A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday, by Tim Roxborogh.
I once knew a girl terrified of fish. Sounds like the start of a limerick, but for this poor English lass, there was nothing whimsical about her fear. As she explained to our tour group, whether it's fish in the sea, fish in a tank or fish on a plate, all of it freaks her out.
This was no small matter given we were in Vietnam for 15 days and if there's a restaurant in Nam that doesn't have a fish tank proudly displayed, then I'm yet to find it.
On one of our group excursions we found ourselves in a tiny village somewhere off the Mekong that we'd accessed by boat. The locals were preparing a feast for the visiting western tourists and we sat and waited in an open-air dining room, banana plants all around us. From nowhere the tropical air was pierced by a scream of pure English terror.
A freshly cooked fish on a plate had come from over the ichthyophobic ("fear of fish") girl's shoulder and been delivered on the placemat in front of her. She hadn't seen it coming and adding to her fright, the fish was presented in such a way that it was upright on the plate in all its scaly and spiky glory, held in place by some sturdy vegetables.
The scream was accompanied by a leap back from the table, a tumbling chair and stunned looks from the villagers. The thing is, she was (and no doubt still is) actually a great girl.
Sure, I was a little dubious about the legitimacy of the phobia, but this is coming from a guy who gets paralytic any time a bird is inside. Pigeons in a dairy? Worse than snakes on a plane.
Then there was the time in Myanmar a few years ago where one of the men in the tour group had a foot phobia (podophobia) that extended to a fear of exposing his own feet.
As luck would have it, we were temple-hopping in a country where visits to holy places often require you to be barefoot. Oh no! So what did he do? Let's just say that the sight of this middle-aged American man taking photos of ancient temples with clear plastic bags tied around his pale, bare feet was tremendous. How that's less spiritually offensive than socks remains a moot point.
Accidentally damaging America's Declaration of Independence
The signs were everywhere, so too the security guards. Washington DC, 2009 and I was part of the daily throng from all over the world who trudge through the National Archives Building to get an up-close look at the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.
"No Flash Photography!" read the signs and it was explained to everyone that repeated flashes of light on these most precious of documents could eventually fade and damage them beyond repair.
There's nothing like authority in America to make an innocent man nervous and every bellow of, "NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY", made me feel more anxious. Which is silly, but I had a new camera and it was taking a little while to get my head around how to turn the flash on and off.
I started taking photos. So far, so good. Each snap I'd double, triple, quadruple check that the flash was off. This was getting a bit OCD — the flash is off Tim! Relax! Then I got stuck in a line heading for the Declaration Of Independence, so I turned my camera completely off to save the battery. Reaching the famed document in its glass case, I switched the camera back on, safe in the knowledge I'd checked the flash about 50 times in the past 20-minutes. With confidence I took my photo.
Boomph! The entire room lit up with my flash. This couldn't be happening.
"Sir! Read the signs! No flash photography!"
Which was when I learned the automatic flash resets when you turn off the camera.
Funnily enough, less than a year later they banned all photography at the National Archives. I take full responsibility.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two, Coast Soul on iHeartRadio and writes the RoxboroghReport.com.