Barbarians behind the wheel: driving in Montreal

Very close to where the jerk in the Mercedes nearly ran me over.

Very close to where the jerk in the Mercedes nearly ran me over.

So, if I wanted a vacation with dangerous lunatics, I would’ve gone to North Korea or where ever the Mexican drug cartel guys are shooting at each other this week.

I went to Montreal. Where dangerous lunatics lurk behind steering wheels. A phenomenon so pronounced, it merits a Tank’s Travels first. Awarding a Tank’s Travels barbarian behaviour award to a group of people.

This one goes to the drivers of Montreal. The worst of the worst of the worst. I’ve never witnessed such spectacular rudeness behind the wheel. Anywhere.

Where to begin. First of all, they won’t let you in. When Montreal drivers see you try to change lanes they will speed up so you can’t get in. This happened several times to me. Pulling out of a driveway or parking lot? They won’t let you in. There is no such thing as courtesy on the roads of Montreal.

Signalling to change lanes? Forget it. Not in their repertoire.

Roaring through intersections, then putting on their breaks and cutting you off? Routine stuff in Montreal.

There are no painted lines on most streets. So, these barbarians drive on the left or on the right or in the middle of the road. And, if they don’t like where you’ve positioned yourself (in an effort to avoid them) they’ll honk and shake their fist at you.

Then, there was the asshole in a Mercedes who didn’t look like he was going to slow down at the stop sign, when I was already in the intersection. I’d come to expect this high level of motorist douche-baggery by this point of my trip. It was day two.

Ugly stuff.

Folks like to joke about the horribleness of Montreal drivers. As if it’s a badge of honour. Dishonour more like. They’re dangerous – a curse on an otherwise nice city. Bad for tourism.

Oh and BTW. I was born in Montreal. I spent much of my childhood there. I’m not anti-Montreal. Just anti-Montreal drivers. What these drivers are signalling with their bad behaviour is this: we don’t care if we injure or kill you and your passengers – children included –  or whether we destroy your vehicle.

Lovely.

Thieving employees: do #airports care?

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Are you kidding me? How about catching the thieves?

Airports know they’ve got thieves in their midsts. The airlines know it too.

Ya think they’re doing much about it? Methinks no.

Look at the photo. The City of Phoenix warning airline passengers about the possibility of being robbed following the NCAA College Football championships in January.

WTF?

If the chance of theft warrants signs, maybe the airport and airlines need to investigate who’s doing the thieving?  Staff who steal may be doing other bad stuff. (Google what some naughty customs officers get up to on the US-Mexico border.)

[Big thanks to G, a fabulous and talented fellow I worked with at CBC News back in the day, for emailing me this info. G travels a lot for sports telecasts and spends a lot of time in airports.]

I hate checking luggage, but it’s necessary because I carry scuba gear. I’ve had nothing stolen, but I’ve received notices that tell me the TSA has opened my bags. Seems to happen whenever I fly through the United States.

Let’s hope my luck for remaining theft-free continues….and this posting doesn’t bring about a cavity search next time I visit an airport.

Flying is horrid enough without having to worry whether your suitcase is going to arrive empty. Airports have got to stop ignoring thefts.

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#Scuba dive boat bullies and whiners

The 'superior' mammal stretched out on the dive boat.

A ‘superior’ mammal stretched out on the dive boat.

“I don’t take photos when I scuba diving unless someone else is paying me,” he said.

The same guy who was asking me to email photos I’d taken of him playing with sea lions, and wasn’t offering me any money! The same guy who complained the image files I emailed were too small and then twice emailed me back home to inquire as to why I hadn’t emailed larger files.

(The files I initially emailed him, which were going up on my Facebook page anyway, were plenty large enough. The idiot was looking at thumbnails, not realizing – I guess – you gotta click on them and save them. He did NOT get any additional images from me.)

What nerve. What an ass. What an appropriate new contestant for Tank’s Travel Jerk Traveller of the Year.

Did I mention he has a Mercedes? He did. Several times.

He also had lots to say about my scuba gear (inferior to his), the scuba company with which we were diving (inferior to the one he once operated) and his scuba training (superior to everyone else’s).

We spent several days as the only English speaking people on a dive boat. Except for the day the ‘professional’ cameraman with his giant $10,000 USD camera gear and lights came aboard the small boat and began bossing people around. Moaning about dive sites. Later in the day, I witnessed him bullying the office staff in an effort to get out of paying for a portion of the trip. He succeeded.

And then there was the guy bitching about the flour tortillas at lunch. “Where are the CORN tortillas?,” he barked in Spanish and English for three days in a row.

This is what I have to put up with. Grateful for it, as it supplies amusing content for Tank’s Travels.

I did meet some wonderful scuba divers on the boat. They taught me the Japanese word “oshikko”. It means pee, as in pee pee. They peed themselves laughing every time I said it, which was a lot.

That’s me, promoting peace, harmony and good manners where ever I travel. And, taking notes when I encounter those who don’t.

 

 

 

Ocean trash – bad for #scuba destinations

The garbage haul. From near Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Taken during one 50 minute dive.

The garbage haul. From near Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Taken during one 50 minute dive. Wasn’t able to pick up the tin cans and bottles.

I get asked questions about my scuba diving destinations a lot. Where’s the best place to dive?

My criteria is based on a number of factors – especially what I see and don’t see.

There are lots of places I really like and will continue to visit, such as Cozumel, Mexico and Roatan, Honduras (if they get their west end noise problem resolved). They’re reasonably easy to get to from Vancouver. Both places offer a diving experience akin to swimming in an aquarium.

They’re also mostly free of garbage in the water. If a divemaster or a diver (like myself) sees garbage, she/he picks it up. I’ve stuffed countless chocolate bar wrappers into the sleeve of my wetsuit.

I want to patronize dive destinations where people care about the ocean.

Don't like to see this.

Don’t like to see this.

The places I’ve been with lots of garbage in the water are the east coast of Bali near Padang Bai; Cuba, near Varadero and Bay of Pigs; and Kota Kinabalu, Indonesia. Beautiful places, but my diving experiences were diminished because of the trash.

I’m visiting Cuba next week and won’t be diving. Not interested in hauling my scuba gear thousands of miles to dive in ocean trash.

What I’d like to see is what’s done in Roatan, Puerto Vallarta and Cozumel – more divers and their guides picking up garbage when they see it. My plan for the future is to carry a mesh bag where trash can be stuffed during a dive. I hope others in the diving community will follow suit.

Idiot #scuba divers with #GoPros on a stick

I wish for the quick extinction of this noxious underwater species – the scuba diver with a GoPro on a stick.

The owner of this GoPro is a jerk.

The owner of this GoPro is a jerk.

They’re a scourge. As bad as lionfish in non-native waters. Or manspreading on a packed dive boat.

Here’s the problem. Many, but not all, GoPro divers I’ve encountered have NO manners. (And don’t bother defending these clowns in the comments section. I’ve never seen an underwater photographer with a honking big still camera behave this way.)

There’s a etiquette around scuba divers with cameras. Everyone takes her/his turn, one by one, being careful to not scare the subject so that it swims off, not kick up silt and not to hog the subject preventing others from getting their shot before the divemaster and group move on.

What I’m seeing from some GoPro on a stick divers is despicable. No consideration for etiquette or respect for other photographers in the group.

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When the divemaster signals a subject worthy of a photograph, all the GoPros on a stick go charging in. Jockeying for position while unable to hold their buoyancy. Kicking up silt. Bumping into all and sundry. Ensuring no one gets a decent image.

Barbarians.

Thanks a bunch.

Perhaps time for dive shops to make an etiquette pep talk part of their dive briefing.

Dive shop breaking up isn’t hard to do

2014-12-20 09.58.22I believe in rewarding good behaviour.

Here in Vancouver, I patronize three excellent scuba dive shops. Since they’ve all given me good service, I’ve got no reason to breakup. Until they give me a reason to.

As I was leaving a Vancouver dive store where I recently bought a housing for my camera, the owner called out to me, “thanks again for shopping here. I really appreciate it. Really.”

That’s the reason I returned not too long after to buy a new dive computer.

This year, I’m saying goodbye to two foreign dive shops for behaviour that doesn’t merit spending another penny.

  • Cozumel

For the last three years, I’ve spent a couple of weeks each December at a particular dive resort. Dropped about $7,000 USD in those years. What I liked most was seeing the same folks return every year and the non-management staff. What I’d come to dislike was the divemaster disgruntlement, the street noise, the expensive, limited menu, favoured clients, a horrible little dog, not being permitted to flush toilet paper, and the resort’s distance from town.

As well, there was the introduction of the party boat, aimed not at divers – the resort’s core clients, but people who wanted to spend an afternoon drinking and getting sunburned, while snorkelling and swimming and blasting loud music at a remote beach. What a racket they made when they returned to the resort in the evening.

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Confirmation from resort to initial deposit. CLEARLY says the rest of the balance is due upon arrival. 

Still, I was prepared to tolerate these annoyances, remain loyal and return every December. And, pay up the minute I arrived at the hotel. And, tip. And, recommend the resort to other divers. And, post positive reviews on TripAdvisor.

Then, the tipping point.

This year, as always, I reserved my spot early. For a $2500 USD reservation, a 50-percent deposit was demanded. There was NO way that was happening in July for a December booking. Especially when there’s so much hotel and dive shop competition on the island, and this resort isn’t special. I offered $200 USD, which they accepted and sent back a confirmation saying the rest was due “upon arrival”. Seemed to me the 50 percent demand had been dropped as it had been in the past. Perhaps the owner recalled the conversation we had once had in the restaurant about lowering the deposit amount.

Recently, I needed to add another night. That’s when I was informed I hadn’t responded to an earlier email demanding the 50 percent deposit. I immediately offered another $250 USD and the rest when I arrive.

Remember, this was to be my fourth year at this establishment.

Long story short, I was told my past reservations, where lesser deposit amounts were accepted, hadn’t been authorized by the owner and had been against company policy. The tone was rude and unprofessional, IMHO.

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This is how you talk to people who want to give you money? Keep yourself and others in the resort employed?

I was asked to pay up. Or, they could return my deposit.

Yes please to the latter.

I’ve been in touch with several other hotels and dive shops. Guess what? They all have room for me. They offer similar or superior quality, are cheaper and closer to town. I’ve just rebooked with a terrific dive shop. It also booked my hotel. The dive shop owner emailed to welcome me. WOW. I’ve also saved about $1,000 USD.

I just don’t get it, since the resort seemed pretty empty when I was there in December 2014. Wonder what business school teaches this kind of customer service.

Coming soon: Roatan: noise at 3:00 am and the uncaring owner.