By Barry Zander
My wife, Monique, was prepared for the worst, her teeth already clenched in anticipation. She knew that I was about to make some stupid remark to the sales clerk as I tried on a funny hat and made some asinine attempt at humor.
But the clerk was ready to console her. She reached over and, as she gently patted Monique’s arm, she said softly, “Don’t worry, Dearie. I’ve got one at home just like that!”
By way of a meager defense for my dumb wittiness, I am trainable. Monique has gotten me to quit saying, “We’re the Griswolds” when checking into a campground. If you’ll remember from the National Lampoon series, Ellen would beam a cute smile while Clark Griswold waited for the hostess’ stilted laugh. I guarantee, she didn’t have one at home like him.
The point is that by engaging the sales clerk with the frozen smile with a question other than “Where’s the nearest bathroom?” Or “Do you take cash?” you could actually make a friend. Ask a real question about the area: “What’s the best restaurant in town?” “Is there a museum we should see?” “How did the town get its name?”
She or he knows what is worth seeing in town. When we show an interest in the clerk, we gain tips about hidden attractions. For us, that’s what keeps our travels fascinating, if not exciting. You’ll find that showing your interest in what the locals have to say can foster memories you would have otherwise missed. They’ll know things that a quick internet search won’t teach you. Listen.