Sunday, October 25, 2009


I forgot to mention a few utterly trivial points about the journey here. I got upgraded to business class again for the second leg of the trip, from Munich to Tel Aviv; as I said before, it's very nice but I would not pay for it. Why me? who knows. Perhaps because I'm a fairly frequent flyer and travelling alone?

The security inspection in Stuttgart confiscated my shaving cream, first time that I've ever had anything taken away. In fairness they did offer me the alternative of checking my bag (i.e. not carrying it on), which would have let me keep the stuff; they would have tagged it with a huge great big label and I would have given it to the gate personnel and received it again on the "finger" in TLV. I didn't know that system and thought they meant that I had to go back to the checkin, wait in line, give them the bag, then fight my way through security once more — which had already taken nearly an hour the first time I did it. Ah well, live and learn. (The reason I didn't give it up to the baggage handlers in the first place is that it contained my laptop, and I felt no need to expose them to the temptation to steal or break it.)

Security did allow me to keep my toothpaste and aftershave, but I had to take them from the plastic bag that they were in and put them in a specific and special 1-Litre Transparent Resealable Plastic Bag, which by an astounding coincidence was available from a vending machine right there. In a package of two, though you are only allowed to take one such bag on board. The bureaucratic mind at work is a thing of wonder.

Oh, by the way and on the subject of security, here's an important Public Service Announcement. If you have a connecting flight, e.g. Stuttgart to Munich to Tel Aviv, do NOT purchase anything even vaguely liquid-ish at your first airport! There is a chance that it will be confiscated at the second airport's security check, even though the goods are obviously bonded and sealed and clearly purchased in the airport, behind the first security check. The duty-free shops all know that this will happen but most of them don't warn you, which in my considered opinion borders on fraud.

Ah, it's sunset, the [forgotten which denomination] are out in their speaker vans calling us to prayer. Israel is very far south, and so sunset is early and rapid: pitch-darkness comes barely an hour after you notice that the clouds are getting red.

I bit the bullet and bought shampoo (400 ml), shower-gel type soap (200ml) and a package of razors to throw away. The latter are utter shit: "Life" brand twin-bladed disposable razors* in a packet of 5 for €2.50. The blades are rough and scratchy, it's like shaving with a handful of broken glass. Avoid. The former are good enough products, but obviously far too large. I will not be able to take them back with me, unless I check my bag and risk losing my laptop. Why do the hygienic article makers not produce small sizes for travellers? Perhaps they prefer for us to buy a huge bottle which gets confiscated? I guess our loss is their shareholders' win. Bah.

And another thing. I'm sure I speak for 99.3% of men when I say that we do NOT want to have to examine an entire stock-island-gondola-thing of shampoo, five shelves high and 150cm long, to find something to wash our damned hair with. Perhaps women appreciate being able to choose between low-fat daily-wash creme-rinse-without-brighteners for curly straw-blonde hair and low-fat daily-wash creme-rinse-without-brighteners for curly wheat-blonde hair, but we just get utterly pissed off by the needless complication. I have been known to leave stores empty-handed and enraged, refusing to play this insulting game of too many fake choices. And it's not just shampoo either: when I was a kid, you bought Crest toothpaste or you bought Colgate toothpaste. Now there are over 40 varieties of Crest alone**. Ridiculous!

Attention makers of shampoo for men: Want to drive your competition out of business within a single month? Produce a yellow package with clear black writing that says
This is shampoo.
It will make your hair clean.
No alternatives, no variations, no phony pseudo-distinctions that are (we suspect) either unfounded or based on differences so minute as to lie within the bounds of experimental error; just one single simple product. We would queue up — nay, we would fight each other — to buy that.

* Google bomb, hoping maybe to save someone else from buying them.

** Really. I counted them in the Duane Reade near Columbus Circle.

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Anonymous S'toon said...

Over here in the land of opportunity you can purchase tiny travel-sized shampoo bottles, at least at places such as Shoppers Drug Mart. There is in fact quite a market for adorable travel products, including such things as 10-packs of Q-Tips and teeny toothpaste tubes. Which likely come in only a handful of choices - even better!

October 25, 2009 at 7:13:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Zhoen said...

I want that shampoo.

I keep the little bottles from motels and put my own stuff in them for the next time.

October 25, 2009 at 7:26:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Dale said...

I read your rant on shampoo aloud to Martha, who proposed CHEAP HAIR SOAP instead.

(See? the brands are already multiplying!)

October 25, 2009 at 8:11:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Anonymous Melinda said...

Funnily enough, I was disturbed by the Liliputian bottles of shampoo here (Budapest). Toiletries cost an arm and a leg in Israel, you might as well get a massive bottle.

And yeah, don't buy Life.

October 29, 2009 at 10:24:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Rob said...

1) I generally stockpile enough little bottles from hotels to last a lifetime. Though I generally do check a bag (and put my laptop in a small rucksack - big enough for it and a book - I can carry on).

2) Re toothpaste: once I'd read that no toothpaste provides significantly improved tooth cleansing/protection than plain water, that was one complication gone from my life. About 25 years later, no regrets and still all my own teeth.

3) In fairness to the much-maligned USA, and especially its commercial aspects, when I bought a litre of (very cheap but decent quality) bourbon in Denver airport
the staff not only asked if I had an onward transfer (I did: Denver - London - Edinburgh) but explained exactly how the system worked. I wasn't totally convinced, but hey, I brought a wicker camel saddle back as checked baggage from Yemen (and you have no idea how weird it looked coming round the carousel) so gave it a try, and it all went fine. So give it up for the good people of Colorado, USA.

November 24, 2009 at 12:44:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger judith said...

That Duane-Read is 2 blocks from my apt, LOL. And you can buy travel-size versions of everything there.

December 12, 2009 at 4:31:00 a.m. GMT+1  

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