It’s a beautiful day. #NSW

A photo posted by LFR (@lruettimann) on

I’m headed home from Australia. I had a great trip.

At one point, my husband and I took a semi-private tour of a secluded island. We did some snorkeling and hiking. We knew we were in trouble when our tour guide, upon hearing that we worked in the pharmaceutical industry, told us that he could show us the cure to AIDS and HIV in the bush.

“It’s an aboriginal cure. They don’t want to give it to white people because we gave them cholera.”

If they can cure HIV and AIDS, why can’t they cure cholera? Never mind. Tell us more, dear tour guide.

He obliged and told us to call him the Little Steve Irwin. He’s tan and Australian, so he’s either Steve Irwin or Crocodile Dundee in my GenX eyes. Our guide also told us about his experiences with crocodiles, and went into a lengthy discussion about how climate change is a lie that made Al Gore rich.

(Well, part of that might be true.)

Also, our guide once made Matthew McConaughey apologize to a local waitress at a bar. He played soccer with Hugh Jackman. When Nicole Kidman came to his island to film a movie, she rented an aboriginal child because she missed her kids who were under the control of Tom Cruise.

“She has more money than sense.”

Other things? When a butterfly or dragonfly lands on you, it’s a dead person trying to communicate with you. (I like that one.) And there’s a bush called a black boy, but it’s not politically correct to say “black” in Australia — but no one has a gun to his head. He doesn’t celebrate Australia Day, either.

The massacres in Syria and the Ukraine? Those happen on a green screen. The media are in bed with the government and will fake all kinds of things. Candy crush and TV are drugs of social control, and drones follow him on the beach to watch him, btw.

I didn’t pay for any of this, of course, and one of the women on the tour complained. Our tour guide told her to keep walking on her own. Then he apologized and took her into the woods — to a particular place that is sacred to Aborigines — so they could hug it out.

She survived.

And the tour guide felt like he had to explain all of this to me in great detail because I have an open face and I’m the world’s older sister.


Ken and I were like — well, that was something.

At first, I wanted to complain. But this guy needs a job, and he’s clearly passionate about Australia. He can swim, he can keep people organized, and he knows the lay of the land. This job is perfect for him, and it probably keeps him out of trouble.

Customers suck, people complain too much, and Americans feel like they have to have a Disney-like experience when the go on vacation. Frankly, it’s kind of nice to have an insane tour guide who says bat-shit crazy things. My husband and I have a story. We had fun with this guy. And nobody got hurt.

I don’t want this guy fired at all.

The next time you want to complain about poor customer service, think about this blog post and ask yourself — is something so awful that I ought to complain?

Probably not.


  1. Right on, Laurie. This guy was obviously just being ‘this guy.’ I love great customer service, and I can’t stand bad CS. It can make the difference between a good meal and a great one. In my opinion, your tour guide was deluded, but entertaining (at least the way you wrote it made me chuckle).
    One thing I noticed, that I’m taking away from this post is know and read your audience. By the way, do it quickly before your tour guide needs to bring you into the woods.

  2. Every. Single. Cab driver you ever come across in New Orleans is a relative of Louis Armstrong. This seems to be the Australian version of that.

  3. How funny and probably at time a bit uncomfortable! We had a tour guide in South Africa who could levitate and move things with his mind…just couldn’t do it when anyone was watching, performance anxiety or something. To this day he cracks my husband and I up and we smile remembering that tour. He was young and silly and nothing to complain about. Great piece!

  4. If there’s anywhere the weirdos of the world should be allowed to be themselves, it would be in that guy’s role. As long as he’s not doing anything actively dangerous, he’s fine.

  5. But did he tell you about ‘drop bears’? They’re like koalas but they fall from tress and kill a few people each year.

    And did he tell you about ‘shooers’? They used to be employed to shoo kangaroos off the Harbour Bridge so they didn’t mess with the traffic. They don’t do it anymore – there’s machines for that now.

    Sorry (on behalf of Australia) that you got some weird and more-than-slightly racist stories rather than the ones usually reserved for tourists!

  6. Welcome to Australia Laurie – it is beautiful, it is weird, it is full of poisonous things (not all of them animals), it is occasionally messed up but you ALWAYS come home with a story… 🙂 🙂

  7. Classic Laurie post, I love it, you’re back! You’ve been more button up than usual lately, IMO.
    And thanks BTW. Front line customer service is a very hard job because it usually requires a high level of emotional control, low pay, micromanagement, and you live with a constant fear that a disgruntled customer is going to get you in trouble. Not for wusses.

  8. I love the story, but I love this even more:

    “The next time you want to complain about poor customer service, think about this blog post and ask yourself — is something so awful that I ought to complain?”

    I’m trying harder to not complain. If I have money to buy a service that I want to complain about (a meal, dry-cleaning, a car wash, whatever.), then I’m better off than most of the world (at least economically). People work hard and life is tough. I need to bite my tongue and give a guy or gal a break. Thanks for the reminder

    • “If I have money to buy a service that I want to complain about (a meal, dry-cleaning, a car wash, whatever.), then I’m better off than most of the world (at least economically).”

      ++++1000 times!!! Yes! Those of us who live in Western advanced economies are absolutely kings and queens compared to most of the world.

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