Tim Foolery

Cell Phone Etiquette: Happier Podcast Critique

I’ve talked about ways I keep myself entertained while traveling before. Movies, TV shows and podcasts are my number one time killer while traveling. One of my favorite podcasts is Happier by self-described Happiness Bully Gretchen Rubin. Her weekly podcasts, which she co-host with her sister, Elizabeth Craft, give pointers on how to be happier.

Cell Phone Etiquette

This week, Gretchen and Liz tackled the topic of cell phone etiquette and how some people would interpret your actions as being rude, while others would think nothing of it. Gretchen posed a handful of questions to her sister on this topic – some I agreed with completely, while others I felt were just plain wrong. Here’s how it played out, with my commentery:

Gretchen: When you run into a friend while out and about, can you leave your ear buds in while you talk to them, even if your music/pod is turned off?

Liz: Take out one ear bud.

Tim’s Response: Couldn’t agree more. Show that you are engaged and not distracted.

Gretchen: Related question, at the store, when I am checking out. Can I leave my ear buds in. I’m of asking for help, the cashier is ringing up my items.

Liz: It is permissible to leave the ear buds in, if you give the cashier a nice smile.

Tim’s Response: No way. Just like before, turn off your entertainment, take our one ear bud and complete the transaction. These are people helping you. I don’t want small talk in this situation, but online it completely rude to shut off from people in the service industry. Plus, if the cashier has a question, they will likely have the repeat it once or twice all because you were too important to pause your distraction.

Gretchen: You are out walking your dog. Your dog and another start sniffing each other. Do you have to take the ear buds out and talk to the other dog owner?

Liz: Not if they don’t want to engage in a conversation.

Tim’s Response: If they want to engage, why must you? I don’t have a dog, but everyone in my neighborhood makes small talk while the dogs sniff around. Again, we are living on top of each other, we need to be a little more polite to each other. A couple minutes of idle, boring chatter isn’t going to kill you.

Gretchen: At dinner and the conversation drives you to a point where you want to look something up. Example: We love Shrek….wait, what year did that come out? Look it up.

Liz: 100% permissible as it is continuing the shared conversation. If you are checking your social media feeds, no, don’t donit.

Tim’s Response: Do it. Agreed. Be present in the conversation, don’t check out.

Gretchen: When someone shows you a picture on their phone, do you swipe to look at the other photos? I do it and it is rude.

Liz: It is rude. I’ve never done that.

Tim’s Response: Agreed, unless they preemptively give you permission. I accidently swiped too far and saw some very personal photos. Whoops!

Gretchen: When having a real world conversation and your phone rings or a notification buzzes. Do you check it or wait until the conversation is over?

Liz: I live in LA and we all accept that everyone just looks at their notification. It isn’t rude.

Tim’s Response: This one is tough for me. I say if the phone rings (which happens so rarely for me), see who it is. Notifications are different. Wait until the polite conversation is over and then check. If you are expecting an important call or message, let your friend know that you need to check something if/when it comes in.

Gretchen: If you are on a train, for example, your phone rings. Do you answer your phone? Do you answer and say “Hi, I’m on the train, what’s going on?” This gives the caller notice that you can’t fully talk, and acknowledges that you know you can’t really talk, so your fellow passengers aren’t angry.

Liz: Yes. That is fine.

Tim’s Response: Agreed. Unless you are in the quiet car. Then don’t answer. Also, depending on the train ride length, call them back once you are off the train. I have a quick SMS setup so when someone calls, I can shut the call down by texting them “I’m on the train. Will call you back when I’m off.” This works wonders for me.

Now some of the responses were indeed a bit more in-depth than the summary I’ve provided. Go listen to the pod to get the full picture. What do you think? Do you agree with their thought? Am I completely off base here? How would you respond?


Austrian Airlines Business Class BKK-VIE

My flight home from my 68 Hours in Singapore was a bit of a round about experience.  Leaving Singapore to Bangkok, I continued on to Vienna.  I’ve flown Austrian Airlines in Business Class a few times before and was looking forward to trying it again.  I left the Thai Airways Business Class Lounge about 50 minutes before scheduled departure.  The boarding area was utterly packed with passengers.

People were getting a bit restless, as announcements were made about early boarding. People would line up, then another announcement saying we weren’t boarding. This happened two times before we actually boarded.  There were many people traveling with children too.  These false starts really got the children confused and frustrated.

Bangkok Airport Boarding Area

Very Crowded Boarding Area in Bangkok

On Board

I boarded early, as I usually like to do.  A single seat wasn’t available, I had to sit in the middle area in the two-seat section.  I could have moved to a single seat, but it would have cost me an additional €500.  It wasn’t worth it to me.

Austrian Airlines Business Class Seating Boeing 777

Business Class Seating on Austrian Airlines

Our seats already had pillows, blankets and the amenity kits waiting for us.  After I got settled, the flight attendant came up with menus.  She introduced herself to me and I attempted to speak German, as I usually do when flying Austrian.  My college level German gets me far enough on a flight, but it’s just utilitarian, not conversational.  I started off my journey with some sparkling wine and some still water.

Austrian Airlines Legroom

Business Class Legroom on Austrian Airlines

Austrian Airlines Pre Departure Beverage

Pre-departure beverage with seat controls

The flight was pretty full, but I was fortunate enough to NOT have a seat mate.  I’m so happy I didn’t pay extra for a single seat.  Even if I did have a seat mate, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.  The seats are large and while not very private, Austrian Airlines Business Class is still pretty great.

The flight time to Vienna from Bangkok is 11 hours and 30 minutes.  One of my main disappointments when I fly Austrian Airlines is that the flight from Chicago to Vienna just isn’t long enough. I want a little more time to rest, relax and enjoy the Business Class product. This flight gives me a bit more time and I was going to love it.

Meal Service

Austrian Airline’s crew includes an on board chef.  Before take off, the chef meets with every Business Class Passenger, explaining the menu and taking orders.  It is a nice additional service, although not really necessary.  It’s this aspect that I like the most I think.

After departure, drinks are served and the food service begins.  I like the antipasti trolley that wheels through the cabin.  You select the exact appetizers you want to try.  I selected all options, of course!

Antipasti Selection on Austrian

Antipasti selection, including marinated prawns, herbed chicken breast, feta cheese, Thai beef salad, maki and crab cakes.

The meal service continued for the next 90 minutes.  It was efficient and friendly.  Austrian does a good job of ensuring that your wine glasses are never dry too.

Austrian Airlines Red Lentil Soup

Red lentil soup with olive ciabatta croutons.

Main course - Stir Fried Beef on Austrian Airlines

Stir Fried Beef, ginger oyster sauce, egg fried rice.

Austrian Airlines Dessert Chocolate Cake

Dessert of Chocolate Cake

With the meal over, the we had about eight hours until we landed in Vienna.  I spent the rest of the flight watching movies, TV shows and napping. I really didn’t want to get much sleep as we’d be landing in Vienna at 19h00 and I sure didn’t want to be up all night.

Other than a little bit of excitement midway through the flight, our time in air was quiet and uneventful.  We landed 20 minutes early, but were requested to remain seated while a passenger was taken off the plane by paramedics.  More on that story in another post.

Wrap Up

Flying in Business Class on Austrian Airlines is still exciting and fun for me.  It isn’t the world’s most avant garde product, but the service is smooth and efficient.  The wine and food is good and the seats are really comfortable in both seated and bed positions.

Have you flown Austrian Airlines from Asia?  What is your favorite Business Class product out of Bangkok?


Changes to United Club Access

The United Club membership offers a great opportunity to escape the madness of the airport.  With complimentary alcoholic beverages and light snacks coupled with comfortable seating and ample power outlets, these lounges allow you to recharge on many levels.  Check out the changes to United Club access policy before you stop by.

Starting November 1, Club Members will need to show a same day United Boarding Pass before entering the club.  Historically, you could still access the United Club if you were traveling on another airline.  I usually fly United exclusively for domestic travel, but on the off chance that I would fly American or Delta, I’d still pop into the United Club.  That’s all changed.

United Club

Pre-Vacation United Club Bloody Mary and Banana. Breakfast of champions.

This isn’t really a shocker though. Delta and American both made these changes earlier this year too.  It makes sense in some respect, but if you are buying an annual Club membership, you’d want to have access to use the lounge anytime you are flying.

This change seems pretty reasonable, but it could sure make for a frustrating surprise if you aren’t expecting it.  Don’t show up to the airport early, expecting to enter the United Club if you aren’t flying on United!

Will this impact your travel plans at all?


NOSHtrekker Private Dining Singapore

Finding a unique dining experience ranks among the top things we focus on when traveling.  This doesn’t have to mean a Michelin Starred restaurant or one ranked on the World’s Top 50 List.  Our requirements are more broad than that.  We want a good meal, with an equally engaging experience. Now that could be a tasting menu, a cooking class, or local casual food eaten on a squat stool.  In Singapore we found a private dining experience that was like nothing we’d had before. NOSHtrekker brings a truly unique experience to discerning travelers.

With only 68 Hours in Singapore, I knew I wanted to make the most of it.  The idea of a Michelin Rated Restaurant just wasn’t exciting me.  I decided to step out of my normal routine and after a bit of Googling, I found articles written about a newer service in Singapore.  This group offered private dining experiences, food tours and cooking classes that focus on Singapore’s rich cultural heritage.

The Selection

With more than a dozen unique options to choose from, you’ll have a hard time picking one.  I quickly decided that I wanted a full dinner and a relaxing space the day I arrived in Singapore.  A few emails and a Paypal payment later we were all set.

We’d be joining the Masala Mistress for dinner.  We wouldn’t be helping shop for or make dinner, we’d just be eating.  Just be eating.  Looking back on our time with Dhershini, it’s hard to say we “just ate” with a straight face.  Let’s start at the beginning.

The Experience

We arrived at her home at 19h30. Yes, we dined in her home.  It was about a 20 minute walk from the closest MRT station and upon our arrival, she greeted us like long time friends.  She welcomed us into her home, offered us some refreshing juice and escorted us to a lovely sitting area on her patio.  She had help in her kitchen, so the meal prep would continue uninterrupted while we chatted.

I can’t properly say how warm and welcoming Dhershini was.  She made us feel at home, in hers.  We initially talked travel – she was enthralled with the idea of my flying 45 hours to spend just 68 in Singapore.  She had lived much of her life in Singapore and was honest about that time.  While the discussion was mostly positive, she did talk about immigration struggles, political change in the City/State and the region and even discussions on climate change.

Her husband had recently passed away and that was still really impacting her. When she spoke of him – he was an avid traveler too – you could see how she both lit up and was hurting.  This wasn’t a restaurant meal.  This was a meal with a friend.

NOSHtrekker requires a minimum of two guests (which we had) but you can have many more depending on what you select as your experience.  Since there were only two of us, Dhershini was joined by another NOSHtrekker – Heather (I believe).  The four of us enjoyed drinks (both alcoholic and non), and talked throughout the whole experience.

The Meal

The meal was a traditional Indian from Kerala.  Served family style, we had vegetarian dishes, mutton and chicken.  The four of us sat at the family’s dining table while Dhershini’s assistant finished the meal.  She even continued to make more dishes as we ate.  Some things were just too good to stop eating!

We were encouraged to take photos and share our experience on social media.  I will say, it did feel odd to take pictures of this lovely woman’s home and blast it on social.  As you can see, my pictures are very limited and they sure don’t do the whole experience justice.  When taking photos, sometimes you have to step away – step out of the experience to get the right shot. I didn’t want to do that. I was having too much fun.

NOSHtrekker Dinner Table

Dinner is served with the Masala Mistress

Dhershini and Heather (?) seemed like they were our old friends.  These experiences are billed as about 2-2.5 hours long. We stayed there for just under four. There was never any feeling that we had overstayed our welcome – or that there would be a surcharge for the extra time.  We were just talking – telling travel tales, talking about food, life and the future.  At this point, I had been up for days, traveling half way around the planet and I was getting sleepy.  We needed to excuse ourselves.

This was so much like a friend’s dinner party, that Heather offered to drive us back to our hotel in her cute little convertible.  We reluctantly took her up on the offer, but made her agree to drop us off at the MTA station on her way home.  No need to go out of her way on our account.  I wouldn’t even ask a great friend to do that!

Final Thoughts

At the end of it all, our time with Dhershini and Heather was utterly stellar.  A completely new experience for us, but one that I wouldn’t hesitate to do again.  Dhershini is a cookbook author, former restaurateur and culinary ambassador for the Singapore Tourism Board – could you find a better dinner companion?  I think not.

Have you worked with NOSHtrekker before?  For a truly amazing private dining experience in Singapore, you really can’t go wrong.  Also, I should remind everyone that we did pay for this experience – no part of it was comped (other than the ride partway back to our hotel).  This is truly our thoughts on this unique experience.  Go give them a try and tell them Tim (that crazy guy from Chicago who spent just 68 hours in Singapore) sent you!

Talkative Seat Mates

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: Business Travel Isn’t Glamorous.  When I travel for work, it is usually a domestic flight, ranging from 1-4 hours long.  I take that time to prep for a meeting, catch up from the meeting, or just relax.  Usually, right after I put my bags away, I’m putting my headphones on and am in my own little world.  From time to time this subtlety doesn’t work with my talkative seat mates.

A few years ago, I was taking trips between Chicago and Portland, Oregon every 2-3 weeks.  While these weren’t business trips, I did spend the four hour flight working.  I almost always worked exclusively on these flights (while drinking gallons of bad chardonnay).  I’m also not one of those guys who works well with music playing, but I did have my headphones in.  The headphones are a signal to others that I’m not in the mood to chat.  It is my attempt to not be rude.

United Domestic First Class Seats

United Domestic First Class Seats

Well, this one day, I was typing away on my laptop and the guy next to me wanted to chat.  As he started talking to me, I continued to type.  I heard everything he said, as I wasn’t actually listening to anything, I just had my headphones on. He tapped me on the shoulder, I made a big production about taking my headphones off and asked him to repeat what he said.

He did, and I answered with as few words as possible. I smiled and went back to my work.

A few minutes later it happened again.  Almost exactly the same as the first time.  Then 10 minutes later, again.  About an hour later, I put my laptop away and closed my eyes for a bit of rest.

Tap, tap, tap on my shoulder.  Another big production of taking my headphones out. Asking the guy to repeat himself I motioned that my I couldn’t hear because of my music.  He smiles politely and pointed down to the unconnected end of my headphones.  They were just dangling their over my knee.

I felt badly. He wasn’t a rude guy, he just wanted to talk. I sure didn’t though.  Who knows how long it was clear that I was just trying to ignore him.  He seemed genuinely hurt that I had lied to him.  As I was telling this story later the same night to friends, they all had this awful cringy face and called me a jerk.  Well, I just didn’t want to talk. Kudos to my seat mate for calling me out on my lie too.

He didn’t try to talk to me the rest of the flight either.

The worst part?  I often took the same Thursday night flight out of ORD and returned on the Sunday afternoon flight from PDX.  Half of the first class cabin was the exact same passengers each of those flights.  The road warriors were consistent.  Yes, you’ve got it.  I ended up sitting next to that same guy at least half a dozen more times on those same flights over the next year.  He never tried to strike up a conversation again.

How do you deal with chatty passengers?