Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On the Zoo...

When I was about 10 or 11 my mom bought a season pass to the zoo. It was mostly for my little brother Alex who was OBSESSED with animals. Each time he would get to pick a new animal from the gift shop to bring home with him and add to his collection. They were these small, rubber, pretty life-like-in-miniature figures. After awhile, he'd gotten all the "normal" animals like giraffes and lions so he started buying rare versions of anteaters and other less popular creatures. I'm pretty sure he still has the collection.

So I've been to the Zoo a LOT. But I have two memories that will always be my favorite:

Memory #1 -- Sam was a runner. My mother's biggest nightmare, and it was a recurring one, was that he would get lost in a crowd, any crowd, and we wouldn't be able to find him. Attempting a trip to Mount Rushmore was a feat of courage for my mother who was sure we would find dangling from a president's nose. He was also fixated on hippos. He had hippo toys, loved to sing songs about hippos, and any movie that he saw that included a hippo became his new instant favorite -- which meant we would watch it over, and over, and over again.

I also had the most amazing boyfriend at the time. I was 20, he was 24. He was trying to get in with my family's good graces, especially my parents who were not thrilled with the situation. They thought I was "too young to get married" and were convinced that any boyfriend over 21 was a marriage proposal waiting to happen. So it was nothing personal -- I don't think a set of parents could construct a more clean-cut, well-behaved boyfriend than the one I had -- but that didn't make their coldness any easier. In an attempt to win them over, we offered to take Sam to the zoo to see the hippo. They consented, and off we went.

All afternoon Sam begged to see the hippo. After stopping to look briefly at a few of the other exhibits on the way, we departed from our well-mapped out route and headed straight to the middle of the park for the hippo exhibit. We were greeted by locked doors and a sign that said, "Pardon our dust during renovation. Our hippo has moved to a new home in Albuquerque." Sam was crushed. We tried to cheer him up by visiting the penguins, but he wasn't interested. After a few more exhibits Ryan and I had all but forgotten about the hippo. When Sam started getting ornery and stubborn, I figured it was because he was hungry. I knew it was time for a hamburger when he yelled at me and sat down defiantly in the middle of the walkway, refusing to budge. We finally got some food into him and I tried playfully teasing him a little to make him smile. I looked over to find one large, single tear rolling down his cheek.

"Sam! What's wrong?!"

"Hippo," he said sadly.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry with him. I hugged him and reassured him. We let him enjoy his hamburger and fries, I bought him some ice cream, and we talked about the hippo. After a good cry and some treats, he seemed to be doing much better. We all agreed to set off toward the giraffes.

We'd only made it a few yards from the lunch area when I realized I left my glasses on the table. I asked Ryan to stay there with Sam, and I ran back to grab them. I was gone maybe 30 seconds and was within eye shot. My phone started buzzing. "Sam's running!" the text said. I turned around and couldn't see them.

Oh no! I thought. He's lost. The nightmare has happened. But he wasn't lost -- he was just fast. Ryan trailed him closely. But since he was still fairly unfamiliar to Sam, he didn't feel comfortable wrangling him and pinning him down till I got there. And Sam was also REALLY fast. So I told him not to let him out of his sight and I ran to catch up with them. I took off in the direction I'd seen them last. "Elephants," was the next message. I changed course toward the elephant exhibit. Halfway there came "Giraffes" followed quickly by "Monkeys." Every time they'd pass a new exhibit Ryan would text me. I could barely run I was laughing so hard. By the time I caught up to them by the gorillas, Ryan was tired and I was sweating. Sam was sitting contentedly in the shade on a bench. There were about six or seven one-word texts on my phone consisting only of animal names. I saved them for months.

Memory #2 -- My first legal job was for the Utah Crime Victims Clinic in Salt Lake. Most days I worked in the office or accompanied one of the attorneys downtown to a courthouse. One day when I walked in, I was invited to the zoo.

A client needed to sign some paperwork. She was at the zoo with her kids when we called her, and one of the other interns just happened to have a season pass to the zoo with his wife. So off and Andrew and I went, in business formal, me using his wife's pass to get in, to the zoo. The client spoke Spanish, so Andrew called to find out where we should meet up. It was a gorgeous day and I honestly don't think I would rather have been doing anything else than a job I loved as we walked under leafy green trees past the butterfly house and monkey exhibit. Andrew quickly realized how limited his Spanish was when she tried to explain her location. He started attempting to translate animal names into Spanish. "Giraffo?" Sigh. "Como se dice monkey?" No luck. Finally, he struck gold. "Elephantes?" Yes! I was ecstatic. The new baby elephant had just been born and I'd get a glimpse after all.

We found the client, got the papers signed, and decided to take a closer look at the baby elephant before heading back to the car. We passed a blonde woman, pushing one kid in a stroller and two more hanging around her. She looked really familiar so I smiled and then all of a sudden Andrew burst out "Hi Professor Sun!" You have to understand that this woman is brilliant. She is one of like three people in the history of Harvard to get flawless grades all three years of Harvard Law. I'd only seen her in business dress so I almost didn't recognize her in jeans and a T-shirt. She looked at us questioningly. We did look funny -- all dressed up in business formal with legal documents in our hands. Plus, we were sure she was thinking "why on earth are two married BYU students hanging out at the zoo with each other without their spouses at lunch time on a work day?" Andrew quickly explained our situation and she laughed at our story. The baby elephant was perfect and we headed back to the office. I'm pretty sure it's the last time I'll ever get paid for going to the zoo.


Miranda said...

Those two stories are adorable! My experience of the Hogle zoo is panic attacks, which are not so cute.

Cari said...

I totally remember Alex's animal phase! Don't know that I ever went to the zoo with you but I do remember him talking to me about animals.