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Zoo adventure

Do you think people from Africa ever run through our zoos saying, “Let’s go see the chipmunks!” “Ooh look! I think that’s a squirrel!”

They can’t be very impressed with a zebra, giraffe, lion or other animal that already roams freely in many parts of their countries. I always thought the strategic set up of our local zoo was pretty impressive, kind of like displays in a department store. One wants to put the most exciting items up front to draw in the consumers. At our local zoo, that exhibit is the giraffe house. Next to that are the big cats and around the corner the monkeys. They keep the more boring animals at the very back.

I wanted to take the children to the zoo one day and see if we couldn’t capture every last animal that we kept missing every year. I think in order to really savor the experience we would have to take a few days to do it. Being as it took about two days to find a parking spot, I was losing time just getting into the zoo itself.

After standing for an hour in the front, the line finally started to move. One of the children got his jacket stuck in the little turnstile. Ughhh, I said to myself. This is going to be a long day. Once we freed his jacket from the bars, I turned to all the children and asked, “Now, does anyone need to use the bathroom before we get started?” I know they have restrooms placed in various parts of the zoo, but I didn’t want to have to stop and gather all the kids when we could take care of the bathroom breaks right off the bat. “No” they all said as they began wandering off in all directions.

“Hold it! I want everyone to stay together so that we don’t — where’s Dina?” We weren’t even inside five minutes and I’d already lost a child. My little Dina was very independent and was already off doing her own thing. However, this was not going to be acceptable, especially since she was only three!

I caught up to her heading towards the giraffe house and gathered the brood all together once again. We all walked down the ramp and around to the Primates Exhibit. I was always fascinated with the big apes. The giant lowland gorilla just happened to be near the window when we arrived. We all held hands as we moved close enough to see. “You know, that animal could tear a man’s arm clean off,” I whispered to one of the children. As I looked down to see his reaction, I shuddered. “You’re not Cory!” I blurted to the little kid holding my hand. I don’t even know where this little kid came from! Why was he holding my hand and where was MY son? I unhooked myself from this little lad, still aghast at my “tear a man’s arm off’” comment and started running feverishly through the exhibit. I found my son on the other end near the baboons.

Once again, I had gathered all of the kids together and said, “Let’s go see the lions.” Now my daughter announced that she had to go potty. Of course she did. I had to go find the You Are Here map and locate the nearest bathroom (which happened to be the one back at the entrance). We all headed back to the bathroom. Once the restroom trips were all taken care of, I rounded up the troops and we veered this time towards the Pachyderm House.

As we passed the sno-cone and hot dog stands, the kids begin to whine. “We’re hungry,” they all sang in unison. “How about we go see the elephants first, then we can get something to eat.” “But I’m hungry now!” “Me too,” whimpered my oldest one. I sighed as I took my wallet out and began calculating how much it was going to be for hot dogs and drinks. The grand total came to around $22. These had better be hot dogs laced with GOLD for that price!

With their tummies nearly full and their bladders empty, we could now enjoy the rest of the day. Once again, I did a head count of the kids. “One, two, three — WHERE IS DINA?” Dina was down the hill playing with the geese. As I herded the kids into one manageable pile, I wondered if we were ever going to get to see the animals.

As we approached the Pachyderm House, a big sign on the door said “NO FOOD OR DRINKS ALLOWED.” Great! We had to all sit outside and finish our food before we could enter. Needless to say, getting three young children to finish a meal is next to impossible, but I was not about to throw $22’s worth of hot dogs into the trash.

Soon inside the Pachyderm House, my daughter began to exhibit signs of allergy. The large bales of hay or straw, combined with the overpowering smell of whatever that other noxious odor was, had my Erin coughing, sneezing and itching all over. I decided she couldn’t be in the enclosure any more so we all strolled outside — only to find it pouring with rain.

— Mari’ Emeraude

Mari’ Emeraude is a poet and humorist from Denver.

Reflections of Erma