I love a good travel story – and I’ve made the LibGuide Armchair Traveler to prove it! Most recently I read Porcelain Travels by Matthew Felix, and I highly recommend it for an entertaining journey and an education on the bathroom traditions in different parts of the world. It’s kind of hard to describe, but here’s the publisher’s version:
Matthew Félix is not a luxury traveler. But traveling on a budget fails to explain why so many of his most unforgettable experiences take place on the toilet, in the tub, or under the shower. From Matthew’s nightmare while relieving himself in Morocco to his unorthodox bathing practices in Paris and Istanbul to the Dead Sea shower incident that led to an arrest, Porcelain Travels is sometimes hilarious, occasionally shocking, and always entertaining.
What I liked was that there were so many levels on which to enjoy it. The toilet and bathing experiences are, for the most part, relatable and humorous (and fascinatingly informative where they’re not relatable); the various locations are a great source of escapism and global knowledge, and the short vignette chapters are engaging and easily readable. Less enjoyable was the author’s somewhat pretentious attitude on some things, but his humility in relating these episodes was a good balance for any sanctimoniousness.
If you’re a devoted travel reader, love cultural comparisons (Europeans’ horror at the existence of the garbage disposal, e.g.), or cannot travel without knowing the bathroom situation, this is a good book for you. Similar vibes include Bill Bryson of A Walk in the Woods fame and David Sedaris, known for Me Talk Pretty One Day.
Journalist David Pogue has written a series of books sharing some tips and tricks to make life easier. I started with the ironically titled Pogue’s Basics. Life : Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) For Simplifying Your Day. Some critics say they already know this stuff. Good for those geniuses. As for the rest of us, there are some very useful things to pick up in Pogue’s books.
For instance: you can tell whether your upcoming exit from the interstate will be on the left or the right by the placement of the exit number on the sign. If exit is on the left, the little sign displaying the exit number will be on the top left. If exit is on the right – you guessed it- the little exit number sign will be on the right. There is a helpful picture in the book that best explains this. This knowledge helped me navigate with aplomb on a recent trip to Chicago.
Another useful tidbit I took from it was the tip on placing my vehicle’s key fob up against my neck fat when attempting to unlock it from across the parking lot. It will unlock from a greater distance, and can be useful during those times when you forgot exactly where you parked. Pogue says this technique works because the fluids in the head act as a great conductor. I say it’s nice to know my neck fat is good for something.
Pogue’s suggestion for getting a lost dog back: place a toy and/or blanket with the scent of home on it outdoors, near where the pet was last seen. Leave it there for 24 hours. The pet will most likely follow his or her nose back toward it. I hope you never need this particular piece of information.
There are lots more suggestions that you’ll just have to check the book out to learn. If you like this book, you might also like Pogue’s Basics. Tech: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) For Simplifying the Technology in Your Life. It will tell you, among other things, what to do when your cell phone falls into the toilet. You can thank me for this recommendation later. Preferably not with a handshake.