zoos are strange places for me. i have fond memories of them during my child days. the wax mold machines that would magically create your very own model of a rhino or tiger. the way it warmed my hands, the sound of my quarters clinking into the metal box inside the machine.
then there's the not so good memories. the gorilla who would shit in his hand and then fling it at us humans while we ran to hide in the concession area. the smell of elephant urine on los angeles concrete. the dull stare animals give you once they realize they cannot fight you and they cannot escape you either.
as a mom, i never know if the zoo is really a good idea or not. it is one of the few places in the big wide world where kids are accepted. if you don't have kids you haven't thought of this yet. unless you remember being a kid, that is. once you are a mom you begin to analyze and categorize places based on kid-friendliness. this goes beyond changing tables- cuz i will change a stank diaper at the table if your posh cafe or downtown ice cream joint (what's up with that mallards?!) doesn't give me a more private option. people may sneer at me for it but it's your food they will associate with the smell of my child's pooh. or not anymore- potty training accomplished.
so- the zoo. it is designed for kids. they have diaper changing tables- and step stools so kids can wash their hands after wards even. most of the dangerous things are in cages. the food is too expensive to buy and you know that going in so you bring snacks along. they encourage wagon use- and rent them if you forget yours in the backyard. and the paths are endless so a good deep nap is almost guaranteed.
and my kids want to go to the zoo. the idea of it is appealing. look at animals. see live zebras. watch monkeys mate. try to figure out what part of the koala you are looking at. avoid stepping in bird poop.
the reality is different.
in truth, the zoo is depressing. terribly so. the animals know they aren't supposed to be there. even animals that enjoy human interaction no doubt get bored with the same scenery- it's just common sense. cabin fever to the nth degree. it reminds me of the time the mobile refinery behind my high school sprung a leak and i was stuck in 9th grade french class for 3 hours with the teacher who had that strange grape-cluster tumor hanging from her upper arm. but at least she let us leave the room to pee.
seren noticed the animal boredom away when we recently visited the zoo in duke city. it's an ok zoo but it needs to face facts that polar bears do not belong in new mexico. but that's not the point. here's the point. as we watched the looming giraffes lope around there dusty "habitat" seren noticed how incredibly plain it was. no trees. no grass. just dirt and some very tall straw umbrellas that hint at some type of "african" feeling.
"oh- how sad. i feel bad for them," he lamented. and yes, he laments. deeply with sighs and eyes sad in a way only brown eyes with lush lashes can be sad. i ask him why he feels bad for them although it is obvious what they are lacking in their daily lives, namely something green to look at, smell, nibble.
"they must be so bored," he explains. and then with an optimistic lilt to his voice- fringed with possibility and the optimism of an 8 year old boy as he watches the giraffes meander in small circles, "unless they have some tic-tac-toe skills."
skills are the cure for common boredom. even for giraffes.