10 Things You Should Know About Don Wildman

Don Wildman was destined to be a schoolteacher and he's neurotic about packing.

You might find the following surprising about me:

1. I should have been a schoolteacher. My father was a teacher and a high school principal, and 3 of my 4 sisters are/have been professional teachers. It’s in our family gene pool to explain things. I like to think I'm doing this on television -- without giving quizzes.

2. I was one of the best waiters you’ve ever known. Exceedingly proud of my food-service background. I've worked every kind of restaurant imaginable from the age of 16 on. I learned much of what I know about the real world from dealing with the pressures of that industry.

3. When traveling or at home, I can’t stand poor customer service. Once in Japan, I asked the manager of a McDonald's for her card just to have something to remember her by, so efficient and kind was her service. She’d trotted to get a fish sandwich for me and returned with a smile and a slight bow. We can learn a lot from the Japanese in this regard -- for that matter, from the Vietnamese, too. If our economy is largely based on consumption, shouldn't we be making it an absolute joy to consume?

4. I spend too much money on sunglasses. It's really my one failing as a human being. I like Persols. But, god, they're expensive!

5. I’m truly neurotic about packing. I spend hours packing -- which is difficult since I fly somewhere about every 10 days. I shudder to think how much of my life is expended folding clothes.

6. I’m a complete, silly romantic about travel.
Even while I make my career diving into hideously unappealing environments to get the story, a large part of myself would often prefer to be strolling through the Marais in Paris or cozying into my seat at Carnegie Hall. Travel should be an investigation, yes. But it can also be a rediscovery of ourselves and the heights to which we aspire in life.

7. I like cats more than dogs (but I do love dogs, too). I had 2 of the greatest cats ever born. I used to communicate with them by blinking, it being my personal theory that a lack of facial expression makes cats seem inscrutable and distant, when in fact they're just frustrated with humans’ lack of subtlety. Watch their eyes sometime, the timing of their look-aways, their blinks, their squints. Try giving it back. As for dogs, no subtleties at all and, you know, that does have its charms.

8. No matter what happens in life, I will always be a guy from the burbs. I have had the lucky pleasure of meeting remarkable people from all strata of society. Television provides entry -- and, after some practice, I can fend for myself most anywhere. But in the end, I'll always be a kid from South Jersey, which is fine by me.

9. Love to camp, but … Just starting the search for a vintage pop-up camp trailer! I virtually grew up in a Nimrod from the late ’60s. I'm finding myself less and less fond of sleeping on the ground.

10. When I go to most big parties, I prefer to speak with the waitstaff. Probably all those days as a waiter, but mostly it’s because they're the ones in the room who aren't trying so hard to impress, which always makes for a more interesting person.

MORE: A Day With Don Wildman

A Day With Don Wildman
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