Overheard While Just Passing Thru

By Judy Berman

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.

dog sled - Alaska

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.

Haight Ashbury, San Francisco

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.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Elevator Story as told by Peter Bogdanovich http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqXFtWSBBd4  

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

  1. I love catching bits and pieces of conversations and making up the ending myself. Sometimes I wonder if my ending was more or less interesting than the real one. As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction.

      1. Four police cars….hmmm….either it was a drug dealer or a donut maker. See what I mean? I have to make up the ending!

        comment from earthrider to Kate Crimmins:
        I love the way you think. 😆

  2. Your chapter title in the book of Judy: Tour Guides Say the Damnedest Things.

    And Karen and I went to Haigt-Ashbury and saw much 60s-like behavior, but not two guys on the lam, caught by the coppers.

    1. The tour guides and cabbies can be very entertaining, Mark. But, Dave and I also have snippets of conversation from where we live – and lived – that we both find quite amusing. I do like your suggested book title. 😉

  3. Great little teasers. I find that life is full of those tidbits even at home–if one hangs out in public places and listens.

    Our solution to not knowing how it turns out–we make up the end of the story and act as if we know for sure that we’ve gotten it right. (I hate to leave stories unresolved!)

    1. I am a self-confessed people watcher. Sitting at some curb side cafe table or just hanging out. There’s many opportunities to hear some great conversation starters. Tracy, you’re right about making up the ending. They do that in the movies, right?

  4. I love to come along on your adventures, Judy. I cringed at the first guide’s joke, but I laughed out loud at the “feeding the Yankees” joke, and the price of liver and onions.
    Everywhere we go, there’s so much to see and learn and enjoy; you offer a great perspective on all you travels.

    1. The swamp tour guide’s remarks were just too funny. Marilyn, I’m not sure if the target of his comment was laughing, but I sure was. I tried to check to see if that restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska was still in business. I didn’t see it listed online.

      No matter where we go, there’s always something to be learned, gained and/or amused by.

  5. The bus driver who made the joke about condors and spotted owls — which side of the controversy would you say he was on? It seems to me his sarcasm could go either way.

    Also, about that term, Yankee. In World War Two, it was used by the Europeans to refer to all Americans. I wonder how soldiers from the southern states felt about that.

    Great post, Judy. I love that last story, especially the way the SF police asked so politely: “Can we talk for a second?” I’m trying to imagine that coming out of the mouth of an NYPD officer.

    1. Now that you mention it, Charles, I’m not sure which way the bus driver meant it. At the time, I thought maybe he was taking a shot at the environmentalists. But, maybe, he was playing it smart and hedging his bets so that his comment could be taken either way.

      I don’t imagine the soldiers from the southern states were pleased to be lumped in with us damn Yankees. But most are just too darn polite to say so. 😉

      San Francisco, overall, was more laid back than New York. But I’ve seen some cool-as-cucumber cops in New York – not The City – who could have been that offhand and casual. Glad you enjoyed this post.

  6. Love each joke. The Gator one was hilarious indeed. I guess what the Gator tour guide meant was “Gator likes Smarties too other than junk food! Want to jump in?” Laughter is life’s best medicine and no prescription needed. Have a great week ahead.

  7. Marshmallows for the alligators!!! 😯 Well thanks for that tip, if I’m ever in an area where there are alligators I’ll be sure to take some squishy junk food marshmallows with me. It might save me being eaten. Unless of course they would consider the marshmallows as a mere side order and still look forward to me as the main course! 😀

    Do you think that restaurant ever actually had any liver and onions in the kitchen?! I would have been utterly depressed if my parents had been mad enough to order liver in a restaurant – we had enough of that at home. Once a week was too much anyway! I remember asking my Mum why she insisted on us eating it “It was good for you!” was the reply – ugh!! 😦

    I’m just wondering – why is there a pair of ‘over large’ woman’s legs poking out of that window? I’m intrigued – looks a bit naughty! 😉

    1. I’m sure the marshmallows would only be an appetizer, Suzy. You would be the main course. 😉

      I never checked to see if liver and onions was actually on the menu. We were just cracking up over it being on the menu. This is something my Mom did cook up on occasion. If done right – as my Mom did – it’s actually quite tasty.

      That photo of the ‘over large’ woman’s legs certainly caught my attention. Yes, Suzy, it does look a bit naughty. 😉

  8. Ha! Great jokes, one and all– and just how big were those marshmallows the guide was throwin’ to the ‘gators?? Musta been jumbos!! There was a restaurant in Keene, NH, that used to include a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the end of its lunch menu– for $24.99!! Hitchcock? He used to come in and ask for 4-and-20 Blackbird Pie… : )

    1. Those marshmallows weren’t the iddy-biddy ones you put in your cocoa. More like the kind you put on a stick and roast over an open fire. The gators, however, just grabbed and run with ’em. 😉

      Wonder if anyone ever ordered that PB&J? Loved your Hitchcock joke, Mark.

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