The perils of solo travel, or, how to sexually harass someone without even trying

Here at Gadling we’ve talked a lot about the perils of solo travel, from how it can break up relationships to creating feelings of loneliness. On a recent trip to Antwerp I discovered a danger to solo travel I never thought of–people look upon you with suspicion.

I was dining alone in a popular Antwerp restaurant. The waiter had seated me so that I faced another table less than ten feet away. A middle-aged woman and her college-aged daughter sat there. The daughter was directly in front of me facing to my left, so if I looked straight ahead I was looking at her profile.

I didn’t give it any thought as I ordered. Sometime during my appetizer I noticed the daughter kept turning to look at me. At first it was just every few minutes, but by the time I got my main course she was giving me annoyed glances every thirty seconds or so.

Obviously she thought I was staring at her. I tried to look elsewhere. She kept looking over so often, though, that anytime I happened to look straight ahead, she’d “catch” me. I began to feel a bit guilty, like when I’m walking home at night and there’s a woman walking in the street ahead of me. I hate when that happens because I know I’m making the woman uncomfortable. What do you do? Speed up and pass her? Slow down? Both look suspicious and are only going to make her more nervous.

But we weren’t alone in a darkened street; we were in a busy restaurant and she was sitting right in front of me. What could I do, squash my face into my plate of venison?

She started whispering to her mother in French. They’d been talking normally before, but now their conversation changed into a angry, conspiratorial whisper.

At this point my guilt changed into annoyance. I mean, where else was I supposed to look? In fact, for the past half hour I’d been deliberately trying to avoid looking forward. That probably made me look even creepier because now both mother and daughter kept swiveling their heads to check on me.

The bill came and I paid. More whispering. Just as I stood up, both turned on me with snarly little faces, mother and daughter the same snarly little faces.

“Peeg,” snarled mother.

“Peeg,” snarled daughter.

I ignored them and walked off. I would have explained it was all a misunderstanding if they had looked open to that approach. My second reaction was to say, “Sorry to rain on your parade, kid, but my wife is twice your age and STILL better looking than you.” That wouldn’t have gone over too well either. Instead I said nothing, got my coat, and headed out into the night.

So guys, if you’re traveling alone be sure to bring a book to dinner, otherwise you may be mistaken for a male chauvinist “peeg”.

Photo courtesy Alex Castro and the London Anti-Street harassment Campaign.

Marriott guest sues property after alleged sexual assault by hotel employee

A woman filed suit today against a Marriott property, claiming she was sexually assaulted by an employee of the hotel during a stay on April 23, 2010.

In the suit, Katherine Olson claims hotel employee Mauricio Rodriguez entered her room using a master key code card, removed his clothes, and assaulted her. The suit also alleges that Rodriguez was intoxicated.

According to the suit, Marriott International:

“failed to provide adequate security, allowed employees with access to master keys to become intoxicated, served employees excess amounts of alcohol and allowed employees access to master keys after their shifts”

The hotel in question is located at 50 N. Martingdale Rd in Schaumburg. The news is especially embarrassing for Marriott as they just took announced the removal of all porn movies from their hotel pay-per-view system claiming the decision was made to “keep adult content out of the reach of children and unavailable to any adult who chooses not to view it”

This is the second lawsuit Marriott is involved in this month that involves sexual harassment. Earlier, a Las Vegas property was sued by two employees of the hotel alleging that a supervisor assaulted them, claiming hotel management was informed, but failed to take any actions.

And this all comes six months after ESPN reporter Erin Andrews filed suit against another Marriott property for failing to protect her, when a stalker filmed her through the peephole of her hotel room.

FBI charges passenger for in-flight grabbing

You need to keep your hands to yourself when you fly – it’s just that simple. Not only is it smart and appropriate, but it’ll keep you out of trouble. Well, that’s what Alpharetta, Georgia resident Ranchhodbhai Lakha learned the hard way.

This 61-year-old passenger faces a variety of sexual assault charges because he allegedly groped a 20-year-old woman on a flight from Dallas to Atlanta. On September 28, 2010, according to an Associated Press report, Lakha touched her while she slept, below her waist. She woke up during the act, and told Lakha to stop doing it. He tried again, and the woman notified a flight attendant.

The worst part: according to an FBI investigation, Lakha may have a history of this.

[photo by banspy via Flickr]

Airline apologizes for male flight attendant harassing a 15-year-old

Australian airline Jetstar has recently apologized to Sunshine Coast-to-Melbourne passenger Elizabeth, who got a little more than she asked for on her flight.

Elizabeth’s 15-year-old daughter was harassed on Facebook by a male Jetstar flight attendant who met her on the plane, and reportedly got her name from her boarding pass. The 15-year-old, whose 16-year-old sister was also on the flight, received a Facebook friend request from the man, and when she ignored it, she started receiving messages. How’s this for creepy? From

“I’ve never wanted to add a 16-year-old before… um, well you seem quite mature maybe we might come friends. Here is my number….do you even have a phone? What area do you live in?

According to The Straits Times, Jetstar rep Simon Westaway has said: “We had a very senior manager contact the mother … We have expressed an apology to her.” reports that the mother Elizabeth “worried especially during the school holidays that he had made other such requests and impressionable young girls had accepted them.

My thought on this is: even if it were well-over-15-me, I’d have reported this guy for … I guess an invasion of my privacy? I don’t know. There’s so little shielding our information from customer service representatives of all types.

Do you think the law should protect our information, or perhaps just our children’s information, from the eyes of representatives like flight attendants? And then what do we become … numbers? How on Earth do we fix a conundrum like this?

Hot or not? JetBlue decides for flight attendant

JetBlue may not comment on litigation, as it told USA Today, but clearly flight attendant attire is fair game. The airline is being sued by Karin Keegan. In what appears to be the friendly skies’ version of “put out or get out,” Keegan was not allowed to board a JetBlue flight because she wasn’t dressed provocatively enough. After ditching her threads for something she felt would be more consistent with JetBlue’s unusual “standards,” Keegan was told that she had missed her flight … and that she should have dressed the part of a sexy flight attendant from the start.

Keegan was flying JetBlue because of an agreement the airline has with her employer (Delta), under which Delta employees are ferried among locations. The altercation occurred in October 2007. The flight attendant complained to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which gave her a “right to sue” letter late last year. Though not an employee of JetBlue, the law gives her the right “sue over workplace harassment even when they are not directly employed by the alleged harasser,” according to reporting by USA Today.

JetBlue’s recent spanking in Connecticut small claims court is nothing compared to this debacle, which is headed for federal court. If the airline is looking for some form of precedent to cite, it may want to consider France’s advances in attire and accommodation.

Maybe a scantily clad workforce is JetBlue’s way of making a nine-hour stint on the runway more bearable for passengers, but c’mon guys, there has to be a better way.

[Via USA Today]

[Picture via The Sun]

Keegan wasn’t provocative enough. Check out the stories from these women — who were all too provocative!