Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The English Town That Changed Its Name Because of Sacha Baron Cohen

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

While a shout-out on a popular TV show might be a boon for some small towns, many of the residents of Staines, a town on the River Thames in Surrey, England, were pretty displeased when their hometown became a recurring joke on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Da Ali G Show, which ran from 2000 to 2004. In fact, according to Condé Nast Traveler, residents were so upset to be named as the fictional Ali G’s hometown that they changed the town’s name, making the official switch to the slightly fancier-sounding Staines-upon-Thames.

Baron Cohen’s alter-ego Ali G, a white suburbanite who plays at being a streetwise rapper, claims to live in the heart of the “Staines Ghetto.” The location serves as an in-joke for Brits familiar with the relatively affluent London commuter town. Being from Staines is the opposite of being from the ghetto, in other words, adding to Ali G’s poser persona. The town’s greatest claim to fame before Baron Cohen made its name famous was that it is a major producer of linoleum—and that it was the hometown of the decorated World War II homing pigeon All Alone.

Unfortunately, many Staines residents didn’t appreciate the joke. In 2011, the chairman of a local commerce group claimed that the town's association with Ali G was lowering its property values.

“There’s no doubt Ali G put Staines on the map,” Alex Tribick of the Spelthorne Business Forum said, “but for all the wrong reasons. He put the stain in Staines.” The borough council voted in favor of changing the name to Staines-upon-Thames in December 2011, no doubt leading newscasters everywhere to stumble over the phrase “Staines-upon-Thames name change.”

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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What Happens When You Flush an Airplane Toilet?
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iStock

For millions of people, summer means an opportunity to hop on a plane and experience new and exciting sights, cultures, and food. It also means getting packed into a giant commercial aircraft and then wondering if you can make it to your next layover without submitting to the anxiety of using the onboard bathroom.

Roughly the size of an apartment pantry, these narrow facilities barely accommodate your outstretched knees; turbulence can make expelling waste a harrowing nightmare. Once you’ve successfully managed to complete the task and flush, what happens next?

Unlike our home toilets, planes can’t rely on water tanks to create passive suction to draw waste from the bowl. In addition to the expense of hauling hundreds of gallons of water, it’s impractical to leave standing water in an environment that shakes its contents like a snow globe. Originally, planes used an electronic pump system that moved waste along with a deodorizing liquid called Anotec. That method worked, but carrying the Anotec was undesirable for the same reasons as storing water: It raised fuel costs and added weight to the aircraft that could have been allocated for passengers. (Not surprisingly, airlines prefer to transport paying customers over blobs of poop.)

Beginning in the 1980s, planes used a pneumatic vacuum to suck liquids and solids down and away from the fixture. Once you hit the flush button, a valve at the bottom of the toilet opens, allowing the vacuum to siphon the contents out. (A nonstick coating similar to Teflon reduces the odds of any residue.) It travels to a storage tank near the back of the plane at high speeds, ready for ground crews to drain it once the airplane lands. The tank is then flushed out using a disinfectant.

If you’re also curious about timing your bathroom visit to avoid people waiting in line while you void, flight attendants say the best time to go is right after the captain turns off the seat belt sign and before drink service begins.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Don’t Fall For This Trick Used by Hotel Booking Sites
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iStock

Hotel booking sites can be useful tools when comparing prices, locations, and amenities, but some services use deceptive tactics to get you to click “book.”

A new report spotted by Travel + Leisure determined that those “one room left” alerts you sometimes see while perusing hotels can’t always be trusted. Led by the UK-based Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the eight-month investigation concluded that many sites use “pressure selling” to create a false sense of urgency in hopes that customers will book a room more quickly than usual. Similar notices about how many people are looking at a particular room or how long a deal will last are some of the other tactics travel booking websites employed.

The CMA also found that some discount claims had either expired or weren’t relevant to the customer’s search criteria, and hidden fees—like the much-maligned "resort fees"—are sometimes tacked on at the end of the booking process. (To be fair, many hotels are also guilty of this practice.)

The report didn’t drop any company names, but the consumer agency said it warned the sites that legal action would be taken if their concerns weren't addressed. The companies could be breaking consumer protection law, the CMA notes.

“Booking sites can make it so much easier to choose your holiday, but only if people are able to trust them,” Andrea Coscelli, the CMA's chief executive, said in a statement. “Holidaymakers must feel sure they’re getting the deal they expected … It’s also important that no one feels pressured by misleading statements into making a booking.”

Still, booking sites remain a convenient option, so if you decide to use one, just take your time and be cognizant that some of the claims you're seeing may not be entirely truthful.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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