RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON:Group travel tours inspire thoughts of an alternative career

First, there were the tour groups visiting Baghdad. Yes, that’s right.
The first tourists since the Iraq War began were shown milling about the dusty streets of the formerly splendid city.
Eager, paying, curiosity-seekers, including some Americans, were happily taking photographs of mountains of rubble, wandering through the recent ruins and experiencing firsthand the thrill of being stopped at checkpoints.
It was Disney World with an edge. An amusement that might have been called War-Wrecked World.
Next, in the same network news broadcast, nervous Americans were paying to swim with sharks. Real sharks.
In the ocean. I’m not kidding.
The tour guide attracted the main attraction by dumping buckets of bloody guts overboard.
Then, willing idiots were diving into the shark-infested waters to look the gathered man-eaters in the eye.
This particular brand of fun cost thousands of dollars, the television reporter said.
I shook my head and punched the remote. Then I had an idea.
With the steady decline of newspapers, I’ve been contemplating a backup career.
The two stories about oddball tours suggested a job in the recreation business. All I need to do is come up with dangerous, exciting, off-beat tours to lead and print some tickets. So I made a list.
n The IRS tour. For a measly few hundred dollars, I’ll arrange a volunteer audit of your last seven tax returns. Show up early with your boxes of receipts, or none at all. A nervous lunch beforehand with a dessert of Tums is included in the price of admission, $600.
n The poison ivy and you-pick-em blackberry tour. Cost: $300. Bring a bucket with a hole in it, and we’ll traipse through the briars until everyone is itching, slapping and cussing. For an extra $50 a couple, I’ll guarantee deer ticks and snake sightings.
n Miss your plane connection and spend the night in an airport for a mere $400. For $100 more, real airplane meals will be included.
Imagine: You’ll sleep beneath the drone of a CNN newscast with screaming babies punctuating the broadcasts.
n Root canals and prostate exams done whether you need them or not. For $500 I’ll drive you to the doctor or dentist of your choice while others in our tour group recount in vivid description the similar procedures they have had.
n The slasher movie marathon. For $900 you’ll see 36 hours of gross, bloody entertainment on the big screen and be served a spaghetti supper at intermission.
Are we having fun yet?
n Police radio romps. For $1,000 we’ll beat the police or ambulance to the scene of emergencies, a guaranteed way to end the monotony of your routine.
n And finally, the traffic jam jamboree. For $10,000 I’ll drive you into the heart of downtown Atlanta during rush hour with the gas tank on empty, no restrooms available and a “Honk If You Love the Braves” sticker on my bumper.
For an extra $500, I’ll withhold the Valium.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.

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