In the immortal words of Dr. Doonothing, otherwise known as yours truly, if I could talk to the animals, what a neat achievement that would be. But would a tiger or a camel, bird, reptile or mammal, really, truly want to talk to me?
That’s what I hoped to find out, without being eaten in the process, during my recent trip to the Bronx Zoo, where I trekked with my wife, Sue; our younger daughter, Lauren; and our granddaughters, Chloe, 4, and Lilly, 11 months, both of whom were first-time visitors who soon learned that some of the most fascinating creatures walked on two legs and talked to the animals with a New York accent.
We heard them chatter (most of what they said was either incomprehensible or unrepeatable) during a stampede into the zoo, which was overrun with humans because it was Wednesday, when admission is free and the animals get to see what wildlife is really like.
The first denizens we saw were bison, which were once almost hunted to extinction, prompting Lauren to remark, “They make really good burgers.”
Then we flew into the World of Birds, which housed, among other fine feathered friends, a guira cuckoo.
“Who’s a cuckoo?” I asked Chloe, who looked up at me and chirped, “Poppie!”
The next exhibit was Tiger Mountain, featuring a massive Amur (or Siberian) member of the species that earned its stripes when Chloe commented, “Just like Tick and Tock, the Tiger Twins,” referring to the feline siblings who star in a book that teaches kids how to tell time.
By then it was time for lunch (not, thank God, for the tiger, which looked directly at me and licked its chops), so we found a shady spot and gobbled up turkey sandwiches. I didn’t feel guilty because turkeys are among the few animals that don’t reside at the zoo. It wouldn’t have been the case with bison burgers.
As we were finishing, a visitor started yelling at one of her kids (not the goat variety), who ran off faster than a cheetah, further incensing the woman, who brayed, “My house is more of a zoo than this place!”
The scene drove me to drink, so I went to the watering hole and ordered three beers for the adults in our group.
“May I please see an ID?” Tiffany D. asked me.
“God bless you!” I gushed. “I haven’t been carded in decades.”
“You’re looking young in those sunglasses and that hat,” she said with a wink and a smile. “In fact,” added Tiffany, who couldn’t have been more than 30, “you’re looking younger and younger all the time.”
“I’m going to come back,” I said after I paid her (and left a nice tip).
“OK!” said Tiffany. “Come back and I’ll card you again.”
As we strolled off, a woman pushing a stroller stopped so her young daughter could say hello to Chloe and Lilly, each of whom was in a stroller, too.
“That’s a good idea,” the merry mom said when she saw our refreshments.
“You’re going to get a beer?” I asked.
“Of course,” she answered. “Why do you think I come to the zoo?”
Another woman passed by with her kids in tow and said, “I wish someone would push me around in a stroller.”
Sue, who worked up a sweat pushing Chloe, said, “It’s a good thing I go to the gym.”
A good thing, indeed, because there was plenty more to see, including a polar bear, two grizzly bears, several giraffes, a herd of zebras and a caravan of camels, which Chloe liked because, as she noted while the beasts of burden masticated disgustingly, “It looks like they’re chewing gum.”
The only creatures smart enough not to come out were the lions, which disappointed everyone because they were, naturally, the mane attraction. But we did hear them roar from wherever they were hiding, which I hoped wasn’t behind my car, where we headed after a long but exciting day.
If I weren’t driving, I would have gone back for another beer so Tiffany D. could card me again. At the zoo, it’s called animal magnetism.
— Jerry Zezima