What’s The Matter with Travelers Today?

On a recent trip to Europe, I was disappointed by the way I saw my fellow travelers comport themselves. My sad realization was this: Not enough, or in some cases, no thought is being given often to the simple notion of decorum. Instead people seem to think they can export the casual lifestyle they’re used to and assume it’s acceptable.

Three examples of this, only anecdotal evidence to be sure, took place on recent Norwegian Air flights to Europe, and in a classic French brasserie in Paris, Julien.

Brasserie Julien (not to be confused with Chez Julien) was a beautiful Art Nouveau space, designated an historic place, and exuding Parisian elegance. But this first impression did not last for long.

My husband and I dressed up for the occasion. We ordered the $70 prix fixe menu, aperitifs, and wine. We did our part.

Our server was nice but not attentive. After the main courses were taken away, the tablecloth was spotted and full of crumbs and empty, dirty glasses. We had to flag him down and ask to have this detritus removed before dessert and coffee.

But the real bummer was the company. Here you are enjoying the wonderful, richly carved moldings, the Art Deco stained glass ceilings the generally refined atmosphere and anticipating the classic French dishes to come. Then come the other customers.

A party of eight or so Americans dressed in the American uniform of T shirts, jeans and scuffed sneakers trooped in and were seated immediately next to us, though the restaurant was vast and relatively empty. This party had three children under the age of six. Just seeing the children raised a red flag -- this was not the appropriate place -- or menu -- for little children. But then their mother started breast feeding the youngest at the table. I'm not against public breast feeding -- I did it myself when I had babies -- but use some common sense about where, please. Please.

Would you like to see a flopped out breast and a squalling infant messily sucking between your sips of Lillet, or your bites of filet Rossini?

The piece de resistance was when the woman and her mother started discussing whether they should change the aforesuckling baby right there on the banquette next to us! My husband was finally moved to speak up.

"I traveled 6,000 miles for this meal, and I do not want my lasting image of it to be a baby being changed."

They got the message, probably thinking he was a terrible person, and used the ladies room to attend to their business.

Meanwhile, a tour of at least 50 foreign tourists led by a man with a flag, marched by our table, one by one, all of them looking like they were headed for McDonalds but stumbled instead to this elegant brasserie. They took up half the previously sparsely populated place. Soon after, the noise level became so elevated, I thought they were readying to break out in songs from their homeland, but my husband observed that the noise was hundreds of snail shells rattling against 50 metal plates.

Brasserie Julien had no dress code, but should have. But are they to monitor customer behavior, too? Short of drunken brawls, of course not. It's up to patrons to act in manner that's considerate of other people

On my Premium Class flights to and from Paris, I also was dismayed by the behavior of the fellow passengers close to me. On the way to Paris, two men, one sitting next to me and one just in back of me, removed their socks and shoes immediately. One was wearing a business suit, the other dressed like a refugee from the 1970s. Whatever. This afforded me a full view of their man feet for the full 11-hour flight. Thanks guys. Much appreciated.

On the way home to San Francisco, across the aisle from me, a mother of two children (also on the flight) hit her seat and immediately set out to erect a fortress around her. Out came her own pillows, blankets, eye shades, snacks, off came the shoes and socks (again). She wanted to be comfortable, something we all share on long flights, and we all have a right to be as comfortable as possible. Within limits. She then slunk down as far as she could in her reclined seat and stretched out her straightened legs into the air. She rested her bare feet on the head of the seat in front of her -- inches away from that seat occupant's head! No Norwegian Air steward said anything to her. An amusing sight, perhaps, if it were a 12-year-old boy. A pretty sad one when it's a middle aged woman setting an example for her kids.

When you're on an airplane, in a restaurant, or other public space, it's not your man cave; it's not your home spa. Be respectful of others traveling with you in an enclosed space. You’ll appreciate it when they return the favor.

So I ask you: What's the matter with travelers today?