When booking a family’s Greek island summer holiday this week, I got to the point where I was obliged to ask for all the names as they appeared on the passports.
All went well until we reached the son’s girlfriend’s name. A name was given, followed by a pause, and then a question from the mother.
“If we have to change this name, will there be a charge?” she asked.
“Is there likely to be a name change?” I asked tentatively.
“He’s a young man,” said the father. “He’s sowing his oats.”
“Widely?” I asked.
“Well, he’s had a girlfriend in Frome, and one in Taunton, but his current girlfriend is just down the road.”
“Right,” I said. “When will you know which lucky girl is coming on the trip?”
“How long is a piece of string?” came the reply.
I said I’d check the position. I rang David Watrous of Greek Islands Club and put the dilemma to him. David was unfazed by the situation and said he thought I’d got off lightly compared with one of his former bookings.
“I took the details from a client for a booking myself,” he said. “And when I asked him for the name of the woman who’d be accompanying him, he said ‘A.N. Other’. I said I needed the name as it appeared on the passport and that A.N. Other would not be accepted.
“He got really aggressive and accused me of contravening his human rights by demanding personal details of his private life.”
I sympathised with David. I’ve fallen into the trap of asking a gentleman for his wife’s name only to be told: “What do you want that for, it’s not the wife I’m taking!”
As for my young Lothario? I’ve suggested he work at a long-term relationship. Well, at least one from now until June.
Ray’s satnav hell
Check out any tabloid paper on a slow news day and you’re bound to read a story about the vagaries of the satnav.
How we laugh when we read that some poor trusting soul has been led, quite literally, up a garden path.
How we titter at the thought of the fellow who, having shelled out in Currys for a top-of-the-range system, ends up being pulled out of a rushing weir.
Oh yes, there’s no shortage of tales of folk who, having installed the satnav, jettison common sense.
Ray Steward, of W&O Travel, has spent much of his working life visiting agents in towns across the nation. He has, until now, used the good old map-and-brain combo, with varying degrees of success.
Fed up with the frustrations involved in finding the more far-flung rural offices, he finally succumbed to the temptations of technology and, for Christmas, asked his wife if she could fix him up with a TomTom.
Having reassured her that he was only after some gear for his Escort, and not an escort for his Ghia, he started the new year fully loaded with maps and GPS.
For the whole of January Ray boasted to friends and colleagues that his new satnav had saved him hours each day.
Instead of pulling over in lay-bys to check and double check tatty paper maps, he was driving straight to his destination, encouraged by the authoritative, yet curiously seductive, tones of Satnav Sally.
His bragging was short-lived, however, when he discovered that one agency he was scheduled to visit was located in a pedestrian zone. Circumnavigating the town twice, he finally found a parking space and made his way to the agency on foot.
After a successful visit, he left the shop to walk back to the car. Panic set in when he couldn’t remember the route he’d taken and he spent a good half hour wandering in the vain hope of recognising a landmark Gregg’s or pub that might have caught his eye.
Then, a brainwave. He’d taken the satnav out of the car for reasons of security and decided that all he needed to do was type in the last destination for the device to take him back to the vehicle.
He followed the instructions for 10 minutes until he heard the magic words, ‘Arrive at destination’, only to look up and find himself outside the agency he’d been in only an hour before.
“The staff were bemused, to say the least,” says Ray. “I usually leave months between visits, not minutes.”
He did eventually find his car, with the help of a local old boy and a lot of finger pointing.
As is often the case, there’s nothing like traditional methods…
Maureen Hill works at Travel Angels in Gillingham, Dorset