Since my wife and I are semi-retired, we are taking more frequent vacations.  When we travel, our favorite activities are parasailing, hang gliding, and whitewater rafting. But watching other people risk their lives has become a little stressful. We knew it was time for a change.

We spent this past week in New Orleans with our friends John and Jane Murphy. We decided to forgo the extreme spectator sports and opt for some more intellectual and culinary activities. By the way, we did not go during Mardi Gras. As Yogi Berra once aptly noted in another context, “No one goes there that time of year: it’s way too crowded.” We did go to a Mardi Gras museum. Mary Ellen and I don’t usually like the same kinds of exhibits, but this museum was filled with the kind of stuff both  men and women can both enjoy. Ironic, because in the thousands of photos displayed, you can’t even tell the difference between the men and the women.

If you have any plans to visit the Crescent City, I submit the following warnings regarding the French Quarter, the hub of all tourist activity.

Cover charges: During one dinner, a three-piece combo played jazz. The restaurant tacked on a six-dollar cover charge per person for the music.  “Wait a second,” I said to the server, “we came here to eat and talk. We didn’t even know about the music.”

“You were in the same room as the music,” said the waiter, impatiently.

“I’m also in the same room as a seven-hundred-dollar bottle of Lafite Rothschild at the next table.  But I’m just paying for my Diet Pepsi.”

Bread plates: We went to two places that served awesome rolls, and in one case, I mentioned to the waiter we were missing our bread plates. “We don’t provide those,” he informed us. “We encourage you to enjoy the bread. We’ll tidy up your mess.”

“Are you saying this because you know we’re from Indiana?” I asked sarcastically.

“Don’t feel bad,” said the couple next to us. “We’re from Kentucky and we didn’t even get utensils.”

Mary Ellen is a stickler for table manners and watches me like a hawk to prevent any transgressions. During that dinner, she was clearly uncomfortable watching me tearing into the warm rolls and leaving evidence of my sloppiness all over the table and floor. I remembered once back in Indy chomping on some croissants before the bread plates arrived. I quickly hid the butter knife before she could insert it into my thigh.

The check: In busy restaurants, we learned that there is no check-splitting allowed. “No matter how many in the group, just one bill,” said the waitress. “No exceptions!”

Just for fun, John and I wanted to see if we could outwit the system. At lunch, I told the server even though we were sharing a table, we had just met this other couple out on the sidewalk, and therefore we required two separate checks. The waitress didn’t fall for it. Now John and I were even more determined to circumvent this bizarre policy.

The next night, the food at Café Amelie was outstanding, and this time the Wolfsies got our own check.

“Well, I must admit, your plan worked,” said Mary Ellen, sarcastically. “But I wonder where the Murphys are having dinner?”












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The nice lady offering free samples at Costco asked if I wanted to actually buy a box of the quiche I was nibbling on (after I had eaten six pieces). I’m kind of a health nut, so I didn’t purchase any; they just had way too much sodium and saturated fat.

An hour later, my Costco cart was laden with soft drinks, garbage bags, a snow tire and a year’s supply of salsa. I was in a good mood because I had managed to circle around several of the other demo tables and inhale a dozen different offerings without being fingered as a “repeat sampler.”

I went through the check-out but when I got to the exit, the employee at the door looked me over from head to toe. He was holding something behind his back.  Could it have been some kind of breath-analyzer to detect whether I had eaten too much free food? I was a little embarrassed about possibly being caught with egg on my face. I should have finished with the chicken wings instead of the quiche.

He asked me for my receipt. He never actually looked in my cart. He just peered at my list of purchases and then at me—which I think is considered facial profiling. My stress was mounting. Suddenly, he whipped out a yellow highlighter and deftly flicked off the top with one hand. Would I soon receive that sought-after stripe that squiggles down the list and shows that you have truly arrived? Actually, it shows that you have truly left.

Okay, so what’s that stripe really for? No one really checks your purchases. You could have murdered the lady behind the lunch counter for taking too long to serve your pizza, stuffed her on the bottom rack of the cart next to a 12-pack of Coors Light, and you’d still proudly make your way to the parking lot with a yellow stripe on that receipt.

Most everyone earns their stripes: shoplifters, kleptomaniacs, pilferers, little kids with DVDs in their cargo pants. But still, I think the precautionary measures at Costco are far better than at our nation’s airports. I was in Washington, DC recently and had to deal with security at Dulles. I handed the agent my ticket, showed her two pieces of identification, took off my Rockports and spread my legs. I was patted down by another agent, then herded through a metal detection device.

“You call that security?” I said to the agent. “Why don’t you guys put a yellow stripe down my ticket with a highlighter like they do at Costco?” I asked.

“Why do they do that, Sir?”

“Look, I don’t know why they do it, but they are very meticulous about it and they told me that job requires several weeks of training. Not only that,  the quiche and the egg rolls are out of this world.”

I’m going to write a letter to the TSA recommending they adopt the Costco approach to security. They may think this is a stupid idea, but here’s the truth:  At the Costco on 86th in Castleton, there has never been a hijacking.



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