As a tourist, you get only a quick glimpse of what life might be like in the places you visit.
What I’ve found is sometimes you’re in on the joke that the tour guides tell. Other times, you’re the butt of the joke.
Still others, it’s like you walked in the middle of a movie and leave before it ends. You’re left wondering how it turned out.
It took only a few minutes on a bus tour in Seattle, Washington, to realize there was a real culture clash between the logging industry and environmentalists who were trying to stop trees from being cut down because of its effect on the wildlife.
The bus driver, over the speaker, told his passengers: “We’ll be stopping for lunch. You can have the condor or the spotted owl.”
Many passengers erupted in laughter at the inside joke. Both are endangered species – and will not be found on any menu.
On a swamp tour in New Orleans, we saw nutria (a large rodent that is not a native of Louisiana), great blue herons and alligators.
To make sure we saw more than the bulging, beady eyes and snout that were just slightly above the water line, our guide threw marshmallows over board.
A gator scooted over to the boat and scooped up the bobbing treats from the water.
A woman, with a Boston accent, piped up, “Don’t you ever feed the gators anything but junk food?”
Clearly irritated, the guide retorted, “Sometimes we feed them Yankees. But I guess that’s junk food, too.”
Now, I’m from New York (Syracuse). Maybe I should have been offended, but I burst out laughing at the guide’s joke. Or, at least, I hope he was joking.
Mealtime can also provide a few laughs. At a restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska, we chuckled over a meal offered on the kids’ menu: liver and onions.
Well, the little wrangler will be delighted to know that, even if he is real ornery, it’s unlikely his Mom and Dad will order the yuckiest thing on the kids’ menu. The reason? It cost $28,212.99.
Now, that’s something to cheer about. That and the folks in Fairbanks obviously have a wonderfully warped sense of humor.
What a long, strange trip it was when we hit the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, California. There, apparently, were still some folks there that looked like they were trapped in a time warp – leftovers from the Sixties when Flower Power ruled the area.
As we walked along Haight Street, a guy ahead of us is trying to get the guy he’s walking with to change shirts with him. No dice.
“We got to get into a bar before the cops come,” he said.
As if on cue, a cop car pulls up. A cop steps up and politely says, “Can we talk for a second?”
“Sure,” the guys says, acting nonchalantly.
Ten minutes later, as we walk by on the other side of the street, the “talk” continues. Now, four cops are on the scene.
This is where I’d thought we’d stumbled into one of Alfred Hitchcock’s pranks.
Ever the Master of Suspense, he’d appear to be in the midst of a gruesome story when new passengers stepped into the elevator he was on. Naturally, they were all ears. But, as luck would have it, they reached the main floor before he wrapped it up. Which was Hitchcock’s mischievous scheme all along.
No telling what you’ll see and hear on your travels. But I sure wish I knew the rest of the story about that “talk.”
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Alfred Hitchcock’s Elevator Story as told by Peter Bogdanovich http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqXFtWSBBd4
Photo: alligator – marshmallow – http://www.wwtid.com/2012/11/20/the-alligator-and-the-marshmallow/
Photo – dog sled – Alaska – A musher departs Slaven’s Roadhouse in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve during the 2005 Yukon Quest sled dog race. Taken Feb. 5, 2005 by the U. S. National Park Service http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/69/Slaven%27s_Roadhouse.jpg/640px-Slaven%27s_Roadhouse.jpg
Photo: Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, California – Piedmont Boutique on Haight Street. Taken by Bernard Gagnon, Sept. 3, 2008 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5d/Haight_Street%2C_SF.jpg/640px-Haight_Street%2C_SF.jpg