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John Dybvig: Chill out, enjoy the trip

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When travelling every experience is a treasure, writes John Dybvig.
When travelling every experience is a treasure, writes John Dybvig.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear me. Everyone loves to have a crack at America, even the venerable Bob Jones.

In a column yesterday he berated America as the Land of the Free and Home of Incompetence. Mainly because he got some poor service at airports and hotels.

Well, Mr Jones, it all depends on your point of view. For instance, I'll never forget the first time I bought something in a New Zealand dairy.

The guy in front of me was buying a couple of items but he ended up in a marathon thanking exercise with the store clerk. Every time either spoke they ended their exchanges by thanking each other.

The guy in front said, "I'll have a dozen eggs, thank you." The clerk came back with a "thank you". The guy carried on ... "and a loaf of bread, thanks". The clerk, like Pavlov's Dog, repeated, "thank you". The guy thanked him for thanking him: "thank you". The clerk said: "That'll be $4.85, thanks."

The customer congratulated the clerk once more by thanking him as he handed over his money.

The clerk took this as an opportunity to thank him yet again. And as the clerk handed him back his change he snuck in another quick thank you.

The customer thanked the clerk one more time as he pocketed his change.

One would have thought that would have been the end of this bizarre thank-a-thon, but oh no, the clerk gazumped him by warmly thanking him as he turned to leave.

I was in a hurry but I thought the whole scene was absolutely fabulous. It could have come straight out of a Seinfeld episode.

And how about standing 15-deep in line at a New Zealand bank, Jonesey, when all the lovely older lady bank tellers scrunch forward over the counter and continue to gab away with their customers, long after they've finished their business, never noticing the snaking line stretching half-way out the building.

It's a great lesson in learning to relax, Bob, while life carries on right before your eyes.

If you want to talk service at hotels Bobby boy, check this out. One year I was in the Far North to give an after-dinner speech. I was staying at the Waitangi Copthorne Hotel which was newly refurbished and according to the literature plastered everywhere a fine four-star establishment with a picture of a beaming Mitt Romney look-a-like from Chicago assuring me that my every need would be their pleasure to deliver.

I checked into my room and immediately ordered room service. A light snack to tide me over until dinner - a cheese toasted sandwich and a Coke. No big deal, right? Two hours later I heard a knock on my door. I opened it and was handed a luke-warm congealed cheese sandwich.

I took it and inquired, "Where's my Coke?"

And without missing a beat this young New Zealand waiter instantly snarled with attitude, "You're lucky you got the sandwich," turned and casually strolled away.

Most people would be fuming, but I was busting up. I just loved the guy's attitude, it was like, "yeah, sure some fancy rich American's spent a lot of money sprucing this joint up, but that certainly doesn't mean the locals are going to kiss your ass".

And my all-time favourite dining experience in this paradise occurred in a beautiful waterside cafe in Russell.

I ordered bacon and eggs, a reasonably standard dish.

When my order arrived there was only one egg on my plate. I looked up at the waiter and smirked, "Hey, Mac, you've forgotten one of my eggs."

Whereupon the waiter merely pointed, as only a New Zealander can, to the menu on the board which clearly stated: bacon and egg. That's beautiful, I mean, come on, have you ever been served one egg?

A travelling experience to treasure, Mr Jones. You need to chill out, brother, and enjoy the smaller pleasures of life.

John Dybvig is a former basketball coach and broadcaster.

- NZ Herald

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