While motoring through the Cotswolds in England several years ago, we came to a quaint village of narrow streets and gray stone houses, some with thatched roofs. While driving around the village, we recognized that we had seen the same landmark four times. We came to the conclusion that we were lost.
We slowed and flagged a man afoot and asked for directions to the road to Stow-on-the-Wold. He quickly assessed the situation and suggested that, "First, we've got to get you out of this parking lot!"
The next morning we drove a few miles north to Moreton on Marsh to experience a weekly outdoor market on the mall. After parking the car, we each chose a direction in which to explore.
I spotted a hardware store a short distance away that intrigued me. I was pleased to see the items for sale in bins and on shelves where one could pick them up individually, as opposed to prepackaged items, five or six together to purchase at once here in the States. After browsing about, I stopped by the cash register.
An older, mustachioed man asked, "Where are you going, Yank?"
I said, "After England, France."
He replied, with a growl in his voice, "The only reason to go to France is to fight!"
Earlier on that same trip, we four friends were having supper at an English pub. After giving our entree orders to the wait person, we decided we'd like to have a beverage before our meal. I volunteered to go to the bar and place the orders.
I was greeted by the barkeep with a cheery, "Good evening, where are you from?"
''Ohio," I said, and proceeded to place the beverage orders.
He wanted to know where we were going next and I said, "To France."
He said that many of the French people are very proud of their language and like to hear it spoken by visitors. It's best to speak French whenever possible - even if your spoken word is less than correct, they like your effort to try.
I said, "I understand the French can be hard to get along with sometimes."
''Yes," he said, "but there are understanding people and arbitrary people everywhere."
On another trip, when I was much younger, our party stayed overnight in the German city of Koblenz. It is located at the point where the Moselle River empties into the Rhine River. After most everybody had gone to bed, I, being full of excitement with this adventure, had the urge to see more of this old city.
I returned to our hotel sometime after midnight and fell into conversation with the night clerk. He wasn't a particularly agreeable man, but I led him to talk about aspects of World War II, which had concluded some 14 years prior. It turned out that he had been a member of the Panzers, the driver of a tank.
He concluded the conversation by saying, "Our generals let us down. We should have beaten you guys."
I didn't choose to argue with him further, so I bid him good night.
After our daughter Alice graduated from high school, she was chosen by the Warren Rotary Club to be an exchange student to Sweden. While she was there, my wife, my mother and I flew over to visit her. We met some of Alice's newfound friends. One girl asked me, in a pleasant way, if I wouldn't rather speak English the way the English do.
I said, "No, I'm an American and I enjoy speaking the American language."
It's differences like that that make the people of the world interesting.
I became lost in Allentown, Pa., one time. I went into a convenience store to ask for directions. The fellow behind the counter was a jovial sort who told me to take the next left, drive two miles, and I'd be at my destination.
I turned to leave, then returned to say to the man, "Wouldn't it be more direct if I turned right?"
He laughed and said, "Would I lie to you? How long have we known each other?"
A short conversation on another journey that made me laugh.