That Time I Toasted Beers With The Travelocity Gnome (True Story)
There have been a lot of gnomes in my life lately, which isn’t a reference to our new contributor, Jenna, my weak-ass backyard garden, or my wife—even though she’s the source of all this gnome debauchery.
She had just assumed I was familiar with the movie Amelie. I’m not . . yet. I’ve recently learned that I should apologize for not having seen this movie, and should see it immediatly to better justify yet another bout of child-like giddiness that erupted when I just recently met the Sean Connery of gnomes — the Travelocity Gnome. The actual Travelocity Gnome. I mean, Amelie was so 2001, anyway.
I’m a simple person who likes to take things at face value — it hasn’t burned me yet — but I had just assumed the marketing A-Team behind Travelocity’s gnome campaign struck a chord with the public. It happens. I was totally ignorant of the backstory. That happens, too (too often).
A few weeks ago, my wife and I kicked off the summer with a road trip down the California coast to visit friends, check out San Francisco, and catch some live music. It was her (informed) idea to take part in what is known as the “Traveling Gnome Prank”: steal someone’s gnome, take pictures of it while on your trip, and return the gnome with pictures afterwards. It is a little known fact that these gnomes sometimes return with a tan, a wife and even some baby gnomes.
So we did that, and I have to be honest, Augustus P. Gnome — as we named him — really injected some fun into the couple thousand miles of highway.
It was fun scheming the next picture. At one point, I was setting Augustus on the grass of Alamo Square, just in front of San Francisco’s iconic Painted Ladies for a shot. A passerby saw me trying to figure it out and asked if she could help. She held him for the picture, we exchanged pleasentries, but it was her parting words that have spurred this entire post, “I love Amelie, too.”
Later, I met back up with my wife, “This woman just said, ‘I love Amelie, too.’ What was that all about?”
“Yeah. His name is Augustus, not Amelie. He’s clearly a man gnome.”
“Have you not seen Amelie?”
And after a spirited bout of insults from both sides, I left Alamo Square a much more rounded traveler.
I’ve gathered that the gnome sub-plot in Amelie is this: A tricky girl is determined to better the lives of the people in her life. She swipes her dad’s garden gnome and sends it off with a stewardess friend. The dad receives photos in the mail of the gnome from destinations and was eventually encouraged to do some traveling himself. Thus, Amelie’s goal for her father was achieved.
Fast forward a few weeks and I’m riding my bike to the Montana Folk Festival. I get a picture text from my wife that looks like she re-stole Augustus and took a photo in front of one of the performances. With a shotty track record of travel-gnome related information, I didn’t know if that was part of the prank.
I met her in as she watched some traditional Korean dancers, chilling with a gnome that isn’t Augustus. Instantly, I’m mad: She’s gnome cheating.
“Would you like to introduce me to your new friend?”
“Dude! This the Travelocity Gnome! The one on all the commercials! No lie!”
It turns out, Travelocity is one of the largest festival sponsors, and brought their mascot to the event.
I tried to imagine all of the places he’s been. Then it hit me: There’s only one thing I really had to do. Perhaps it was the beautiful day, the festival atmosphere, the music dancing on a high altitude breeze, but I dug deep into my backpack for a cold PBR, opened it and said the first cheers that came to mind.
“Here’s to you, Travelocity Gnome. One bad-ass traveler. Then, with my Amelie research now paying off, I got serious, “Oh, and to inspiration. Cheers!”
Then, I had to drink his beer for him.
By Jon Wick
About the Author
Jon lives in Butte, Montana, spending most of his time on skis or bikes; sometimes both. He began travel writing while teaching in Korea and is currently pursuing his Master’s Degree in Technical Communication at Montana Tech. Jon has begun writing his first book, The Story of Will, whose movie rights are still (very) available. Catch more of Jon at TheJonWickproject.wordpress.com. (@ExpedJon)
Published on July 12, 2011