Weekend Question Thread

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you while traveling?

Last fall, Mr. A and I were in Paris walking through the Christmas-themed market on the Champs-Elysees, and came upon a stall selling all kinds of sheepskins and sheepskin-themed things. Because I was the size of a house with Kick, I zeroed in on the baby booties and Mr. A went looking for a skin to cover the floor of her room.

(On the grounds that the rug we’d bought was not going to be soft enough to cushion her once she started crawling around. Because of course it wouldn’t.)

He called me over to see some giant, mangy, greasy thing that the young man who ran the place was sure would work perfectly. It smelled like a whole flock of sheep had been licking it, and it felt stiff and unpleasant. I smiled at the proprietor and after the usual inept attempts at French explained in English I would rather have  something more fuzzy.

The owner wrinkled his nose. “What is … fuzzy?”

The words don’t convey the epic disdain in his tone, as if “fuzzy” was a particularly disgusting sex fetish I’d just asked him to satisfy. And his expression grew no less contemptuous when I tried to define fuzzy by petting another animal skin, washed and bleached and probably fake. Tourists, ugh.

In the end I convinced Mr. A that hauling a smelly dead critter on a plane was one of those things that got you put on the no-fly list, and we took home a pair of booties instead. Just yesterday it was finally cold enough for her to put them on.

And the whole hourlong walk we went on, I kept asking her, “What is fuzzy?” Her answering expression mirrored the man who’d sold us the boots precisely.


7 thoughts on “Weekend Question Thread

  1. 1994.

    I was Active Duty Navy, newly stationed in La Maddalena, Sardegna. I had been bummed out about going to such a remote place, until I realized that my family owns and controls most of it. I made friends with them quickly, and in the week before Christmas, they invited me to their home for dinner.

    Having nothing to bring, on Christmas Eve morning I sought out the bakery. There, they had an absolutely beautiful chocolate torte, and they had one cut up for samples– it was delicious. I ordered one, and in broken Sardegnian dialect (not even close to standard “Neapolitan” Italian), I asked them to “put my name on it,” meaning box it up, and set it aside for me.

    Christmas morning, after Mass in town (the priest was the same priest who took Mussolini’s final confession), I stopped at the bakery, which was open for a few hours for people to pick up their fresh sweets.

    There was my box with the torte in it. I pointed it out to the lady at the counter. She opened it up for me to see before final sale, and there, written across the absolutely beautiful chocolate torte, was my last name in the ugliest green frosting I’ve ever seen. I laughed so hard my sides ached.

    My family, who speak decent English (better than I speak Sardegnian), also had a wonderful laugh at the foibles of language barriers, and we ultimately ate it all.

    Dinner started at noon with antipasti, and we didn’t get to cafe and dolce until after 8pm. It was fantastic.

    My time on LaMaddalena was one of the best experiences of my life.

  2. Lots of stories considering I don’t travel much anymore…but…just to go with one that’s short, funny, and, um, legal…my first trip to a foreign country was Morocco. While there, I was obviously awed by both the exotic and mundane…as to the latter, one day I finally saw a US manufactured automobile — most Moroccan cars are Toyotas, with a few Mercedes here and there–anyway, it was a Chevy Caprice, probably mid to late 80s model, your classic family box/land yacht…and it had been thoroughly pimped out. Fringe, pillows, the whole package. On a Chevy.

    The person I was visiting happened to be away, and I had some trouble explaining to his friends why I thought it was so hilarious.

  3. sort of depends on your definition of funny.
    my favorite thing so far …

    I was going back to my duty station in Louisiana on a bus from Dallas Love Field, and we stopped for the obligatory rest/meal break. I was wearing “off-duty” clothes and a 35-10 haircut in the late 70s and started into the women’s restroom, and my fellow passengers physically prevented my entrance … I had to open the windbreaker and let them see the bra lines under my T-shirt.

    I’ve always liked being able to “pass” because let’s face it, our society is just nicer to guys.
    But this was a hilarious different scenario.

  4. My cousin got married on Staten Island, and afterwards I spent a couple of days in Manhattan sightseeing. A co-worker told me that the best NYC subway maps were those issued by the transit company, but I forgot that he also said they were complimentary.

    So, I go up to the booth in the subway station, buy a ticket, and ask, “How much is it a map of the subway?” The booth attendant tells me it’s $3.00.

    As I’m reaching into my wallet, another transit worker sweeping up by the turnstiles starts yelling at the guy in the booth, in a typical “Noo Yawk” accent: “They’re FREE! TELL THE LADY THEY’RE FREE!” (Being only 25 at the time, I found the “lady” part hilarious.)

    In a flash, the attendant slipped the map to me under the glass. I smiled my brightest smile, said, “Thank you!”, and went on my merry way.

    It was my first (and thus far, only) trip to NYC, and I expected to encounter the stereotypical “rude New Yorker.” My experience was the opposite; other than that subway attendant who tried to pull a little scam on me, everyone I encountered was nice and helpful. Especially subway dude who didn’t hesitate to chew out a co-worker rather than see me being cheated out of a few bucks.

  5. well, i guess the most amusing was eating late in a restaurant in arhus, DK. we noticed a grandmother statue outside w/ NO WAR graffiti on it(2003, iWaq had just started). while we ate, a drunk man started an argument w/ the grandma statue. not sure why he was so mad.

  6. I was in Hanover, Germany helping man the company booth at a massively large trade show. I had only a half-hour or so for lunch, and all the proper restaurants were overflowing with show-goers. So the only option was to go to the German equivalent of a hotdog stand.

    I order a brat and a Coke, and proceed to start wolfing them down, because I’m rapidly running out of time. This older German man walks over to me with a straw in his hand and in perfect English says “here, you will be needing this”. I look around and *everyone* is drinking their can of soda through a straw.

    He’s politely not saying to me “hey, idiot American! You’re grossing everybody out by sucking on that filthy can. Please stop it.”

  7. We were visiting relatives in Miraflores, Peru and on these trips it is my job to exercise the dogs for the entire extended family. One night I was walking an elderly cocker spaniel through el Parque Kennedy wearing clothes my mother-in-law bought me, and, like most nights, the park was crowded with people. For some reason, this night I kept being stopped by young men wanting to pet the dog. One man started asking me how I liked Lima, if I liked to dance, if I knew the good restaurants…until I mentioned that the dog was my wife’s childhood pet. He gave me a measuring sidelong look and I realized I was being cruised.

    The upshot is that something in mi suegra’s tastes in men’s clothes gets me attention.

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