Did you hear the one about . . .


In my early years as a travel journalist, I was asked to call agents at random and ask what was the funniest thing a client ever said or asked of them. Even now, I remember several of those anecdotes.

One tale told of the client who worried about getting her hair mussed by sitting in a window seat on a plane. That sounds like a corny joke, but the agent told it as truth.

Another agent said a client called to ask the cost of sending a body from one side of the country to the other. The retailer's price quote must have sounded high. There was a pause, after which the client asked: "How much would it cost if we sent him to the West Coast before he dies?"

Then there was the agent who talked to a customer after her return from a few weeks in Israel. She was unhappy and he could not figure out why. He pointed out that he had arranged everything she wanted, all the sightseeing, the best hotels, etc. Finally, she spilled the beans: "I didn't get laid once." (At least she did not hold the agent liable.)

Those anecdotes appeared in the first trade story I ever wrote that was meant to entertain and amuse. Humor is part of the cement that binds individuals to one another whether they get together to do business or to socialize -- or a little bit of both.

You are probably acutely aware these days of how valuable a good laugh is as counterpoint to supplier-agent tensions of recent years. But with or without special challenges, humor is a vital part of the business mix. That makes it a valid part of news reporting, too.

This explains why we devote some of our news space to things like the Insider column on Thursdays and the occasional Turbulent Travel column on the Opinion pages. It also explains why, when a news event is a bit absurd, you will probably detect in our story the reporter's sense of that.

I like to be entertained, too. So, I was wondering if you could answer a few questions, none of them serious:

1. What is the funniest thing a client ever asked or said to you? (That old question is a pretty good one.)

2. Can you think of any really funny anecdotes based on your dealings with suppliers? Or, maybe something funny that happened in your office, involving only your colleagues?

3. What is the funniest experience you recall from your own travels?

4. For that matter, what is the most amusing post-trip story a client ever told you?

Sharpen up your funny bone, and tell me a story.

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