There and back again.

So this is my 2nd and last night in beautiful downtown......Brooklyn, I think?

Brooklyn, Ohio. Yeah, I think that sounds right. As far as I can tell, it consists of a Friday's restaurant, a business park and a Hampton Inn. The latter location is where I am currently fighting with the heating/cooling unit and listening to the train rumble past, roughly 3 feet from my window.

Other than that, I have very few problems with my room. It's superficially clean, which is about all you can realistically hope for, the water pressure in the shower is decent, and while there was a very suspect half-inch brown smear on the front edge of the toilet seat, the rest of the bathroom is spotless. I cleaned the smear off with a washcloth and tossed it into the garbage can.

I'm sitting here listening to Wilco and wondering what to write about. I'm working on about combined seven hours of sleep over the last two days, so if none of this makes sense, I apologize in advance. I think I'll just tell you a little about my trip.

The toilet issue above makes me think that so far, this trip seems germier than most. Maybe my germaphobic tendencies are getting worse, or maybe people are just becoming more disgusting over time, but this trip seems worse than normal for some reason. Some of it was even self-inflicted, but I'll get to that in a bit.

It all started with the button on the ticket machine at the long-term airport parking garage. I pulled my car up, rolled my window down and reached out to push the button when I realized that there was something blobby and kind of red smeared on it. I'm not sure what it was. I am sure I don't ever want to know. For my sanity, I am calling it strawberry jelly. It helps me sleep better at night. I pushed the bare edge of the button and took my ticket with a shudder. After I parked the car, I walked to the terminal and picked up my boarding pass.

My next airport run-in was with the licky lady. She was stationed at the security check, sitting up on her little stool, looking over the top of her cats-eye glasses that were perched precariously on the tip of her nose. "Boarding pass and ID, please," she said, holding out one latex glove-covered hand. I handed her both the boarding pass and my driver's license.

If you've ever picked up your boarding pass via one of the kiosks, you know they dispense them on thermal paper, which is very, very thin. Apparently, too thin to separate from the folder easily. You know what makes it easier? Giving a good, solid lick to your filthy, rubber-clad finger with your knobbly old tongue first.

She wrote something on my boarding pass with her pen and then held up my license for inspection.

"Second row on the left," she said, handing me back my license and boarding pass. I could still see the little glistening spitspots drying on my license. I wrapped it in the boarding pass and tried to forget about it as I bent to take off my shoes.

I tossed them into one of the buckets, grabbed another one for my laptop and pulled all the crap out of my pockets. The guy in front of me was doing the same. I tossed my backpack on the conveyor belt.

"Do you have any gels, liquids or creams?" the security guard working the X-ray machine asked the guy in front of me.

"Yes, just the normal shampoo and toothpaste-type stuff," he answered.

"Can you remove it from your bag, please?" the security guard asked.

The man pulled a clear ziplock bag from his duffle. The security guard poked at it, and then spotted something.

He rooted around in the guy's bag for a second, then pulled out an extra-large tube of Preparation H with a 3-inch nozzle.

"The limit on tubes and bottles is 3.4 ounces," he said, holding it up. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to confiscate this."

The guy didn't argue. I think he just wanted to toss himself into the gears of the x-ray machine and call it a day. At least his ass wouldn't hurt any more. The rest of the ziploc bag passed through the machine without incident. The guy was so flustered, he left his laptop in the bucket and I had to point it out to him.

I was next.

"Do you have any gels, liquids or creams?"

"Uh, yes," I said. "Just the normal, uh, you know, toiletries and whatnot."

 Toiletries and whatnot? Where the fuck did that come from? Who am I? The Queen of England?

"Take them out for me, please."

I took them out of my backpack, nervous, yet smug in the knowledge that the time I spent transferring shampoo and conditioner and toothpaste into small 3-ounce bottles was not wasted.

As I put the bag on the conveyor belt, I noticed something. My ziploc bag was vibrating. The guard noticed it too. He looked up at me and arched an eyebrow, clearly waiting for me to explain what he was seeing.

"Electric Toothbrush," I said sheepishly, opening the bag and holding it up for all to see, just to dispel any confusion. I clicked it off and shoved it back in.

After I made it through the security check, I survived a momentary gross out when I realized that while I was packing my computer and my "toiletries and what-not" into my backpack, I held my boarding pass and driver's license pursed between my lips. Is it any wonder we are all going to die of swine flu? No, it is not.

(As an aside, is it just me, or does everyone else feel like they are about to get called out for smuggling drugs or explosives or something when they go through these checkpoints? I'm always expecting someone to walk up to the head guy, whisper something, point directly at me, and the next thing I know I'll be on the ground with some TSA agent's foot on my neck while another one cuffs me. )

After that, I went to grab a cup of coffee at starbucks, and the woman making it coughed directly into her hand and then used it to press the lid on my coffee. I brought it over to the sugar/cream stand, and then promptly dropped the lid on the floor. I picked it up, thought fuck it, and put it back on. I was already dead.

My last gross out on the way here was, as you've probably surmised, bathroom related. Right before boarding, I decided I'd make a quick run to the men's room to get rid of some of that coffee I had ingested. As I was standing there doing my business, I realized I was standing in a puddle of piss. Nothing out of the ordinary there, I guess. I rotated to the outside of my feet to keep as much of my shoe off the ground as possible, but the damage was done. I walked out just in time for our flight to board. As I was stuffing my backpack under my seat, I realized something. The only place to put my newly contaminated piss feet was right on top of my bag.

Man, I hate traveling.

It's late and I have an early shuttle to catch to the airport in the morning, so I'll have to tell you about the rest of the trip tomorrow. I'll give you a hint: It involves heavy drinking, other peoples' dirty balls and socks of unknown origin.

You can't go wrong with that combo.


  1. Euuuuuuuuuuuuwww!!! That's why I always travel with a bottle of Purell!

  2. Anonymous1:25 AM

    3-inch nozzle!? Seriously?! I'm seeing a colorectal surgeon before I start using any "nozzles."

  3. That must have been some serious Preparation H to have a 3 inch nozzle...the last time I flew, they confiscated my unopened Capri Sun that I had for my 3 year old.....the lady thought I was crazy for having her throw it away instead of doing a "vapor test" on it...

  4. ha ha ha... that was awesome!
    Can't wait to read the rest.

  5. haha great post. and extra points for wilco.

    ps. as i go to post this, the security word verification is "turds ms." now, i don't know what 'ms' could stand for, but i'm glad that in a post about germs and gross things, turds is my word verification to post this very comment.

  6. eeeyuk! I hate it when I start to notice those things, b/c then I can't seem to stop!
    Last time I was at the airport, my teenage son and I were flying to CA- I went thru security and turned to look for him and he is standing with him arms out being patted down. I was on the verge of either freaking out when they let him go- seems his red red eyes from his horrible allergies and his laptop bag made them suspect him of carrying 'something' on the plane.
    Right behind him the shadiest looking character I've ever seen passed thru with flying colors.

  7. Anonymous8:38 AM

    Enjoyed your post, Mr. Hughes. Why didn't you just take your Spruce Goose and save yourself the stress?


  8. I was grossed out by that and I'm a nurse ( I've seen a lot o'nasty)!

  9. Just think of all the nifty diseases you are inoculating yourself for.

  10. Oh Johnny, you make me laugh so much...it makes the people at work wonder what the heck I am doing. Thanks for sharing this story of germ-an-tic proportions!

  11. Anonymous9:38 AM

    I'm right there with you. Traveling is the pits. Pretty gross though. I'm not really germaphobic and that all would creep me out.

  12. LOL! I grew up in the town next to Brooklyn, Ohio and I can say from experience that the Applebees in truly the happening place in that town, especially if you see a movie too. Exciting...

  13. That sounds like...every trip I've ever taken.

    At least you didn't get breast-fed upon.

    But I already warned you about that!

  14. I traveled for business for years and my non-traveling colleagues used to always get a little envious of my "exciting" excursions, which were sadly much more like what you are describing (while still exciting, not in the way one would hope). Although, I never had a run in with other peoples' dirty balls (that I talk about, anyway...) Looking forward to Part II.

  15. So good! So so good! enjoyed this post.

    I just flew somewhere about a week ago and I can totally see all of that happening.

  16. Don't ever doubt your writing skills. Your vivid imagery just made me gag. Literally.

    I'll look forward to your next post with a puke pail next to me. :)

  17. Thanks for the 'whatnot' laugh. I needed today - it's been a bad one.

  18. Anonymous10:36 AM

    You are so funny! I am so glad I found this blog. Thanks so much for bringing some humor to my day. Looking forward to your next post, even if it does sound nasty!

  19. Anonymous11:41 AM

    Okay, we had a suspicious brown stain on our hotel toilet, during our trip this past fall. I don't think it is just you - things aren't as clean (and people aren't as conscious about cleaning up after themselves) as they used to be.

    When we informed housekeeping (and yes, I was nice), I actually got the privilege of listening to the person who came to re-clean our toilet rant about "ungrateful guests," on her cell phone, before she knocked on our door. Lovely, right? Sadly, this was at Disney World - a place where I'm usually beyond impressed at the cleanliness and customer service.

    As for people leaving messes in public bathrooms - it irritates me beyond belief. If you drop it, pick it up. If you miss, wipe it up. It won't kill you.

    Looking forward to the rest of the story, although I'm now covering myself in hand sanitizer.

  20. p jane11:54 AM

    Funny! Reading this reminded me of something...turns out there's a good reason why ;)

    Many years ago I witnessed a mom run over her toddler's pacifier w/the stroller, pick it up off the naaasty mall floor and stuff it back in the kid's mouth. While I didn't say anything, it seriously grossed me out. Now, three kids later? I totally get it.

  21. Ok, so the point of the latex glove for the security lady was what??? I'm going to keep my HAND germ free, but I'm going to LICK the glove. Good thinkin'.

    And I don't know about your TSA agents, but every time I pass through security I quickly come to the conclusion that the combined education level for EVERYONE working that particular gate equals about 8th grade. And that they all most likely spend more time at the Sbarro down the hall than they do at their "post". Seriously, the hiking up and fastening of polyester uniform pants size 12 stretched over a size 16 ass has got to invlove an act of God. Or a shoehorn. Or Crisco. Or all of the above.

    Bottom line is that I think you could take them. Not that I'm suggesting you TRY..I'm just sayin'.

  22. *snort laff* Queen of England.

  23. omg
    I thought I was the only one nuts enough to think like that. When I get on a plane, it feels like a greyhound with wings and grosses me out beyond belief. The smells alone are enough to make me sick.
    You have to wonder what a luxery it would be to have a personal jet and pilot. *sigh*

  24. Melanie3:37 PM

    I took a pint of milk back to my local convenience store to get a refund because it was out of date, which I hadn't noticed until after I took a nasty tasting swig of it.

    When I told the clerk that it was out of date and that it tasted gross, she asked, Are you sure? Then she popped off the top and took a swig of it herself to verify that the refund was necessary. Gee whiz, what was SHE thinking?

  25. Upstate Broad7:08 PM

    You know, I've always resisted the urge to slow down and stare at traffic accidents. My mother instilled in me the belief that it is wrong to gawk at another person's tragedy. That said, I just LOVE it when you travel, JV!

  26. My stomach aches from laughing at this story. Awesome.

  27. We're flying international next week. This story made me rethink my mom's offer of masks to wear on the plane. This story...I just don't think my usual antibac is going to do it over the 26 hours each way.

    *High five for Wilco* Love 'em!

  28. we flew to CA back in april and philly's finest security pulled my mom's carry on off the conveyor belt and proceeded to dig through the five pounds of chocolate and ton of baby clothes she bought for my nephew only to find nothing. a week later in CA, we found my dad's long since missing pocketknife... in mom's carry on. good eye, mr. security guard. good eye.

  29. Matt M10:08 AM

    Kids: Let this be a reminder to you to stay in school, get good grades, go to college, and study hard. Get into a well paying profession, so that you do not have to take a job with the TSA or cleaning hotel bathrooms.

    With your college degree, your job will probably involve business travel. Oh, well.

  30. You lost me at the "half-inch brown smear on the front edge of the toilet seat'! Gaaah!

  31. Well sure, there's the shit and spit and "jelly" and god knows what other random bits of other people's DNA. But Hampton Inn? Free continental breakfast!

  32. Too funny. Thanks for laugh out loud story telling today. I enjoy your blog.

  33. You are so me. Or I am so you. Whatever.

  34. I flew for the first time with my children (ages 8 and 5) last week. I travel all the time on business and totally understand what you mean about how you feel you are being totally scrutinzed by security all the time. Funny though - with the kids, they were actually nice and even chatted them up a bit. They helped them and actually displayed human kindness. I didn't know it was possible!!

  35. There was a "licky lady" at my old job. About 15 people in the office were hooked up to one printer. I'd print a document, then try to get to the printer as fast as possible . . . otherwise she'd be there holding everybody's papers while she licked and flipped her way through looking for her stuff.

    Finally one day I couldn't stand it any longer and screamed "Stop that!"

  36. So where do I send the swine flu antibiotics? Dude - that amount of "germiness" is not only hilarious - it's a downright justification for declaring healthcare reform necessary. That is as long as the new reform bill includes a mandate that only people with prothetic hands can handle boarding passes so they can just use disposable hands and change them after each passenger.

  37. I'm so glad I'd already finished breakfast before I read this. I'm going to wash my hinds and eyeballs now.

  38. Anonymous1:24 PM

    FYI, that brown smear was probably menstrual blood. This is how it got there:

    An earlier (female, menstruating) guest sat on the toilet to remove her tampon. Flushed tampons can cause plumbing problems, so after she's reached down and pulled the thing out, she has to bring it back up to dispose of it. On the way, the soiled tampon collided with the underside of the seat. (This happens to me all the time.) Blood turns brown as it dries.

    When the housekeeper began to clean the toilet, s/he was standing in front of it. From this view, a smudge on the front underside of the seat is not visible. A conscientious housekeeper knows about the tampon smudge and checks for it, but for whatever reason this one didn't.

    I'm posting this as anonymous for obvious reasons :)

  39. Allison7:19 PM

    Flying out in 2 days myself. And I don't fly often at all.
    Let's hope my trip is not nearly as germy as yours, JV.
    Word verification:
    coozesse n. the dry, brown smear left on a toilet seat by a used Kotex.
    Thanks for the icky visual Anonymous. >:P

  40. I was on a trip to the Adirondack Mtns. and NYC with my family last week. I was in my parents hotel room. My mom comes out of the bathroom and proudly states that she was washing her face with a washcloth brought from home, "because have you ever thought about how many butts are wiped with the hotel washcloth?" My dad and I were pretty confidant we had NEVER thought about that before. Ignorance was bliss!

  41. Anonymous9:18 PM

    Why is there only half of your head in your picure? Is the other half of you head OK?

    My friend and I were just wondering.

    Thanks for making us laugh.

  42. If by "OK" you mean a mirror image of the other side, then yes. Call it artistic license. Or a badly cropped photo. Either or.

  43. Before it was turned into a swank hotel no HR department would ever book anyone into while attending a GSA procurement convention, there used to be a Days Inn on Peachtree in downtown Atlanta directly across from the Fox Theater. I stayed there in its last sputtering days as a chain hotel with faded decor reminiscent of a Miami Vice episode.

    I found a previously occupied condom stuck to the carpet in the alcove by the $2 a day you-lock-it safe.

    My skeeved-out bar is very, very high.

  44. Anonymous5:50 PM

    When we were kids we used to go to a (cheap)motel at the Cape with another family. Adults would go to one room and kids in the other for evening entertainment. We were in the other families room and one of the kids goes into the bathroom. There was a floating TURD in the "clean" toilet that no one had yet used. Of course being kids we all had to go examine it and named it "Heraldo". Had to be 35 years ago, but it makes me crack up everytime I think of it.

  45. Ughh...
    Amen to all that :(
    yes it made me gag but it is frikkin true
    Love the way you write