David Bruce: Travel Anecdotes

• In late November of 2010, Richard and Marilyn Smiley of Pendelton, Oregon, traveled to Paris, France. On their very first morning there, they took a cab, and Marilyn left in the cab a black daypack containing such items as a Canon camera, sunglasses, lip gloss, and gloves. Later, she realized that she had left her daypack in the cab, but she did not know which of over 15,500 cabbies in Paris was driving. Moreover, she realized that the cabbie would not know whose daypack it was because of a lack of identifying papers in the daypack. The Smileys returned home, and a week later, they received a telephone call and an email from the cabbie’s daughter. Richard says, “We were amazed.” For one thing, there seemed to be nothing in the daypack to identify its owners—no papers with names and addresses and telephone numbers. Then Richard remembered that the camera contained identifying information: their names, telephone number, and email address. He says, “I typed the information on a white piece of paper and took a picture of it. Then, I locked the photo into the camera so when we deleted our photos, it wouldn’t disappear.” The cab driver, Althony LaLanne, had found the photo with the identifying information, and Emannuelle, his daughter, had called and emailed the Smileys. The daypack found its way back to the Smileys in a roundabout way, with Paris native Emilie Lucas, who was once an exchange student living with the Smiley family, picking it up from the cabbie, then giving it to an American friend, Molly Bloom, who returned to the United States and mailed it to the Smileys. Everything was in the daypack, including the camera, which contained a surprise. Richard says, “There was an extra photo. It showed the taxi driver, Althony LaLanne, in the living room of his home in Paris. What joy. But, even greater is the honesty and extraordinary effort that was taken to return these belongings to us.” Marilyn says, “We have a new best friend — our cabbie. This one honest man got this whole thing going.” The Smileys made plans to reimburse the cabbie for the international telephone call and gave him some merchandise from Pendelton. In addition, they are going to help his daughter with an English version of her resume. The Lalannes don’t think that getting the daypack back to its rightful owner is a big deal. In an email to the Smileys, Emmanuele wrote, “It’s totally normal that we give your bag back.”

• Young people’s author Richard Peck was born in Decatur, Illinois, but he knew that he wanted to go to New York. When he was in kindergarten, his teacher would play a song on the piano while the children marched around the room. One day, young Richard requested “Sidewalks of New York.” When her teacher asked why he had requested that song, he replied, “Because I’ll be moving there.” Because she knew that his parents liked living in Decatur, she asked, “Soon?” He replied, “Well, as soon as I can get there.” When Richard was 16, a relative invited him to go to New York. Richard liked New York, and he was happy to learn that “the outside world was really there and somewhat better than the movies.” In addition, he says, “It occurred to me that this was the place that I’d been homesick for all along.”

• Noah Webster is famous for his spelling book and for his dictionary. Because during and for a while after the American Revolutionary War, the British were the bad guys, he changed some English spellings to create American spellings. For example, colourbecame color, and musickbecame music. He also invented the word demoralize. He had great accomplishments, and he had great pride. When he visited Philadelphia, Benjamin Rush, a famous physician, said to him, “I congratulate you on your arrival in Philadelphia.” Mr. Webster replied, “You may, if you please, sir, congratulate Philadelphia upon the occasion!”

• Film director Robert Altman had an old Iranian-born friend named Reza Badiyi, who became a television director. They once went on a cross-country trip and ended up in Las Vegas without any money. Mr. Altman convinced a Las Vegas hotel that Mr. Badiyi was actually a famous Middle Eastern prince who lived large and whose name was currently in many gossip columns. The hotel gave them free room and board. However, the real Middle Eastern prince showed up at the hotel. Fortunately, he thought that what the two friends had done was funny, and he and Mr. Badiyi partied together in Las Vegas.

• In 1939, the Three Stooges were invited to perform in London at the Palladium. They did not pay for first-class passage on the ship that took them to England, but the captain of the ship was a fan, so he upgraded them to first class at no cost to them. Moe Howard, the leader of the Stooges, remembered with amusement a newspaper headline that he saw when they arrived: “STOOGES ARRIVE IN LONDON—QUEEN LEAVES FOR AMERICA.”

• As a boy, ballet dancer André Eglevsky suffered from a cough that caused his family to travel to a healthier locale for him. However, young André learned that a cough does have its advantages. While traveling in a crowded train compartment, young André had a bad fit of coughing. As he coughed and coughed, the other passengers left the train compartment, finally leaving André alone with his mother, his nurse, and his sister.

• Cellist Pablo Casals was born and grew up in Catalonia. While on tour in the United States, he visited the territory of New Mexico. While walking in the desert, Mr. Casals and pianist Léon Moreau came across a cabin. The cabin’s owner, who was dressed like a cowboy, greeted them. Mr. Casals noticed his accent, and he asked the man where he was from. “It’s a country you never heard of,” the man said. “Catalonia.”

• Robert M. Brinkerhoff, the cartoonist of the long-ago comic strip Little Mary Mixup, had a yen for travel and a strong work ethic. The two worked well together. Before he traveled to the Orient, he turned in 100 cartoons to the United Feature Syndicate. For two years previously, he had created one extra cartoon each week.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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