Being Ballers at LAX (on our Way to Asia)

Denver International Airport is a very well-lit place.

Denver International Airport is a very well-lit place.

November 20, 2015; Los Angeles International Airport

Relentless fluorescent lighting, a hard floor and steady draft from the window pane did not make for a good night’s sleep at Denver International Airport. Basically, I was getting too old to sleep in transportation hubs voluntarily.

But since my flight to Los Angeles was at 5:30 a.m. and I had to teach my Public Speaking class the night before, driving straight to DIA, which is three hours from my hometown, seemed like a logical plan.

making goofy faces at LAXGetting ready to go









At any rate, I had no trouble making my flight to LAX and meeting my sister, Suzanne, who arrived around the same time, 7:30 in the morning. We were about to embark on a Japanese Journey that we’d been planning for nine months.

“To understand Japanese….

Actually, we’d really been thinking about it since the miniseries, Shogun, based on James Clavell’s novel, aired in the 1980s. Watching Shogun, Suz and I became obsessed with Japan and, in particular, Lady Mariko, the beautiful Japanese translator (played by Yoko Shimada) for English captain and trader John Blackthorne or “Anjin San,” (played by Richard Chamberlain.)

Screenshot from James Clavell's "Shogun." Anjin San and Lady Mariko.

Screenshot from James Clavell’s “Shogun.” Anjin San and Lady Mariko.

Word-for-word quotes from Lady Mariko flew from our mouths all around our house. “It is not sad, Anjin San; it is just one of life’s most important rules”; “In Japan, Anjin San, there are only Japanese ways”; “Anjin San, to understand Japanese, you have to think Japanese.” We pretty much wanted to be Japanese.

Consequently, this trip was a long time in the making, and Suz and I were just a tad bit excited. We killed time at LAX by plugging in and visiting Starbucks. Apparently, we killed a bit too much time. As we made our way to Singapore Airlines ticketing, an army of about 80 Japanese teenage school girls in matching uniforms flowed into line right before us.

The army of Japanese school girls scoots into line before we do.

The army of Japanese school girls scoots into line before we do.

A bearded man in an ill-fitting sportscoat, who appeared behind us said, “Don’t worry. The Japanese are excellent sleepers. I know. I live in Japan.” That statement, albeit completely random, was troubling on a few levels. How did he know that the Japanese, especially young school girls, slept well?

Not even knowing how to react, Suz and I turned away from the man and focused instead on the line. Soon, Vicki, a Singapore Airlines representative with bright fucshia lipstick, spied us and approached. Yes! Surely we were going to be moved to the front of the line.

“Hello, you are both traveling together?” Vicki asked of Suz and me as we nodded in unison.

“We are overbooked on this flight to Tokyo and we’re wondering if you would be willing to give up your seats.” She looked back and forth between us, directly reading Suz then me to see who was the weakest link, or perhaps, who was the toughest obstacle.

Sensing our reluctance, Vicki smiled widely and went in for the jugular.  “We will pay you $1,300 to give up your seats.”

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Signs of the Times: SCARY stuff at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Hey everybody, I’m sorry I’ve been absent from Travel Oops and neglectful of the WordPress community. In May, I traveled to Vietnam to get more material and mishaps (definitely that was a given — just trying to cross the street in Saigon was comedy.) At any rate, to jump back in, I’m sharing some gems from the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. By the way, although I was only in the airport on a layover, I’m sure Taiwan is a lovely place to visit.

Sign at arrival gate at the Taipei Airport.

Sign at arrival gate at the Taipei Airport.


Taipei, Taiwan, May 2014. It’s not like I travel with cocaine in my colon, but there is something VERY disconcerting about the above drug trafficking sign nevertheless.

Then there are the escape contraptions. These signs were not comforting, especially since the day before my friend Debbie and I arrived in Taiwan, a massive stabbing spree had taken place in the Taipei metro. I’m curious as to whether these escape routes have been tested.

Is this an escape laundry chute? Are your travel frocks that stinky??

Is this an escape laundry chute? Are your travel frocks that stinky??

The Escape Sling is definitely intriguing. I wonder what the punishment is for inadvertently using it. Actually, I don’t want to know…..

Escape Sling


Travel Oops: Souvenirs are Forever (unless you leave them in the airport)

heavy luggageThe Air New Zealand ticket agent secured neon green “heavy” tags to half of our eight checked bags. Kurt, Kasey, Eddie and I also had two carry-ons each. We had maxed out the luggage allotment. Kurt also carried a commando poster that came straight from the Bondi Beach Pavillion in Sydney.

© Stephanie Glaser 2010

© Stephanie Glaser 2010

With no protective tube — just a rubber band — the poster was the final souvenir I purchased in Australia. Somehow I had convinced Kurt that we must have it and that he could easily carry it on the four flights that would get us from Sydney to Denver in the US.

“Because you guys bought your return tickets in 2009,” the ticket agent explained to us, “you are still eligible for the two free checked bags per person.” He held one end of a long trail of baggage claim tickets that continued to print. “The policy was just changed in July, allowing passengers only one free checked bag,” he added with a look like “Damn, you REALLY lucked out.”  Indeed we were very lucky since we weren’t charged a cent for baggage.

He heaved the bags onto the conveyor belt. I really wanted him to ask me something like, “Wow, what’ve you got in here? Rocks?”

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Travel Oops: Packing Weapons of Mass Distraction


© Wikimedia Commons

Phoenix, Arizona, USA. 2011.

In a bulky badass stride, a muscular police officer with a military precision haircut approaches the security scene at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. He wears a flak jacket while pepper spray, handcuffs and extra clips adorn his gun belt. Clearly, this guy is packing heat.

Moments earlier, a group of TSA agents had clustered around a confiscated item. Redirecting everybody but us, one agent shut down an entire row of security and called in the cop.

Travelers shoot withering looks our way while my husband Kurt and I, along with our kids Eddie and Kasey, stand at the end of the conveyor belt. Returning from Mexico, we need to make our connecting flight to Denver.

Although no one actually informs us, Kurt and I know exactly what is wrong. I look over at Kurt, who rolls his eyes. Then our six-year-old son Eddie asks the all-important question:

“Am I going to get my marshmallow gun back?”

© Stephanie Glaser

Eddie (left) and his friends armed with their marshmallow guns. © Stephanie Glaser

Months earlier, Kurt had made Eddie a marshmallow gun out of PVC piping after he had seen one at a carnival. You can actually fire marshmallow “bullets” from the toy by blowing them through any of the pipes’ openings. Like a veteran SWAT team member, Eddie assembles the entire thing, which sort of resembles a white sniper gun, in about 29 seconds.

So now we wait at the Phoenix Airport for the marshmallow gun to either be cleared or confiscated for good. Apparently, due to the Transportation Security Administration’s protocol, a professional must inspect the contraband — especially when it’s material that people use to make bombs.

“I don’t know, Bud.” Kurt answers.

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Travel Oops: People Really Do Win These Things…


A lemon cake. That’s what I won at a school carnival in third grade at Forest Hills Elementary in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, USA.  Contestants walked around a circle marked by numbers on the floor while music played until the cake walk ringleader stopped the song. If the ringleader announced your number, you won the cake.

Despite the fact I didn’t particularly like lemon cake, I was quite impressed with my prize and my luck. It’s a good thing because that is essentially the only award by chance I have received. I’m not really counting a pair of ski gloves I won at a raffle last year since, basically, almost all raffle contestants  were out skiing or in the lodge drinking beer when the tickets were drawn. Due to several no-shows, I claimed the gloves with one of the last remaining tickets.

However, my luck karma reached jackpot levels at the end of 2012. After entering a Facebook contest sponsored by Lonley Planet, Tourism Australia and Virgin Australia Airlines, I won two roundtrip tickets to Australia. Yeah. I know. HUGE. MASSIVE. MEANT TO BE!! People really do win these things.

And the winner is all in photo

The Universe must have been listening. Ever since my family and I returned broke in 2011 from my exchange teaching stint in Adelaide, I have joked that I need to find someone else to pay for or sponsor our travel. The Universe came through — BIG TIME.

The contest involved writing a 25-words-or-less bit about who you would take to Australia and why. Of course, I chose my husband, Kurt. I must admit that in my entry writeup, I didn’t want to admit that we had lived in Oz already. So I wrote something rather vague and cheesy. Here’s the spiel:

“A real homebody,  my husband Kurt has just recently given travel a go; I want to share the world with him!”

I figured the part about “recently giving travel a go” was vague enough to cover…”he hadn’t really traveled outside the country until we moved to Australia, and then we traveled HEAPS.”

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Travel Ahh…Sunrise and Dust Bunny Clouds Somewhere over the South Pacific

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser 2013

Around Fiji, Oceania. Changing several time zones forces you to be a morning person. Generally, I don’t have an AM nature, but I don’t mind turning into a morning person thousands of miles from home. Reason? Sunrises. I took these photos, which are pretty grainy, yesterday on my way to Australia (more on this later). I love that the clouds look like collections of lint balls or dust bunnies.

I’m so psyched to be back Down Under. Posts on Travel Oops may be a bit sporadic and random for the next two weeks. Also, I’m behind in answering comments as well commenting and checking out all the Reader and all the great posts out there! In the meantime, I’ll be gathering material…

emerging sunset 2

It’s on its way…© Stephanie Glaser 2013

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Travel Oops: Aggro at the Athens Airport

© Tonton Bernardo

© Tonton Bernardo

July, 1995. I am sitting on the marble floor of my departure gate in the Athens Airport with many impatient Hungarians. We are all waiting for our plane to Budapest to arrive.

Frankly, I am just glad to be at the gate at all, considering I had just ridden on a ferry and a bus, run several blocks while being chased by feral dogs and then hailed a $1,000 drachma cab to take me to about .9 kilometers to the International Terminal.

Worse, I had begged, pleaded and gone both Ugly American and Damsel-in-Distress at the ticket counter. The result was a scolding about checking in late and getting a personal escort to the Malev Airlines gate where the friggin’ flight is now delayed due to mechanical problems. Hence, my current situation, which is a far cry from yesterday.

© Stephanie Glaser

Paros © Stephanie Glaser

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Happy New Year and Safe Travels for 2013

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

Here’s to hoping everyone gets a chance to travel — whether it’s to the next city, state or province over or to an entirely new country. Thank you so much for stopping by, commenting on and following Travel Oops — it’s been a fantastic journey becoming a blogger and sharing stories with such a diverse and supportive community!

I’m planning to travel as well and embrace the unexpected in 2013 — after all, I always need more material. Thanks for laughing with me or at me — I hope you’ve done both! Cheers, Steph

Avoid the Oops — The Hangover and Getting Really Drunk on a Plane

flight attendantsThe journey has begun. The anticipation is there. It won’t be long before you arrive in an exciting new location or an old favorite. Speaking of arrival, here comes the drink cart.  Even better — the alcohol is free!

It’s a perfect time to celebrate, so why not have another and another and maybe another after that? You’re not driving. Plus, your flight is fourteen hours; you have a lot of time to kill. So, it’s tempting to get the party started and to keep drinking.

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating and drinking in moderation on a flight. And perhaps you know what you’re potentially in for, having already experienced hangover hell and feeling like complete crap at one point or another.

But remember, you may not have experienced this while in a confined space where you don’t have quick access to fresh air, toilets or even your own pillow.

Not to mention you may have to endure this state for several more hours with crying kids and grumpy passengers who are over the flight.

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“Yes Worries!” — An Encounter with a No-Nonsense Flight Attendant

© Stephanie Glaser 2010

I actually met the one Down Under resident who doesn’t adhere to “no worries.” She was a flight attendant (I’ll call her Hortense) on our Air New Zealand flight from San Francisco to Auckland in January, 2010.

© Stephanie Glaser 2010

Instead, her slogan, I believe, was “Yes Worries!” and she adopted this long ago because she secretly and firmly believes all the people around her are inept imbeciles. On the flight, I especially thought she  despised her co-workers. They, along with most passengers, were her recurring nightmares.

The other flight attendants could not have been more helpful, accommodating and funny. One of the head flight attendants was a tall, blonde woman who wore bright red lipstick and always smiled — no matter what your question was. “I’m sorry,” She beamed. “We can’t have you up in the aisle just yet. We’re still in the midst of our ascent and not at the proper altitude for walking around.” Huge permasmile.

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