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The Most Awkward Moments in Travel

My gate was set to close in 15 minutes. In my frantic dash through the airport, I attempted to breeze past an older woman on a moving walkway, but accidentally clipped her with my backpack. “Sorry!” I called over my shoulder with an apologetic wave. “EXCUSE YOU!” she hollered furiously at my retreating back.

Seconds later, I was horrified to realize that I was actually running in the opposite direction from my gate. Cringing at the thought of turning tail and facing the woman I’d just ticked off, I took the coward’s way out and ducked into the nearest ladies’ room till the coast was clear.

We all like to remember the high points of our travels, but too often there are moments like this one in which a trip turns uncomfortable, embarrassing or just plain awkward. Maybe you’ve never run over an elderly woman in an airport, but I bet you’ve found yourself in one of the following common — and cringe-worthy — situations. Which of these awkward travel moments have made you squirm?

1. Attempting to stand in line for the airplane lavatory without offering the folks in the back row an up-close-and-personal view of your rear end.

2. Having to call down to the hotel front desk because you clogged up your toilet. (Oops. Guess you shouldn’t have tried that curry last night….)

3. Schlepping your way past all the business-class air travelers sipping their martinis on your way back to cattle class.

4. Figuring out how to politely decline some local delicacy (“Mmmm, fried snail testicles…”) being offered to you by a well-meaning local. How do you say “I’m a vegetarian” or “If I eat that, I think I might vomit” in the local language?

5. Having the hotel housekeeper walk in at an inopportune moment. (Note to self: The “do not disturb” sign is your friend — and so is that dead bolt.)

6. Wrangling over pennies in a developing country when you haven’t had to haggle since you bought your car four years ago. Can’t you just pay the three bucks and be done?

7. Getting a full-body pat-down at airport security. ‘Nuff said.

8. Tipping. When? Who? How much? Do you have enough small bills? And why couldn’t the bellhop have just let you carry your own bags and spared you all the stress?

9. Being the parent of that screaming kid on the plane.

10. Making strained small talk with incompatible tablemates on a cruise.

11. Trying to hide the fact that you’re sniffling over the in-flight movie. Why, oh, why did you decide to rewatch “Titanic”?

12. Dining alone in a nice restaurant when you’re traveling solo. (See Terror at the Table for One.)

13. Juggling two kids, three carry-ons and a diaper bag at security with a snaking line of fellow passengers tapping their feet impatiently behind you.

14. Overhearing far more than you wanted to know about the B&B guests in the next room — and then having to face them at the breakfast table the next morning.

15. Attempting to clamber over a sleeping seatmate to get to the airplane lavatory, only to have him wake up just when you’re straddling his lap.

16. Making a joke that falls completely flat in front of a stony-faced border patrol agent.

17. Using a squat toilet or bidet for the first time.

Which awkward moments would you add to this list? Leave a comment below!

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