I often think of how lucky I've been over the years to have visited so many wonderful places, all in the name of golf. But lately, I have to admit that traveling is starting to get a little old.
Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy myself once I arrive, but the journey there and back is wearing a little thin. While air travel in the United States is infinitely easier and more convenient than anywhere else in the world, flying to and fro is still pretty tedious.
Take security, for instance. Nowadays, between the ticket counter and the airplane there is an outstanding chance that you will be groped, probed, or in some other way fondled, either before or after the compulsory MRI.
Then, once on the plane, it's a crapshoot for whom you sit next to. Just last week, I found a man, some of whom was sitting in my seat. Most of him was in his own seat, I just got the overflow.
It turned out he weighed 650 pounds, or slightly less than the starboard engine, and to think that I was charged excess baggage for a particularly heavy piece of luggage. I wonder how much his ticket cost. But to give him credit, he was a good sport. When I asked him, as is my wont, how the hell he got to be that size, he told me it was on account of how much he ate.
When I told him that on an aircraft I'd never felt so close to someone, he let out a belly laugh that created an intestinal tsunami that almost bludgeoned me into the aisle. I told him he should consider a job as an NHL goaltender, as it would be completely impossible to score against him.
However, while he and I were conversing politely, the gentleman sitting directly behind my large friend started to crank up the volume. Those of you who are frequent flyers have no doubt experienced the Foghorn Leghorn Syndrome. We were at 30,000 feet, but you could have heard this guy on the ground.
Every passenger on the aircraft was made aware of the fact that he had kidney stones and, believe me, we felt his pain. He finally quieted down when the man sitting behind him offered to remove the stones manually.
His silence didn't last long and he started bellowing again during the meal. Eating and talking that obnoxiously don't mix, so I turned around to look at him and in the loudest voice possible asked the flight attendant for an umbrella. That did the trick.
On the way to the baggage retrieval, nature called and I encountered one of the great redeeming factors about many airports: The rest rooms have no doors. (Of course, the stalls do!)
And, there are generally real paper towels available. You see, I believe the hot-air hand dryer is the single most counter-productive innovation in personal hygiene. I admit to a hand-washing fetish and my mummy thinks there is something wrong with me, but bear with me here.
The hot-air dryer is time consuming and frustrating. Therefore, when it's the only choice available, fewer people will wash their hands. When you place a hot-air hand dryer in a rest room that has a door with a handle or knob, those of us who are decent enough to wash our hands must grasp the handle that the other filthy swine have contaminated!
This obviously defeats the purpose, but yet again, I have the solution. If no paper towels are available after washing your hands, go into one of the stalls and unravel a couple of yards of toilet paper (we call it "bumf"; don't ask me why). Using the crumpled bumf, grasp the door handle to the rest room, open the door, and wedge your foot in it.
Now, look for the trash can, which is usually over by the basins, and attempt your best fall-away jumper while backing out the door. Don't worry if you miss; it serves them right for having a handle on the door.
Down at the baggage retrieval, one of the worst aspects of human nature is revealed: selfishness. A line is painted on the floor some four or five feet away from the carousel, behind which we are all supposed to stand, in order to leave enough room for everyone to retrieve their bags, right? In reality, everyone jams against the carousel along with their Smarte Cartes, forming a six-foot thick wall of tubular steel and humanity that would deny Jerome Bettis his athletic bag.
While I'm on the subject, would the man who invented the Smarte Carte please stand up? Okay, so the joke is on us. It is without question the most inappropriate and dangerous piece of baggage-carrying equipment ever invented.
If you push it, it has a mind of its own and if you pull it, unless you have the gait of a Japanese tea girl, it will sever your Achilles tendon. The only way around it is to pull it behind you either well right or well left of your body, which will, of course, lead to a nasty back spasm.
And, if you're unfortunate enough to be traveling with golf clubs, well, that's a whole new set of problems. If you set the clubs sideways on the Smarte Carte, you instantly disqualify yourself from making an entrance into an elevator and greatly increase the risk of having that same Achilles tendon rear-ended by the Smarte Carte driven by the person behind you.
These accidents happen because any time you approach the automatic sliding doors (which are always infuriatingly slow) you are forced, due to the nature of your wide load, to abruptly slow down. Of course, you can set your clubs long ways at a slant and hold onto them with one hand while pushing with the other.
But then, once you've negotiated the sliding doors, the ramp from the curb down onto the street will pitch your clubs forward into the path of the nearest cab, no doubt piloted by a Latvian man, who up until three weeks previous was a goatherd.
I have a solution for all of these problems and his name is Sky Cap! Even though he charges me three or four times as much as the Smarte Carte, I almost never feel like tying him to the fender of my rental car and dragging him to my hotel.
Ah, yes, my hotel. "I'm sorry, Mr. Feherty, but your room isn't ready yet. Would you mind having a seat in the lobby?"
"Oh, yes, I'd love to."
Eventually I get into my non-smoking room that smells like Denis Leary's index and middle fingers. I crack open the mini-bar and pull out an approximately armpit-temperature beer. I take my libation into the bathroom to turn on the shower and wait for the pathetic hot-air hair dryer that takes five minutes to warm up.
The towels are cleverly rolled up and cunningly stacked above the toilet so that when you pull one down, the one beneath it falls into the water.
I pull back the sheets on the bed only to find something short, small, black, and curly in the shape of a question mark just below my pillow. The question is: I wonder who that used to belong to?
The one redeeming factor about this kind of traveling is that now I wait until Sunday to go home, as opposed to the end of my playing days when I was beginning to be a regular on the Friday-night flights.
The upside of my day job now is that even when I do it badly, I still get paid. And, the Sunday-night flights have become my favorites because when I get home, I know and love the one who asks the questions.