Thank goodness for tourist shop benches

George Brown
By George Brown

Our visit with friends in Knoxville a couple of weeks ago included the obligatory journey to and through some of those Gatlinburg candle and gift shops. Just thinking about it is enough to make me sneeze.

Entrepreneurs long ago figured out who spends the money at shopping meccas like Gatlinburg. This is why the shops are filled with every imaginable must-have treasure that appeals to all six female senses (or however many they have). True, you do occasionally see a gun & knife shop or a men’s western wear shop, but from my personal calculation for every such shop in the greater Gatlinburg area there are 172 craft and gift shops for the ladies.

You may have noticed the smart vendors have placed benches in front of their shops for husbands to rest their weary bones while their wives spend their money. As a matter of fact, I’ve observed a direct correlation between the availability of these benches and the amount of traffic in these shops. The scientific hypothesis is – the longer a man sits on a bench, the longer his wife will shop, and the more money she will spend.

I’ve passed many a fine spring day, warm summer afternoon, and balmy fall evening passing time and getting acquainted with fellow bench warmers. Ordinarily, a man won’t strike up a conversation with another man on the street, but sharing a bench with another poor soul can sometimes trigger a primeval need for men to commiserate about the sacrifices they make for their wives. It all started about ten thousand years ago when one caveman sat down on a rock beside another caveman and started making grunting noises and gesturing with his hands to describe how his cavewoman had bartered away a whole bushel of corn for some cockleshells to make a necklace.

Before you start getting upset with Yvonne and feeling sorry for me, I should confess I’m one of those men who sometimes wanders into a craft shop. When I do, the thing that always catches my eye are those quotes you see printed on cups, t-shirts, cards, plaques, and plates. I think a clan of Tibetan monks, having taken a lifetime vow of silence, sit around and think up these quotes as a way of communicating with each other. Most of the quotes are funny little quips like, “A good husband makes a good wife.” (One time Yvonne bought me a t-shirt with that quote on it, which I’ve never worn.)

While in one of those Gatlinburg shops I thought about jotting down some of those quotes to share in this column, but then decided doing so was not a good idea because it might trigger an anxiety attack for a poor old male reader who spent one too many hours alone on a tourist shop bench.

Meanwhile, as you might already have guessed, when Yvonne reads this I’ll be spending a week in the travel trailer. That’s okay, maybe I’ll light some scented candles, put our backyard bench outside the trailer door, and pretending I’m camping in Gatlinburg.

George Brown is a freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township with his wife Yvonne.