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2015 Travel Hall of Infamy Awards: From waffle fights to naked fountain romps, the best of the worst travel behaviour

Badly behaved trippers hit the road often, as The Globe’s 31st annual Travel Hall of Infamy Awards proves. From a bumper crop of candidates, John Lee selects 2015’s most entertaining dimwitted globetrotters – from noisy mile-high clubbers to human-flavoured crocodile buffets.

The Dropped Toga Award

… goes to the British travellers who celebrated the end of a weekend jaunt in Rome with some highly public frolicking. Hotel-bound after a bacchanalian big night out, the co-workers (four men and two women) stripped off and hopped in the nearest body of water: the landmark Fountain of the Naiads that graces city postcards. Locals remonstrated with the naked partiers but they showed no signs of ceasing the shameless skinny-dipping – until police arrived and turned off the fountain taps. The six were later reported to be facing obscenity charges while a witness told the Daily Mail it “looked like an orgy in Ancient Rome.”

The Not-so-crafty Smoker Award

… goes to the agitated nicotine-craver on an Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne who was informed he couldn’t smoke – and not just because it wasn’t the 1980s any more. After allegedly assaulting an attendant (always a great way to make your point), he progressed to relentless screaming until several annoyed passengers wrestled him to the ground and made him eat an entire pack of unlit cigarettes (okay, I made that bit up). The crew supplied cable ties and Smoky Joe was secured to a seat in the cabin’s rear – which, coincidentally, was often the smoking section in the days when armrests had ashtrays.

The Leggo My Eggo Or Else Award

… goes to the bleary-eyed guests at an America’s Best Value Inn in Michigan who were lining up for the self-serve waffle-maker at the breakfast buffet when someone cut to the head of the queue, triggering batter-based Armageddon. According to CBS Detroit, the muffin-chucking mutiny spread to 30 waffle-enraged guests who only calmed down when police arrived to turf them from the property. Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole told reporters he was not impressed by the affair, complaining, “We had two-thirds of our road patrol tied-up on this fiasco.”

The Half-assed Houdini Award

… goes to the French man who aimed to bypass all those tiresome immigration forms when bringing his Russian-born wife to his homeland. Unfortunately, while executing his cunning plan on the train from Moscow to Nice, his gargantuan suitcase drew the attention of guards at the Terespol, Poland, railway station. “To their surprise, a woman in her 30s emerged [from the bag],” a spokesman told AFP, adding that she seemed fine. Sending the pair packing without charges, the excess baggage approach wasn’t even necessary since the woman – married to an EU citizen – could have legally crossed the border in a seat rather than trunk class.

The Overdressed Turkey Award

… goes to singer James McElvar from Scottish boy band Rewind. Determined to avoid a $90 excess baggage fee on his Glasgow-bound EasyJet flight, he donned every item of clothing in his extra backpack – including five pairs of pants, six T-shirts and four sweaters – before waddling on-board and jamming himself into a seat, thinking he’d beaten the man like a proper old-school rocker. But soon after takeoff, he vomited, was given oxygen and collapsed with what was later diagnosed as heat exhaustion. Paramedics who met the plane told BBC News the multilayered Michelin Man-sized crooner was “lucky to be alive.”

The Wannabe Human Buffet Award

… goes to American Matthew Eldsberry who capped a boozy night out in a Cancun resort by doing what anyone with some excess energy would do on a walk back to their room: scale the fence of a crocodile enclosure. One of the toothy crocs couldn’t believe its luck and set about the bleary-eyed visitor with all the reserve of a ravenous diner at a Vegas buffet. Before staff intervened, the tequila-marinated reptile-hugger was chomped on the leg and hand, requiring a visit to the medical clinic. The lesson? Crocs and alcohol rarely – if ever – mix.

The Trigger Happy Hoser Award

… goes to Manchester Airport’s overexcited fire crews. The hose-wielding staffers saluted Virgin Atlantic’s maiden flight to Atlanta in the customary fashion: dousing the shiny Airbus A330-300 in arching jets of water from their truck guard of honour. Only they didn’t just use water. According to reports, a deluge of thick foam shot from one hose, covering the plane in sticky goo. Ticket-clutching passengers in the terminal watched in disbelief as their flight was cancelled until the next day, allowing for the foam to be removed and the red faces of the fire crews to return to their normal hue.

The Not Smart Enough for a Smartphone Award

… goes to the 16-year-old Dutch tourist who, realizing his allowance wouldn’t quite cover a new iPhone, decided to dial up some additional revenue. But rather than extra chores or a paper route, he grabbed an ancient roof tile from the Roman city of Pompeii, aiming to sell it on eBay. Spotted mid-swipe by fellow tourists, the teen was immediately apprehended and charged with theft in front of his mother. Grounding for life seems inevitable, but restricting him to a land line may also teach him a lesson.

The Strong Like Tiger Award

… goes to two passengers in the security line at an airport in Guangzhou, China, who were asked to discard the liquid they were carrying. But the men were lugging a velvet-covered, tiger-shaped decanter containing “aphrodisiac wine” – $1,300 (U.S.) of pure, throbbing love. Rather than forfeit the pricey potion, the lovelorn lads cracked it open and downed the elixir between them. There’s no word on what happened on the ensuing flight or whether the overdosed Romeos were able to keep their tray tables down.

The Budget Airline Boozer of the Year Award

… goes to a Ryanair passenger on a Riga-to-Dublin flight who needed a break from the airline’s infamously cramped legroom. But rather than restoring blood flow with a walk to the washroom, he stripped off his shirt, weaved to the cabin’s rear and began flexing his muscles and grunting. Passengers turned a blind eye – until he started punching the walls and leaning sweatily against their seats. Not placated by the arrival of the duty-free trolley, the erratic tomfoolery increased until fliers and crew grabbed the man and tied him up. The plane diverted to Denmark, where police detained the topless troubadour, confirming the role of demon drink in his sorry tale.

The Hands On Art Award

… goes to the unco-ordinated Taiwanese schoolboy who was wandering around an exhibition in a Taipei art gallery when he tripped over his clown-sized teenage feet and stumbled across the floor. Luckily, he was able to break his fall. Unluckily, he did it by tumbling into a $1.5-million (U.S.) Paolo Porpora oil from 1600s Italy. The resulting rip was the exact size of the absentminded art-browser’s fist – so it’s fortunate he didn’t fall head first.

The Party Too Hard Award

… goes to British tourist Jordan Adams who was so sure he’d get wasted at a Munich bachelor party bar crawl that he wrote his hotel address on a wristband. Sadly, the co-ordinates slipped off some time between the pilsner and the schnapps and when he staggered outside in the wee hours he’d no idea where his bed was. Taxi drivers were useless – they don’t speak drunk, apparently – so he hopped on a bus. Or more accurately, he fell asleep in the luggage hold of a parked coach. Waking the next morning, he found himself 320 kilometres away in Switzerland, where amused police officers phoned his unimpressed wife and arranged for a return to Munich.

The Overly Revealing Inflight Announcement Award

… goes to the couple on Norwegian Air’s Paris-to-Stockholm flight who salved their urgent ardour with a naughty washroom visit. Wedging into the tiny cubicle, the mile-high clubbers thought they’d got their rocks off in secret – until a crew member made an important announcement over the speakers. A fellow flier translated the message for newspaper the Local: “He said something like, ‘We’d like to send our best wishes of happy reproduction to the couple that ventured into the bathroom earlier on.’” Widespread cheering ensued, except from the red-faced shaggers who sunk deeper into their seats.

The NRA Poster Boy Award

… goes to Georgia’s Jim Cooley who couldn’t understand the repeated police attention when he dropped his daughter at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Perhaps it had something to do with the loaded AR-15 semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder. Openly displaying guns in Georgia is legal but that didn’t stop several officers asking about the firearm. Explaining it was for his own safety, the gun activist later complained he’d been harassed for exercising his Second Amendment rights. No word on how everyone else at the airport felt as he strolled around with his bullet-pumping buddy.

The Selfish Selfie Award

… goes to the two tourists at the Loggia dei Militi palace in Cremona, Italy, who needed some elevation for their perfect “look at me” images. But when they hoisted themselves up on a stone perch, part of it snapped off and shattered below, ruining their photo op. Also ruined was part of the 18th-century sculpture they’d been balancing on: a revered marble artwork of twin Hercules figures that had sat atop the city gates for centuries. Police later dealt with the selfie-snappers while experts rolled their eyes and sifted the crumbled remains for possible restoration.

The Not Smarter Than Your Average Bear Award

… goes to the dozens of Yellowstone National Park tourists who were calmly snapping photos from a bridge – until a black bear with three cubs arrived and all hell broke loose. Scattering to the wind, some ran to vehicles, others stopped for selfies and many more speed-walked in the wrong direction. A Guardian website video captures the clueless panic, complete with a park ranger shouting “Keep going! Go! Go!” at the top of his lungs. After bounding around, the bears soon moved on, no doubt wondering why evolution somehow favoured these car-driving buffoons.

The Just Kidding (No Really) Award

… goes to oh-so-playful Yousuf Sharif on Air India’s Dubai-to-Hyderabad, India, flight. Enjoying a warm welcome from the business-class cabin crew, the 35-year-old passenger asked a smiling attendant if she’d pose for an impromptu selfie. But when he also requested photos in the cockpit, she ignored him and walked away – prompting the thwarted snapper to (allegedly) suggest he might hijack the plane instead. The Times of India writes that after being reported to the pilot, the misguided prankster was taken into custody upon arrival, while a police team swooped down on his home for a detailed chat with his wife.

The ‘Is This Loaded?’ Award

… goes to the Windsor Castle tourist who mockingly strutted alongside a bearskin-hatted soldier for his camera-toting friends. The guard remained remarkably restrained – right up until his giggling tormentor laid a hand on his shoulder. Stopping in his tracks, the soldier jabbed his bayonet-tipped rifle at the interloper and barked, “Get back from the Queen’s Guard” in a tone that suggested imminent execution. The joker sprang away like a scolded cat and likely spent the rest of the day laying low in the gift shop.

The Wait For Me Award

… goes to Matteo Clementi and Enrica Apollonio who, after a delayed taxi ride to the airport in Malta for their flight home to Italy, checked in, ran through the terminal and then found the gate closed by stern-faced staffers as their plane readied for departure outside. Naturally, they responded by prying open a nearby security door, running down to the apron and waving at the pilots to let them board. Since life isn’t like a movie, though, they were swiftly apprehended and found themselves in court facing heavy fines.

The Pipsqueak Potty Mouth Award

… goes to New York student Daniel Podolsky who was prevented from boarding a Southwest Airlines’ flight to St. Louis, Mo., after ground crew spotted his rude T-shirt. The garment promoted a TV comedy show with the slogan “Broad F***ing City” – without the asterisks. Podolsky later complained to a reporter that his “freedom of speech had been violated,” but the self-shot video of the incident he provided showed a staffer politely asking him to cover the shirt or turn it inside out, which he tetchily refuses. Southwest defended its crew and Podolsky boarded a later flight – after changing his shirt.

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