At last, a modicum of common sense in a world drowning in insanity. Milan has done what millions of adults the world over have been dreaming of for several years – it has banned the use of selfie sticks in the middle of the city.
To be specific, Italy’s grand fashion capital has clamped down on “holding, carrying, leaving on the ground, disposing of, or receiving any kind of glass bottles or containers, cans, and selfie sticks” in a core area of town. It has also banned fireworks and firecrackers (which seems a bit obtuse in the height of summer, but each to their own), and has declared that the regulations will stay in place until August 13, unless they are extended because lots of tourists are still behaving like silly adolescents.
An authoritarian crackdown which displays no sense of humour whatsoever? Or a wise decision which will make Milan a happier place?
Frankly, we don’t think the move goes far enough. So, with tongues lodged pretty firmly in cheeks, here are a few other things from the sphere of travel which we think should be consigned to the abyss for the general good. In no particular order…
1. Selfie sticks
Yes, yes, Milan has already done this, and we’ve mentioned it in the introduction as well. But it’s a point worth repeating. The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. It has survived its many millennia, waxing and waning Ice Ages, and the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, without any need for a thin metal rod onto which people can attach their phone and take pictures of themselves from ever so slightly different angles than would be feasible if they were simply holding the device in their hand. Or, indeed, not holding it in the air at all. Charles Darwin sailed through his studies without snapping an image of himself gurning with a Galapagos tortoise. Leonardo Da Vinci did not capture Mona Lisa from above and to the left, pouting and making a rubbish V-sign. The world will not end if you take a normal photo without risking the eyes of a hundred passers-by with your little extendable prodder. And frankly, when you use the selfie-stick, we can all see that bald spot you’re trying to hide. Just. Stop.
2. Non-express “Express” trains to the airport
OK, so the word “express” is not strictly a comparative term, like “faster” or “quicker”. But it does imply an extra amount of speed – an added soupcon of vitesse to justify the sizeable sum you are charging for the simple process of conveying me from city-centre railway station to airport terminal. Which is fine if you are actually swifter than the bog-standard train service, or the antiquated old Tube line, trundling west through the suburbs. It is not fine if you are the bog-standard train service, there is little alternative but to use you, and you are pretending you are something slicker and better than average just because you’ve painted the word “Express” onto the side of your carriages. We’re looking at you, Stansted.
3. Clapping at the end of flights
Let’s indulge in some (very) amateur psychoanalysis here. Launching into a merry round of applause when a plane touches wheels back onto tarmac is just odd. It is congratulating the pilot for performing the basics of his or her job. It is like whooping and cheering the taxi driver when he drops you at the kerb, high-fiving the postman as he shoves a pile of bills through the letterbox, or tearily hugging the plumber when the leaky tap stops dripping. It also suggests really low expectations of how a flight should go. “Wooh! This 747 got all the way to its destination! Without crashing! This airline is AWESOME!!” Demand more.
4. Duty-free lies in the airport…
Can we all stop kidding ourselves that duty-free areas in airports are wondrous havens of cheap shopping and breathless bargains, gracefully bestowed on us by the Gods of Retail? How long are we going to keep falling for the idea that that £49 bottle of vodka is a steal because it is apparently being offered at “less than the high street price”? Which high street? The Champs Elysees? Park Lane? La Croisette? Fifth Avenue? Seriously, go and look in the booze aisle of your local supermarket. That same bottle of fizz will be there for a smaller sum than in that “last chance to buy” bit of the terminal just after customs (you know, the area where forgetful husbands are desperately grabbing bottles of perfume for their wife/girlfriend/mistress, which they will claim they “found at some little place on Via della Spiga” in Milan). And you won’t have to spend five weary minutes trying to wedge it into the overhead locker while half a plane-load of passengers waits for you to stop faffing.
5. …and on the plane
Let’s make this clear. A duty-free service on a plane chugging along in mid-air is not a “boutique”. A boutique is something you find in the Marais district of Paris, or in the heart of Mayfair. A metal trolley, with those hard edges that seem designed to clang into shins at every available opportunity, is not a “boutique”. Especially not if it is carrying nothing more exotic than a cuddly toy and the latest perfume spat out of hell bearing Katie Price’s signature. And no, writing “boutique” in fancy script in the in-flight mag doesn’t make it so.
6. Gourmet up-selling
While we’re on the subject of Things On Planes Being Made To Sound Vastly Better Than They Are, the effusive descriptions of some of the food now sold on aircraft in lieu of a proper dinner service can also be consigned to the bottom of a deep and very dark pit. It is not a “Handmade rocquefort and chevre bleu sandwich on artisan sour-dough”. It is a cheese bap, which was wrapped in plastic in Slough approximately three days ago. And you are going to charge me £8.99 for it. Or £13.99 if I want to add in a bag of crisps and a bottle of water, and have the “mega-meal”. Which is neither “mega”, nor much of a “meal”.
7. Misleading airport identities
What’s this? We’re flying to “Barcelona-Girona Airport”? Sounds intriguing. Which one is it? Oh, its neither. It’s a runway in some fields a fair distance south of the latter, and a very long way from the former. Why has the airline marketed it as such? What do you mean I should have consulted Google Maps first? A taxi to the Sagrada Familia is how much!!??
8. Falling asleep in the aisle seat
There are greater crimes committed on planes, but wedging yourself into the seat at the end of the row and falling asleep before take-off is a misdemeanour of the highest order. Yes, I’m sorry that you didn’t get a window seat. No, I’m not going to swap; you should have checked in sooner. Yes, I really do need the toilet. No, it’s none of your business why I did or didn’t go in the terminal, and how much I drank in the air-side bar. Yes, you’re going to have to move. No, I’m not prepared to clamber over you. Yes, there will be an accident if you don’t do it. No, I can’t promise it will be the last time. Yes, I will throttle you if you harrumph at me again. No, there is not a court on this planet which would convict me for this.
9. English breakfasts in Spanish seaside resorts
Look, the entire continent already thinks we’re a bit weird because of the whole Brexit thing. You’re in the south of Spain. There’s a cafe down there serving an array of delicate pastries, delightful cold-cut meats and a host of fine coffees. Are you sure you want four sausages, three eggs and a bucket of bacon? It’s 35 degrees out there man, for pity’s sake.
10. In-flight movies starring Adam Sandler
Here is a chap who was funny once, briefly, in 1998, about 29 minutes into The Wedding Singer. It’s been something of a Laughter Desert since then. Running any of his films on a plane in 2017 is less in-flight entertainment, more mercilessly torturing a captive audience. What’s that? They made a sequel to Grown Ups? Really? And this airline is showing it?
11. Instagram posts of your dinner
Five-year-olds who play with their food and leave it on the plate to get cold go straight to bed with story and no chocolate. Twenty-three-year-olds who do it get a million followers on Instagram, and a false sense of their own worth. The planet is a strange place at times.
12. Tourists. Anywhere. Ever
Holidaymakers. Dreadful people. Cluttering up cities and beaches and airports and national parks and sites of recognised beauty with their joking and talking and smiling and being interested in stuff and having a nice time. Let’s just ban them all. All of them. Immediately. Venice was so much better in the 13th century when it was just Marco Polo and cholera. Paris was so much nicer during the French Revolution, and there was free entertainment every day on Place de la Concorde. Tourism is dreadful and it ruins everything it touches. Let’s all never go anywhere, ever again. Hang on, this isn’t going to work, is it?