Tour guides at William Randolph Hearst's castle in California like to present San Simeon as a man's home rather than the museum that it is. There are few barricades to prevent tourists from wandering, but we remind them to stay on the tour mats, thus sparing priceless Oriental rugs. "After all," one guide said, "how would you like to have five thousand people walking on your living-room carpet each day?" Quipped one wag, "At eight dollars a head, bring them on!"
wandering: walking about
mats: long common carpets just for walking (felpudos)
sparing: not harming
quipped: remarked (acotó)
wag: someone who makes jokes
As Captain of a nature cruise off Florida's Key Largo, I was describing the color changes that brown pelicans undergo. "The young pelicans are all brown," I explained. "During courtship the backs of their necks turn chestnut. After courtship the chestnut turns to white, giving them an all-white head and neck. Birders call this "postnuptial plumage". "Bernie," said an elderly woman to her white-haired husband, "that explains what happened to you."
undergo: go through, suffer
courtship: the seek of affections
chestnut: golden brown, reddish brown
birders: persons who identify and study birds in their natural habitats
A caller to our national travel agency was inquiring about quarantine regulations for transporting birds into Canada from the United States. I gave him the information. He thanked me and then said, "may I ask a question? What do they do about the birds that fly over the border?"
border: delimitation, boundary (between countries)
Calls come in nonstop to the travel agency where I work. Once, a frantic woman wanted the ZIP Code for Greece. "I'm sorry," I told her. "This is a travel agency, not the post office." She protested, "You send people to Greece, don't you?" "Yes, we do," I replied, "but not in an envelope."
nonstop: at all times, without stopping
frantic: excited, frenetic
ZIP Code: postal code
envelope: container for letters
As a tour guide at the Alexander Graham Bell Homestead in Brantford, Ontario, I loved to watch young people trying to reconcile present-day life with activities a hundred years ago. One father, trying to interest his young son in the Bell family history, pointed out a photograph and said, "Look, Paul, it says here that both of Alexander's brothers died of T.B." The boy's eyes widened. "Why?" he cried. "Did they watch too much?"
pointed out: commented
widened: opened wide
I work as a guide at a local cave. At a certain point on my tour, I turn off all the lights to illustrate the concept of total darkness. One day at this critical point of the tour, amid the typical oohs and ahs, one of the more impressed members of the group exclaimed, "Wow! Can you imagine what this place must be like at night!"
cave: natural underground enclosure
turned off: switched off, stopped
darkness: absence of light
amid: in the middle of
oohs and ahs: expressions of surprise
I'm a travel agent, and I remember the time a nervous, first-time flier came into my office to book a flight. After confirming the reservation, I asked him, "Would you prefer a window seat or one on the aisle?" "It doesn't matter," the man replied. "I'll be lying on the floor."
flier: someone who flies (travels by air)
to book: to make a reservation
aisle: narrow pasage in a plane
lying: in a horizontal position
The cruise ship my friend was working on docked at a Mexican port during a very high tide. Everyone on board was forced to use the ship's narrow gangplank as a passageway to the dock far below. The staff stood motionless when a passenger in her 70s appeared at the top of the plank. There wasn't room for anyone to assist her, so she edged along slowly and finally made it to the dock safely, to everyone's relief. As she stepped down, she turned, looked back at the top of the plank and shouted, "It's okay, Mother, you can come down now."
docked: came into dock
tide: the periodic rise and fall of the sea level
gangplank: temporary bridge
in her 70s: 70 years old
to assist: to help
edged: advanced slowly
made it: succeeded, could do it
I operate a gift shop and information center at the Shrine of St. Joseph of the Mountains in Yarnell, Arizona. A group of visitors listened intently as I described the history of the shrine. "Are you a nun?" asked one woman. "No," I replied, laughing, "I have been happily married to the same man for 50 years." "Then you are a saint!"
shrine: temple, sacred monument
intently: with attention
nun: a woman religious (hermana, monja)
saint: holy person, someone who has been declared a saint by canonization