The Trap

When the Captain and I toured Europe in our VW camper van, it was a time before the war in Yugoslavia. Tito was still alive (he died in 1980), and the country, made up of at least six separate ethnic groups, was under Communist rule. Fourteen years after our visit, all hell broke loose.

But in 1977, as we drove through Yugoslavia from Greece to Austria, pretty much oblivious to their situation, we were struck by two things: the countryside was beautiful, and the people, for the most part, looked very unhappy. The only happy faces we saw were those of a few farmers who waved from their oxcarts and smiled as they drove along near us on the byroads. City people generally wore dark clothes (gray, black, or brown), and their facial expressions were troubled and joyless. Right or wrong, those were my impressions.

The rural area reminded us of Alberta, Canada,  with its slightly rolling hills and huge sections of farmland, but the houses were unique to Yugoslavia. Most had the same construction, squarish houses with red tile roofs and very few windows, all small. It was September and the red peppers had been harvested and strung up to dry, dangling from the eaves of many a rooftop.

We had been driving for a long time, without finding a place to pull off the road to heat up some leftovers for lunch in our camper van. At last, we saw a pull out area  and took advantage of the chance to stop for a rest and a bite to eat. Beside the pullout in both directions, were acres and acres of grapevines.

While I heated up lunch, the Captain sneaked a bunch of grapes that temptingly hung over the fence. No sooner had he broken off a bunch than we heard shouting. A man wearing military style clothing brandished a rifle and yelled angrily. I thought we were going to jail.

“Okay, okay.” The Captain reached for his wallet. “How about I pay for the grapes?”

The man waved him away and threatened him with the rifle again. But when the Captain pulled out a 50 dinar note ($3), the rifle was lowered. Sheepishly, the man took the money and then said something in a friendlier tone.
They shook hands, and I asked the man if we could take his picture.
He shook his head vigorously. Definitely not! He flapped his arms as if trying to erase us from the face of the earth.

“Okay fine. No pictures.”

But as he hustled away, I snapped a quick one with my point and click camera from inside the van.

Not wanting to hang around there any longer than we had to, we grabbed some of the half made lunch to eat as we drove. At least we would have our expensive bunch of grapes to nibble for dessert. 

The Captain looked for traffic as he turned out onto the road. Behind us, a car had its signal light on, to pull into the spot we were leaving. 

I looked back at the grapes, wistfully, and saw the military man crouching down in his hiding place, preparing to scare another 50 dinars out of his next victim.


A Lousy Story

A very long time ago, Eleanor, a friend who worked in the Hudson’s Bay store in Vancouver, was going to get her hair done in the Bay (they used to have a hair salon right in the store), but she didn’t have an appointment.

“If you come back in about 45 minutes I can do your hair,” the salon receptionist said.

“No problem,” said Eleanor, “I’ll just browse around the store while I’m waiting.”

Eleanor wandered around the hat department and tried on different hats. She looked in the mirror and laughed as the hats seemed to change her personality with each different hat style.

At last the time was up and, still smiling, she entered the salon to get her hair done.

The salon girl lifted some of the tresses of Eleanor’s hair. “So what are we doing today? A shampoo and cut?Suddenly she dropped her hands and said, “I can’t do your hair.”

“Why not?”

“You have lice.”

“WHAT?” Eleanor’s jaw dropped. She shook her head. “You’re kidding. I don’t have lice. I’ve never had lice.”

“Yes, I’m sorry, but you do have lice and I can’t do your hair,” the hairdresser repeated.

“Well!” Eleanor harrumphed. “If I have lice, I got them in this store.”

“Where did you go in the store?”

“I wandered around looking at some dresses and then I went to the hat section and tried on some hats….” Eleanor’s eyes grew bigger. “You don’t think….”

“Let’s go see,” the hairdresser said.

They went from one hat to the other, all the ones that Eleanor had tried on. The hairdresser picked up a tam that Eleanor said she’d tried on, and said, “Oh … my … here is the culprit.”

The inside of the hat was crawling with the tiny critters.

“I’ll do the treatment on your hair for free,” the hairdresser told her.


I haven’t tried on a hat in a shop ever since I heard this story.