Note: When I am back home, I will have more pictures and reflections on my visits to Russia, Finland and Sweden. Until then, I offer these thoughts.
The cruise ship on which we are sailing has more than 3500 passengers, many from the United States but loads from different countries in Europe or Asia. Though I wouldn’t say we are smashed together (the ship is enormous and the staterooms are really nicely laid out), there are times when we must be together —— waiting to get on and off the ship for tours on land, the tours we took in port cities, the elevators on board the ship, dining, sharing the common spaces. Despite my cheerful optimism that people can be expected to be good, kind, and polite toward one another, the fact is that the herd isn’t particularly well-behaved. Let the record reflect the fact that blame attaches to all cultures.
To ease difficulties and in pursuit of international accord, I propose a code of rules for travel abroad. They apply to any person not in his or her home country. We can ask the UN to arbitrate disputes (this would be something really useful for them to do) and issue judgments. Everyone would be required to agree to the rules before passing through customs in a foreign land. We could print little cards with the rules in a variety of languages and all of us could carry them in our passports in case we need a reminder of how to behave.
1. Form a line; wait in it.
Instead of jamming together for exits and elevators, how about we neatly form a line (first come, first served) and wait in it? No pushing, no shoving, no chattering in your native tongue in an aggressive fashion. Just get in line, shut your mouth, and wait your turn.
It goes without saying that those who attempt to cut in line will be summarily dispatched. Bet I shall say it anyway: those who attempt to cut in line will be summarily dispatched.
2. Keep moving.
When you have successfully passed through an entrance or exit, do not stop and stand in front of the doorway. Keep moving so that the line may continue its progress.
3. Stay to the right.
In crowds (where crowd equals more than 1 person), stay to the right. I realize this may cause confusion for those of us who drive to the left, but these are international rules and I am the creator…..stay to the right and keep moving.
4. Government authorities, no matter how bureaucratically ridiculous, must be obeyed.
In Russia, where we had to pass through customs to exit and enter the ship, some of the ship’s passengers (mostly American, by the way) got very testy, thus slowing an already absurdly slow process. Combined with our failure to simply wait in a fucking line, the Americans infuriated the Russians (hint: bad idea) and made life difficult for the rest of the passengers. Sure, the Russian rules were ridiculous and unprofitable, but these are the people who lived through Stalin, the siege of Leningrad and run Siberian prison camps to this day. For Pete’s sake, get in line, shut your mouth and follow their rules.
Having done so successfully, you may then complain bitterly.
5. Bathe daily; use deodorant.
I realize that the rest of the word finds the American preoccupation with washing to be strange. Say what you will, world, but the honest truth is that the rest of y’all stink. Badly. You smell like the nasty corners of New York City and it is frankly unpleasant. We can smell you everywhere and we judge harshly.
International rules demand that in locations with running water, you must wash with soap on a daily basis. Wash your whole body. Then apply deodorant. This is not optional.
6. Behave yourself on elevators.
Don’t shove. Stay to the right and let passengers exit before you cram on board. When you exit the elevator, keep moving and don’t block the way for others who wish to exit or enter. Should the elevator be full, be gracious and understand that everyone on board is inconvenienced. Those of you in the front of the elevator should aid the people in the back of the lift who wish to exit by stepping off yourself to let them out. Those of you in the back of the elevator should announce your need to exit when your stop arrives; don’t just push your way out. And remember that this is one of those times when adherence to Rule #5 can really make a difference.
That’s it. It’s a simple code of 6 easy-to-follow rules that will make life better for travelers everywhere. Virtually every time that I was in a crowd of people, I found myself understanding just why it is that world wars occurred. My simple code may not bring about world peace but surely it won’t damage the cause.