The Traveling Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Pantus Unfortunatus And Other Advice From The Road

June 3, 2010

For Wednesday, June 2, 2010, written after changing trains in Chicago

When traveling, consider modesty and comfort. Style is secondary, although I always try. • Advice from a friend who travels around the world with a small carry-on while looking quite spiffy

Sadly, there are people who need to take my friend’s advice. I know because I’ve seen them sleeping with their backcrack shining into the aisle and their sleepytime nipslips greeting the passing throng on the way to the dining car. Lowcut pants and deep cleavage are not advisable when you’re traveling coach unless you’ve brought a big blanket and can be assured that it will remain atop you. This might be an untapped market for the Snuggie®.

Other inadvisable attire includes visible thong underwear and pants so sheer you might as well not be wearing them. Ditto anything so tight that all the behindness those behind you don’t want to imagine is brought to life by the living color of your pantus unfortunatus.

I saw such pants in Chicago on a person who should have known better. Her or his traveling companions, and there were several of them, could have mirrored the rearview. I don’t know why they didn’t. The pants were shorts. Short shorts. The pants were yellow. Bright yellow. Really bright yellow. Really bright and really tight and really short yellow. Transparent skin on a banana. Enough said. I chose to turn my head away from the sight and now I turn my mind to other things. Like other advice.

When dining on the train in the earshot of other people who are hoping to enjoy their meal, do not discuss medical procedures in colorful detail. Lemon sorbet and the three feet removed from your colon are not complementary, nor is it advisable to share the unfortunate state your brother-in-law found himself in following an unexpected encounter with a chain saw. We’re all glad he made it, but we don’t want to picture the gore you describe as we eat our medium rare steaks. Yum.

This advice applies any time you are eating in public. My husband and I have had to get up and move many times when the restaurant conversation of people seated near us has turned to various procedures and operations, lovingly described in a one-upping competition of disgusting awfulness. And mamas? Birth is not pretty. Save this talk for the baby shower, before the honoree arrives.

Just about everything else I could say has already been said by those much more clever than I: don’t sing along with your small pocket audio device, curb your children’s enthusiasm, talk to your mother on your cell phone in soft and soothing tones, and don’t take up more than your share of the seatspace. And one final piece of advice: all those cords attached to your electronics? Don’t let them lurk in the aisles waiting to trip and trap other travelers. This is not amusing.

What’s your advice for travelers? OR What’s the worst case of pantus unfortunatus you’ve ever seen? (No names, please; protect the if-not-innocent—at least those who’ve already been embarrassed enough.)

I dress to amuse. I think of myself as a traveling clown, just hoping to bring a smile to someone’s face. • Overheard in Los Angeles’s Union Station, 2009, from a man dressed in bright orange trousers, red converse with purple socks showing between the high-tops and the jauntily-rolled up trou, a bad plaid seventies jacket with exceedingly generous lapels and those waist high vents that create a such a charming backflap, a flowered tie, and a multi-colored striped shirt. His floppy straw hat had a red, white, and blue striped band. Many buttons were pinned to those wide lapels, but I had to get in line for a seat and didn’t get a chance to sidle closer and read them.


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