Today Kiddo and I decided to invest in a little summertime fun and picked up a zoo membership. I've been going to the Oregon Zoo since it's old-school days as the Washington Park Zoo, when kids could buy a cone full of pellets and feed a giraffe or two. Nonetheless, it's always good to learn some new tricks, and I came out of my zoo experience with a few more good things to remember.
1. Pack a good snack--or five. I forgot how much all the walking, looking, and excitement can burn calories. I don't think we made it past the mountain goats at the entrance before breakfast was gone for Kiddo. We took a snack break at the fountain near the Penguin exhibit and one again about 40 minutes later. The zoo snacks are overpriced...we bought the big soft pretzels because we'd been reading "Walter the Baker". Alas, they were too salty. Imagine a blizzard landing on a pretzel--that's how salty they were. I was explaining this to Kiddo when the kid at the table next to me chimed in: "Oh, yeah, there's waaaay too much salt." So avoid the potential heart attack and just bring your own stash of food.
2. Be polite. And realistic. I heard an endless stream of comments about the different exhibits that stank. Yes, the penguins are smelly. They eat fish and poop in the water they eat in. Give me a break. Yes, the aviary is pungent. Birds, rain forest foliage and fruit and water are a great combination for a sweet, decaying smell. Don't even get me started on the bats. When people complain, I want to point their attention to something that's truly amazing: the zoo itself doesn't stink. The animals there are well kept and their litter cleaned regularly. Bird poo isn't as easy to clean (yes, I'm including the bats in this, because who wants to go do guano duty--or should I say, doody?), but overall, I'm happy that there's more of a musky smell and less of a poopy smell. So please people, stop complaining. Animals stink. Period.
3. Act like a grown up. A few primate females were in estrus (this is the monkey equivalent of the loaded chick at the bar who's looking to hook up) and their engorged behinds were being tittered at. Let's not even talk about the very virile male mandrill, whose brightly colored phallus drew even more attention than his 1978 disco face. Okay, folks, I know it's quite unusual to see monkey penis, but do you need to stand and stare so long that I can't push my stroller through the crowd? Move along, puh-leeze!
4. Quit your smoking already. I saw several people sucking down one last cancer stick before entering the zoo, and someone even arbitrarily declared one space in the zoo his own personal smoking area. I'm sure someone informed him of his mistake. So folks, if you can't make it through the zoo without having to risk giving the lions secondhand smoke, go get some help.
4. Name your child anything but Jayden. Not once, not twice, but three times did this lady hear a mom yell for "Jayden". These were all different moms, by the way. Jayden is the eleventh most popular name these days, so if you call for Jayden and feel a little kid take your hand, look down and make sure he's yours.
5. Read the signs. Don't be like that inane woman standing in front of the chimpanzees, yelling at her kids to "Look at the gorillas!". Good grief. There are signs everywhere, so even if you think you know everything, take a peek. Just in case.
6. Get there early. By noon, everyone who's going to the zoo "after lunch" is starting to head up to the zoo. Heading out at 12:10, we were moving against a tide of bodies; by 12:30 the entrance lines were full and the parking lot was a nightmare. So do yourself a favor; pack the big bunch of snacks and go earlier. Trust me, it's worth it.
Here's hoping that you can take away some information that will make your next zoo trip pleasant. And don't worry, if you laugh at some silly scatological thing, I'll probably laugh too. Just don't stand there and point at the monkey penis, or I really might pretend like I don't know you. You've been warned.