Dear Smiley: A few decades ago I was engaged as a consultant to business interests in the tiny southern African kingdom of Swaziland. (Changed to eSwazini by the current king.)
On a trip to the nation's capital in the small city of Mbabane I was granted the honor of an audience with the country's aged and much revered king.
After a fascinating palace session with the ruler at the time, King Sobhuza 11, my wife and I were celebrating dinner at our cozy thatched roof hotel, The Swazi Inn.
Our waiter handed me a handwritten note which said, "What's a Cajun from Cottonport doing in Swaziland?", signed "Jimmy."
I looked around to see an old friend from Baton Rouge, businessman Jimmy Gill, seated with others a few tables away. I don't know which one of us was more shocked.
Dear Smiley: My wife and I were in Amman, Jordan, and because she loves falafels we were told to try this one restaurant — they had the best falafels in Amman.
While trying to find the restaurant we drifted off the normal tourist area and got lost. However, we did find a restaurant and, not knowing if it was the right one, we decided to try it anyway.
We were standing up by the counter trying to determine what type of bread we wanted when this Jordanian gentlemen approached us and pointed out what his favorite bread was.
He asked where we were from, and when I told him Mandeville, he said, "I know where it is, because I just returned from my fiancée's house in Metairie. I'm selling my house in Amman and we are getting married next year."
He also said, "You may recognize me, as I did some commercials for Sears." I didn't recognize him, but this illustrates what a small world it is.
Flunking Bar 101
Dear Smiley: Years ago, during my "formative" years, eight colleagues from Baton Rouge and I decided to attend a conference on leadership in New Orleans.
We met in the hotel lounge after unpacking, to down Hurricanes and tell job-related jokes.
Eventually, a handsome young man invited himself to the vacant seat at table, introduced himself and asked us our names, beginning with me.
When I said "Karen Poirrier," 16 eyeballs glared at me. Dumbfounded, I listened as each colleague introduced herself using a fictitious name. Lesson learned!
As the night wore on the young man leaned over to me and asked if I was a working girl. "Yes," I replied. "I work."
This time, 16 eyeballs glared at me with a look of "I can't believe you!" Second lesson learned!
The man got their message, excused himself and left the lounge. This was the last time I drank a Hurricane, and my colleagues never let me forget that night!
Dear Smiley: Anyone who grew up in Baton Rouge in the '60s will remember listening to two AM rock stations in New Orleans — WNOE and WTIX. Both had signals powerful enough to reach Baton Rouge.
WTIX, located at 690 on the dial, called itself "The Mighty Six Ninety." The Catholic Church now broadcasts at 690 AM in New Orleans, so it's now "The Almighty Six Ninety."
Pizza in a strange land
Dear Smiley: The talk of foreign countries reminded me of an incident which occurred when my wife and I honeymooned in Arkansas a number of years ago.
Being from south Louisiana, the words “dry” and “county” (or parish) were seldom, if ever, heard being used in the same sentence.
But we unknowingly found ourselves in a pizza eatery in a dry county. When I asked our waitress what brands of beer they served, I received a horrid look from her as if I spoke a foreign language — and it became obvious she had never enjoyed beer with her pizza.
Dear Kerry: I know the feeling — I found a Mexican restaurant in Oakdale that didn't serve margaritas. I ordered a taco to go…