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Is This Any Way to Treat Your Spouse? Yes!

November 22, 1987|BOB O'SULLIVAN | O'Sullivan is a nationally known travel writer who lives in Canoga Park

Their names are Brian and Louise Sanders, but you'd never learn their names from their dialogue.

They hadn't been on the bus 15 seconds before everyone on the tour got the message.

Brian edged his way down the aisle smiling, bumping into people's shoulders with either his midsection or his carry-on and excusing himself. He flopped down in a double seat toward the back.

"Stupid!" his wife called from the front of the bus. "You hear me?"

"Hear ya? They can hear you back in the States."

She made her way down the aisle and plopped down next to him.

"Well, leave it to you to pick the seat over the wheel."

He very carefully placed his Stetson in the overhead rack.

"Don't show your ignorance, Old Bat. This is a modern tour bus. There ain't no seat over no rear wheel."

Staring at Them

She addressed the people across the aisle who were staring at the two of them. "He calls me Old Bat cause my maiden name was Battaglia."

"Sure I do," he said. The other couple said nothing.

"And I'll let you guess why I call him Stupid." She poked a thumb toward her husband's Western-style suit. "He thinks he's dressed up."

"The Old Bat thinks it's 'cause her maiden name was Battaglia, huh? That's a laugh," he said.

"My mother told me not to marry him. His sweet little old mama told me not to marry him."

"Old Bat just wouldn't listen," said Brian. "Still won't. In fact, she feuds with my mama over me to this very day."

"Stupid, will you hush? I think Diet Rich is going to talk."

Our Austrian tour guide had turned around in his front seat. He picked up the mike and blew on it.

Brian lowered his voice. "Diet Rich. You get that? You know his name's Dietrich, and I know his name's Dietrich, but she saw it in print afore she heard it and decided it was Diet Rich. So from now on she's going to call that poor soul Diet Rich. And she calls me stupid."

She took her husband's hat from the overhead rack, punched the crown inside out and jammed it back in. Brian groaned.

Dietrich, or Diet Rich, introduced himself and the driver, welcomed everybody to the tour and the bus pulled away from the hotel.

Although their relationship made the old radio series, "The Bickersons," sound like Romeo and Juliet, there seemed to be no rancor in it. In fact, there was a kind of natural warmth about the two that made you feel good.

Only one gentleman in the group seemed to take exception to their name-calling.

"You know," he offered, "if you two keep calling each other names, pretty soon you'll come to believe them. It could destroy your relationship."

Already Believes It

Louise looked at him for a few seconds, glanced at her husband to make sure he was listening, then leaned a little closer. "It's too late. I already believe he's S-t-u-p-e-d."

"I heard that," Brian said. "And you spelled it wrong. Old Bat, I don't know what I'd do without you, but I'd sure like to try."

"And what would you do, find yourself a younger woman?"

"Maybe."

"A younger woman? Well, if any woman under 50 even smiled back at you, you'd probably die of shock."

He tried a retort, but the best he could do was: "Make that under 40 and you're probably right." They both laughed.

In Lucerne, some hotels dating from the turn of the century are frequented by tour buses probably because they're big enough to accommodate guests that arrive by the busload.

Fortunately for them, many tourists can't tell the difference between quaint and just old. Our hotel could have dated from the turn of an earlier century. It was so old that it tilted.

"Hooks a little to the left, don't she?" Brian smiled. "Grew up in a lopsided place like this. Wasn't for the walls, you'd slide right off the floor."

"Very picturesque," Louise said.

Joyce and I have never been partial to the great sacks of goose down that so many Europeans use instead of blankets, so when we find federbetts (featherbeds) in our room, we simply call the desk and ask for blankets.

There is, however, a tendency with many travelers, particularly the inexperienced, to accept the "order of the deck," to play the cards that are dealt without complaining.

The Sanderses probably never would have complained, except that the next morning when we met at breakfast, obviously something was wrong. Both of them looked hollow-eyed and drawn, and Brian seemed to be walking with a bit of a limp.

Dietrich, our tour director, became very concerned and asked what the problem was.

"Well, sir," Brian said, "there was a 'thing' in our room I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."

Louise gave her husband a strange little smile. Then both of them told the story.

Complete Mystery

The night had not been especially cold. The Sanderses classified it about a "one-dog night," cold enough for some covers but not a whole lot. The giant cloth envelope filled with goose down that covered their bed was a complete mystery to them.

Both figured, though, that if the Swiss thought they'd need the thing, they'd use it. After all, if there'd been an alternative, wouldn't Diet Rich have said something?

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