A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

By: Robyn Rishe
This item appears on page 51 of the September 2017 issue.

This month’s winner is ROBYN RISHE of Monterey Park, California:

On a trip years ago, I arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to find that the lock on my suitcase had been broken, although everything inside was just as I had packed it. After checking into my hotel, my priority was to buy a new lock.  

I found a small hardware store and walked in. The shopkeeper was a middle-aged gentleman. In my vocabulary-challenged-but-flawlessly-pronounced Spanish, I said to him, “I’m sorry. I don’t speak Spanish and I don’t know the word, but I need to buy a thing for a key.”  

“What do you mean you don’t speak Spanish?” he asked.  

“I don’t,” I replied in Spanish.

“You’re speaking it right now,” he retorted in Spanish.

“I know, but I really don’t speak it,” I replied.  

“What is this, some kind of a joke?” he asked in Spanish, looking around to see if there was a hidden TV camera.

After a few more such exchanges, he asked, in Spanish, “What language do you speak?”  

“Ingl├ęs,” I said.

“Why didn’t you say so?” he asked in English. “I lived in Brooklyn for 12 years. Now, what thing is it you want to buy for a key?”


Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.