A Trip to the Zoo (Hunger Games Style)


I never used to be good around children. You could say that, in a manner of speaking, I never understood the purpose of them. They would always cry, scream, kick, make messes and generally be sticky. Obviously my views changed as I got older and somehow acquired two of the little things, but even with two kids I never really felt that comfortable with other people’s kids. Somewhere along the line that all changed.

Case in point, today I volunteered to be a chaperone for my oldest son’s class field trip to the zoo. I was a bit nervous when I filled out the form, since I generally feel a little weird managing a bunch of other children. Full grown people are easier to manage; kids have a weird super power to look through your soul. I was reassured when my wife told me “it will probably just be our son”. She was wrong. But it ended up being okay in the end, and was actually quite fun.

When I arrived at the zoo parking lot I was surprised to see buses from nearly every school system in the county. I’m trying not to exaggerate, but there had to have been at least two million elementary kids waiting to get into the zoo. It was mass chaos.

After I finally found the group from my son’s school (after a few awkward exchanges with teachers from random schools), I was paired with my boy (woo!) and one of his classmates. WHEW! Just one other kid! Then I was tapped on the shoulder… and asked to take another kid. Crap. Thankfully it was a kid I already knew from my neighborhood. This was actually going to be easy!

We started our zoo journey by heading to the Africa area. For this particular zoo, it requires a three minute drive on a zebra-colored tram, or a 10 minute walk up a hill. The line for the tram was about 30 minutes long and I had three jumpy kids next to me. Time to walk!

It was a good idea for the first few minutes. Then the “kid pains” started. “I’m hungry”. “My legs hurt”. “A snake just bit me!!!!”. I heard it all. We continued our trek, though, sure of ourselves that the journey would be worth it. Up the hill we walked, slowly but surely. The sun rising ever further, the heat penetrating our flesh. It was like something out of a movie about the Donner Party. I knew, at one point, we would turn to cannibalism.

At last we made it to the top of the hill. Africa was within our grasp! That’s when I remembered… we had another five minute walk to get to any of the frickin’ animals! So we continued our walk. This time it was at least downhill, so no more complaints about legs hurting.

We made our way to the zebras. Ooo. Ahhh. Zebras. Next was my son’s favorite: the giraffes! He was so excited, knowing they were just within a few short steps. We could see them in the distance, we were so close! And then we saw the line. It was only about five miles long. Five miles filled with elementary kids all wanting to see the giraffes. Ugh.

Thankfully the wait wasn’t as long as I had expected and we were soon there with the long neck’d creatures. “Can we feed them,” I was asked. “Yes,” I replied, “yes we can”. I bought five pieces of lettuce for $6. Yes, $6 for fucking lettuce. I could buy three heads of lettuce at the local market for that. But hey, they probably washed it with this special liquid called “water”, so it was worth ever dime.

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The domesticated giraffe thrives on specially washed, $6 lettuce leaves

Please bear in mind that I had five pieces of lettuce. For three kids. As an adult I understand the math, but three kids and five pieces of lettuce just doesn’t compute. I gave each child one (okay, one kid got two somehow, but I stole it back). Three fifths of my $6 disappeared down a giraffe’s throat faster than I could cough *ripoff*. Two pieces left. Three kids. Shit.

I tried to explain that I had to split up the lettuce between the three of them, but they wanted none of it. All three kids started pawing at me, trying to grasp the lettuce from my hands. I shifted away from them, trying to protect the rest of my giraffe investment. It was so crowded that I accidentally ran into another random child. He tripped and fell over the edge of the fence. It’s okay, the giraffe broke his fall.

Finally I was able to convince the three children that we could split the lettuce. It disappeared in a heartbeat, where they then asked for more. No, I said, I didn’t bring enough gold bars to pay for more frickin’ lettuce.

We continued our journey downhill. I clearly remember there being a bird cage coming soon, and some kind of new lion exhibit they’re building. Well, there should have been. Damn thing was closed, which meant the way through was closed. We had to turn back. We had to go back uphill. Through the crowd of kids, one of whom I already accidentally dropped into the giraffe enclosure. This is going to turn into the Hunger Games if I’m not careful.

Thankfully we made it back without incident, even though it was uphill the whole way. We exited the path and made our way to the return tram line… which was a mile long again. Lunch was in 20 minutes. Dammit.

The walk back was all downhill this time, which you would think would be easier. It started off easy enough, but then the slope got steeper. One of the kids lost their footing and fell, then started rolling down the gravel road. When I finally got to the child, I’ll admit it could have been better. Their nose was broken, arms scraped up, cuts all over the face. I wiped the dirt off their face, which made it look better.

I’ll admit I was a bit panicked, but as we approached the lunch area I found my relief: the face painting booth! After a quick application of a Red Panda face, you couldn’t even tell. The limp was a bit harder to hide, but I passed it off as exhaustion.

Our trip was pretty uneventful after lunch. There was some suspicion when Red Panda spit out a tooth, but they’re in kindergarten, they’re always losing teeth! Not usually their adult teeth, but whatever, those are minor details.

We saw this awesome peacock after lunch. Big and bright-white, with its feathers in full force. It was so lovely and majestic, a true representation of the beauty of nature. Until Red Panda face started chasing after it, teeth missing and limping from what I presume is a sprained ankle.

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An awesome peacock, unaware of a crazed child about to chase it

At the end of our day I promised my son he could get a fidget spinner from the gift shop. He’s been talking about it for the past few weeks and swears that he can get them from the zoo. I secretly knew the truth: why would the zoo sell spinners?!? But I let him live in his delusion, getting my letdown speech ready for when they didn’t have them.

They had them. Shit. And I had two other kids who would be heart broken without getting something, too. Double shit. And things at the zoo gift shop are not cheap. Ugh, why did I do this again?!?

We got the damn spinners. One for each kid. And yes, one for me too. What can I say, I’m a sucker for kids now. Mostly mine, but also their friends. Within limits. I just hope it distracts from what the parents see when they wipe away the Red Panda face.

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Fidget Spinners, the bane of teachers everywhere. I just bought three for some kindergartners…

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