for people that have managed to battle serious illnesses for a long time, and not lost hope. I was ready to slit my wrists after 6 hours or so. I also had a huge burn from a monster truck pipe, which I got at the Dirt Nitro Challenge when Jeremy Kortz chucked a flamed out truck at me, and I conveniently caught it on the pipe. I wonder what the stewardesses thought of me, vomiting all over the place, sleeping on the floor, with a bleeding arm with a patch of skin the size of a 1:10th scale rim missing.
2. Having a 9 hour layover in Delhi India, from 2am to 11am, and realising I’m not allowed to go to a hotel because I don’t have a visa! I ended up bribing a lounge officer and got into a lounge where I set up camp on a sofa.
3. Missing a connecting flight in Athens, going to a hotel to sleep for 2 hours, getting back to the airport, falling asleep on the plane, waking up in MACEDONIA. Wondering what the HELL I’m doing in Macedonia, continuing on to Finland a few hours later.
4. Missing a flight, by literally 1 minute. I ran through the most stupid airport in the world, in Germany, which is built like a long snake, and is something like 10 miles from and to end, and that’s of course the distance I had to cover, in about three minutes. I reached the gate, all the staff were there, the plane was there, the tube to the aircraft was there, I thought great, I made it. “Sorry sir, boarding is over.” what do you mean, the plane is still there! “You are one minute late sir, I’m sorry, please contact our ticketing desk and they will provide you with a hotel for the night. Yeah right, 1 minute late, I bet if Brad Pitt was 1 minute late he would have signed an autograph for the lady and she would have torn the damn ticket and used the machine that beeps on it, and he would have been on his way home.
5. Flying halfway on a 4 hour flight, then hearing the announcement: “This is the captain speaking, unfortunately we will have to turn back due to a small problem with the starboard engine control system. We apologise for this inconvenience.” Before the plane took off, it was delayed 20 minutes because apparently there was a mark on a tyre, which had to be checked by a supervisor. That’s the biggest load of manure I have ever heard. It was obvious even then that something was up. I guess they were trying to decide if they should risk flying with a sketchy engine or not. Then once halfway they decided its cheaper to fly back because otherwise they will have to send the needed equipment to Athens to fix the POS.
Of course there have been wonderful acts of generosity and humanity shown by airport staff, and flight crew, and sometimes unexpectedly nice events have taken place, and many thanks to those who made it happen, but what’s the fun in writing about that? Hehe.