Joe Sharkey’s World Worsts
Name Joe Sharkey
Who? Formerly a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal and, for 13 years, a columnist for the New York Times. He is the author of six books, two in development as movies. He is currently working on a book about air travel called — what else? — High Anxiety. Check out his blog
Countries Visited 40+
1. Worst Flight I was flying over the Amazon in a small plane with five passengers and — KABOOM — there’s this atomic concussion. I look out the window and five feet of the wing is missing. Then we start losing altitude. We all think we’re going to die. So I mentally say good-bye to my family and friends. Fifteen minutes go by and we still haven’t crashed yet, but I’ve said my good-byes to everyone. So I start thinking that this is going to hurt. I dwell on that for a while. The plane will explode and I’m going catch on fire.* Then out of nowhere appears a tiny airfield and we manage to plop down on it. Turns out it’s a secret military base that wasn’t expecting us. We’re met by lots of people pointing guns and detained. And there’s no cell phone coverage here. And they don’t know what has happened. At that point, neither did we. Our theory was that another plane higher up had exploded and we hit their debris. What actually happened was that we were hit by another, much larger 737, and that plane tragically went down and 154 people died. We found out several hours later.
2. Worst Festival Pikeville, Kentucky has this Hillbilly Days festival. The well-off people dress up as hillbillies and drive around in floats depicting things like hillbilly front yards with an outhouse. Who’s watching? The actual hillbillies. They come in from the hills and make up the spectators. I noticed there was no bluegrass music in the festival and asked the hillbilly next to me about it. He said: “anyone who can play the banjo got fuck out of here.”
3. Worst Hotel Wildwood, New Jersey has a great beach and cool-looking art-deco hotels. But they’re all terrible. Especially this place called Eden Roc. It’s run by this notoriously nasty woman who fights with the guests. Even TripAdvisor says to stay away. Best decoration detail was the beer bottle on the bottom of the pool.
4. Worst Toilet Top floor bathroom of Port Authority bus terminal before the mid-1990s. If you went in, someone would follow you… to mug you, sell you drugs, something.. I learned to pee fast and look menacing while I was peeing — not easy to do.
5. Worst Meal About12 years ago, my wife and I were in Casablanca. Everyone said I have try the pigeon pie, so we got a recommendation for a place that specializes in it. We were the only ones in the restaurant. The pie had this flaky pastry covering it, but beneath it looked like roadkill — most roadkill doesn’t look this bad. My eyes said no, my mouth said no, but I ate it anyway (my wife sensibly avoided it). I was deathly ill the next day.
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*I told my doctor this some months later and he said “It wouldn’t have hurt.” And I replied “How the fuck do you know?”