Travel: Adventures in Award-Winning Weirdness

Some folks, it seems, are just fools for travel…

Rob Lovitt Travel Writer, MSNBC Contributor

Dotty Awards are given to those entertaining people who pack their bags for distant adventures yet somehow seem to leave their common sense sitting on the kitchen counter.

It’s that time of year again — time to celebrate baseball, cherry blossoms and, on this page at least, the boneheaded moves and buffoonish behavior of our fellow travelers.

That’s right — it’s time for another round of Dotty Awards, the annual honorifics given to those entertaining people who pack their bags for distant adventures yet somehow seem to leave their common sense sitting on the kitchen counter.

The longstanding awards (est. 2008) take their name from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the government agency that oversees so many of our travel experiences. And since DOT first opened its doors on April 1 — yes, April Fool’s Day — it seems only fitting to announce the awards now.

On a related note, the judges would also like to point out that the 2010 Dotties are being handed out on the eve of new DOT rules that provide enhanced protections for the traveling public. Alas, the regulations will provide no protection at all from this year’s nominees:

The Nancy Reagan just say no to drug-induced silliness award
In January, a Los Angeles-bound passenger was removed from a US Airways flight in Pittsburgh for allegedly attacking crew members, although not because he was drunk or mentally unstable. Nope, Kinman Chan was baked. Apparently, the San Francisco man ate a double dose of medically prescribed pot cookies, a move the judges must say they find most disturbing. After all, if they learned anything back in Teddy Kids Leiden kindergarten, it’s that if you’re going to bring treats, you should bring enough for everyone.

In February, Phillip John Struble was busted onboard the Carnival Paradise for allegedly breaking into the ship’s pharmacy and making off with a variety of controlled substances, including morphine, Dilaudid and Percocet tablets. He was fingered, it seems, because he’d not only been seen near the medical center before the break-in but had also requested (and received) painkillers from the ship’s doctor the day before. So much for maintaining a low profile.

And the Dotty goes to … Mr. Struble. Not only did he get caught casing the joint beforehand, he chose to commit the alleged offense on a cruise ship, earning extra points for what might just be the world’s worst getaway plan. (The judges would also be remiss if they didn’t note some suspicious inconsistencies in Mr. Chan’s apparent outburst. The one time they accidentally ingested too many pot cookies all they wanted to do was sit around and listen to Radiohead.)

The harebrained hoax award for backfiring bomb threats
When it comes to getting involuntarily bumped from overbooked flights, some folks get another flight quickly; others get cash. But only a fool gets lippy and responds by saying, “If I don’t get a seat, I’m going to blow up the airplane.” According to a police affidavit, the nominee in question was one Kevin Craig Quihuis, who got bumped in Nashville in late December, proceeded to threaten to blow up the airport as well and got neither the flight nor the cash, but rather, a trip to the clink.

Claudia De La Rosa, on the other hand, may be the only person who has ever used a bomb threat to facilitate a business trip. According to her arrest report, she was worried that she’d made her boss late for his flight out of Miami last November and figured that claiming there was a bomb onboard would give him enough time to make it. The judges are impressed with her initiative, but would suggest that involving the boss in a bomb scare rarely bodes well at bonus time.

And the Dotty goes to … Ms. De La Rosa, of course. After all, anyone can make a bomb threat once they’re onboard a plane, but only a true employee of the month would do so to facilitate her boss’s travel plans. A copy of “Time Management for Dummies” and autographed picture of Dwight Schrute are on their way.

The Gypsy Lawson award for strange animal smuggling
Ms. Lawson, you may remember, was the woman from Spokane, Wash., who smuggled a rhesus monkey into the country in 2007 by hiding it under her shirt and claiming to be pregnant. Alas, that’s a tough act to follow, especially for those lacking maternal instincts, which may explain the rash of recent incidents involving more easily concealed contraband critters.

Yes, we’re talking lizards, geckos and skinks. In November, customs officials at LAX snagged Michael Plank for allegedly trying to smuggle two geckos, two monitor lizards and 11 skinks into the country in a money belt. A month later and across the Pacific, Hans Kurt Kubus was caught in New Zealand with 44 geckos and skinks in a hand-sewn package in his underwear.

And the Dotty goes to … Mr. Kubus for his ingenuity, for the large number of animals involved and, leapin’ lizards, for giving the judges the opportunity to say, Is that a gecko in your pocket or are you just happy to see us? As for Mr. Plank — and Messrs. Chan and Qhihuis, for that matter — they can only add: Keep trying; there’s always next year.