This being Thanksgiving weekend, you may have just flown somewhere, or you may even be on a plane right now, doing a close reading of this story. Really close, with the newspaper inches from your nose, because the guy in front of you has been in full recline, in your face, since takeoff. Meanwhile, the little tyke in back of you has been pounding on your seat back since the Grand Canyon, and you just passed over Joliet.
So I don't need to tell you about traveling with turkeys. Obviously, a good trip can go bad in bad company. And memories of a place can become forever tangled with your companions' offensive behavior. Now, turkey travelers come in two guises -- the known and the unknown. Strangers are largely, of course, unavoidable in travel. But just try and stop them from changing their toddlers' diapers right at their seats on a plane, stampeding at airports, or stealing the much-coveted by-the-pool lounge chairs at resorts -- along with the pulp novels left behind to guard them.
Sometimes amiable strangers are the worst. One traveler innocently bought a fine Oriental rug from a stranger on a plane, and later found himself under investigation by the IRS and hauled before a grand jury for his association with the rug merchant -- a major-league drug dealer.
But the biggest turkey can be someone known intimately to you -- usually someone who does not travel well. Like the newly married woman who required emergency therapy to check hysteria (tripped by fear of flying -- and marriage) that began the night before her wedding and continued into the honeymoon. Or the neophyte river rafter whose anxiety attacks on a trip down the Salmon River shook the tent nightly.
Then there is the companion you don't know well, but take along anyway, and come to loathe. One man embarked on a month-long trek to the Himalayas with a fastidious Southern belle who insisted on wearing only white, required frequent laundry service and toted a set of hot rollers everywhere.
The offenses need not be big to really drive you crazy. Like the guy in your safari van who insists on always taking the front seat next to the driver, never once relinquishing it, not even to the 11-year-old aboard. Or the person in your tour group who treats his wife like a galley slave. Or the one who sits in the back seat of your car all day in the worst traffic jam of the decade on an Italian autostrada on Easter weekend, with a severe cold, without benefit of tissues or antihistamines.
But to be fair, chances are that if you're thinking your companion is a turkey, he probably sees a gobbler when he looks at you too. In general, the following sorts of traveling companions should be avoided:
Those whose energy levels differ profoundly from yours. Type A's and B's should never vacation together. One woman traveled with friends to Zermatt, Switzerland, where another member of the party organized a group hike and picnic; in her haste to complete the trip, she ascended and descended hours before anyone else with the uneaten picnic still in her pack.
Incessant chatterboxes (who count off every cape buffalo in East Africa), especially early morning gobblers and constant complainers. The only thing worse than a turkey is a grouse.
Anyone who is too dependent -- requiring what one frequent traveler calls "too much togetherness."
Anyone of outspoken opinion, political or otherwise.
Anyone prone to carsickness.
Any couple in marital meltdown.
Anyone with severe dietary restrictions, food foibles or quirks who imposes them on you. Non-eaters should never travel with gourmands -- or with anyone who is forever obssessing about where to have the next meal, and who spends hours in restaurants.
Those who like to shop, if you lack the shopping chromosome.
Anyone who rises too early, or too late, and on whom you are dependent for transport.
Anyone who doesn't pay his share, does it grudgingly or calculates it down to the last lira at the end of every meal and every hotel stay.
Anyone who would rather be at home.
But when it comes to traveling with turkeys, a friend of mine wins on a technicality. On a return trip from a visit to his parents, laden with the usual complement of foodstuffs, he was stopped by airport security. "What have you got in there?" barked a guard, detecting the outline of a skeleton.
It was a frozen smoked turkey.
Barbara Ann Curcio is a Washington writer.