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Reader Mailbag: 2012 Apocalypse, Unhappy Holidays, and More Bedbugs

Welcome to our reader mailbag, where you can ask, and get answers to, your questions about travel in general or something you saw on SmarterTravel in particular.

This week, readers take issue with our “Maya Apocalypse” coverage and our holiday greeting email. And the tales of bedbugs at 30,000 feet continue to multiply.

The End is Nigh?

On December 21, exactly one year before the end of the Maya Long Count calendar and (depending on who you ask) supposedly the end of the world as we know it, we published a tongue-in-cheek photo story called Best Places to Be When the World Ends. It was a fun piece meant to be taken with a grain of salt. A shaker of salt, even. Some of our suggestions: a Maya ruin in Belize, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, or Hell’s Door in Turkmenistan. Not everyone found it funny.

Here’s a sample of the negative feedback we received:

  • “Your email title is disgusting. Show some respect next time you are thinking of such a morbid title.” —S.H.
  • “This is kind of sick. Please discontinue my subscription.” —C.S.
  • “This is the most disgusting article I have come across. No human can predict the end of the world, only He up there knows when and how … So the best place one can get into is a sacred place to repent.” —C.C.

There were more like these, but you get the idea. We touched a nerve. So just to set the record straight: We don’t actually think the world will end in 2012. Neither does NASA. Neither did the ancient Maya, for that matter. That’s kind of the point. But isn’t it interesting to think about the places you’d want to visit and the things you’d want to do if you did know the end was near? We thought so, and that’s how we arrived at the premise of the story.

Happy (?) Holidays

We also took heat for a holiday greeting email we sent to our subscribers. It was a harmless (so we thought) season’s greeting from all of us at Smarter Travel Media to our readers, wishing each of you “Happy Holidays” and offering some tips for getting through the airport at the busiest time of the year, which includes both Christmas and New Year’s travel. Some readers took offense.

  • “No thank you. It’s Merry Christmas! Not happy holidays. We would not be celebrating this day if Christ had not come. May you have a Christ-centered Christmas.” —W.W.
  • “It is not about holidays … Say Merry Christmas!” —Y.C.
  • “Anyone who says happy holidays rather than Merry Christmas is either a fool who is trying to be politically correct … or one who fears the opinion of men rather than God.” —L.R.
  • “If you can’t say Merry Christmas, don’t bother me with [happy holidays].” —R.A.J.

Of course, we never intended to be part of the “War on Christmas,” as some cable news outlets like to call it. Yes, we said “Happy Holidays.” By my count, we also mentioned Christmas more than a dozen times in December. We mentioned Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, New Year’s Eve, and Festivus, too. We didn’t mention Kwanzaa or Three King’s Day, but we would have if a story had called for it. We weren’t hiding from Christmas or any other holiday. We are fortunate to have a broad readership, and we wanted to wish all of you safe and happy travels in the New Year. That’s why I personally support the use of “Happy Holidays” in our mailing.

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite

A few weeks ago we wrote about an alleged bedbug outbreak on a plane. Many readers were skeptical of the supposed victim’s story, but at least one reader has a similar tale:

“We too contracted bedbugs on a flight. We were flying from Philadelphia to Israel on US Airways in the fall. When we got on, the family was bite free. When we departed the plane, my six-year-old had bites covering both of his ankles. It took me a day or two to figure out what was going on, but as bites kept appearing on him in sets of three I pulled apart his bed with a fine-tooth comb and found a bug. Because I caught it so early, we were able to limit the problem considerably. I knew we were flying the same aircraft home, so I contacted US Airways to let them know. They responded that they had no other complaints so I must be wrong. I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that we got the bugs from the plane. We left and returned from our home—where there are (fortunately) no bugs. Once we washed everything we had brought with us, vacuumed every inch of the apartment where we were staying, and paid for an exterminator, we had no more problems. I did not expect US Airways to refund us any money, I just wanted them to own up to the problem and exterminate the plane. Luckily we did not have new visitors from our flight home. Either way, it was an awful, stressful experience that I do not wish on anyone.” –N.B.

That’s all I have for this week. As always, if you have a question or comment you’d like to share, please do so in the space below, or send us an email at Happy New Year!

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