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Into each traveler's odyssey, a little oddness must come

A successful traveler is flexible, resourceful, curious, eager for new acquaintances and new experiences _ and just a little lucky.

Because while so many wonderful things are waiting for us out in the world, Murphy's Law lurks as well. Here's a look at travel news that made us laugh, wince and give thanks that we booked something else that day.

Cigarettes more dangerous than ever

Australian customs officers at Brisbane International Airport were suspicious when they saw a man wearing a bulky, long-sleeved jacket. In his clothing they found 19 colorful miniature pythons concealed in cigarette boxes. A day earlier, they had caught a passenger trying to smuggle 52 bird eggs hidden inside cigarette boxes in a vest.

"When you see cigarette packs, you don't expect to find snakes inside," reasoned customs manager Tom Ramsay. "Seeing as they'd found eggs in the morning, we weren't expecting there to be snakes in there." Both men were charged with importing a regulated live species without a permit.

Bomb jokes still keep bombing

Jose Gonzalez, a pastor in Deltona, told airport security agents searching his carry-on bag at Nashville International Airport that he had a bomb. When they got a little agitated, he pulled out a Bible and declared, "This is my bomb." Explaining that he was "just kidding" didn't stop his being arrested and charged with making a false statement.

After 24 years, a good night's sleep

A Clarion Hotel in Kristiansand, Norway, received a handwritten anonymous letter of apology with a 500-kroner note (about $82) attached. The writer said he had skipped out on the bill in 1980 and needed to assuage his conscience.

Please leave the driving to us

Police charged a smooth-talking San Francisco man with stealing nearly two-dozen cars from hotels and car rental agencies by posing as a friendly employee, then driving off. A police inspector said Darrel Ward acted with such charm and authority that victims unquestioningly turned over their keys.

"He's made life hell for me," said Joe Sambora of National Rental Car. "He says, "I'll check your fuel and mileage; I've got it from here.' He sure does. He takes the cars."

Put the seat down

Ryanair, the Irish discount carrier, fired a pilot and two off-duty flight attendants after the pilot allowed the attendants to fly from Spain to Dublin seated in the rear lavatories. Free standby flights are a cherished perk in the airline industry, but regular seats have been scarce on many routes because of full flights.

Score one for the attendants

Unruly-passenger stories are all too common, so here's a switcheroo. Two crew members on an Aeroflot flight in Russia beat up a passenger who complained that flight attendants were drunk. An airline spokeswoman said a passenger asked to be served by a sober and competent staffer, earning the beating that left the aisle strewn with food and debris. The entire crew was suspended.

Hey, you want low fares

Ryanair plans to save money by getting rid of reclining seats, headrests, seat pockets and other "nonessentials" that add to maintenance and cleaning costs. American Airlines, which apparently hired the same consultant, removed pillows from its 334 MD-80 jets so workers can "streamline our cabin service," spokesman Tim Wagner explained.

Parting gifts from Israel

A German tourist arriving home from a trip to Israel found a pistol in his suitcase, apparently a present from El Al security agents. An Israeli newspaper reported that the security-conscious airline occasionally sneaks guns into passengers' suitcases to see if airport screeners can spot them. The airline wouldn't comment, but the passenger said he was told the weapon was inoperable.

Olkahomma welkomes yu!

Oklahoma's tourism office recalled about 200,000 brochures because they didn't make the state seem very inviting. In addition to pictures promoting a cow-chip tossing contest and Civil War re-enactors with a Confederate flag, the brochure was riddled with mistakes in grammar, spelling and facts. Tourism director Rob Gray said the employee responsible doesn't work there anymore.

I meant your country is No. 1

If you're heading to Brazil, keep your hands in your pockets. An American Airlines pilot was fined $12,750 after making an obscene gesture when he was being photographed for an entry visa. The pilot was apparently unhappy with new regulations requiring Americans entering Brazil to be fingerprinted and photographed. They're doing that to us because we're doing that to them as part of stepped-up security measures.

Those pictures are hot

A man flying from Norway to England brought a pornographic magazine on board, then was offended by one of the pictures. He asked the flight attendant to burn it in the oven for him. When she refused, he lit a fire under his seat to do the deed. The crew put it out before any damage resulted, but a judge banned the man from flying in or out of England.