Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I Mention Wilford Brimley in this Post, and I'm Not Just Saying That to Win Your Heart

Zoo: An excellent place to study the habits of human beings. - Evan Esar

We went to the zoo the other day, armed with our brand new video camera. We did all the things that proud new video camera owners are supposed to do. We tried out everything. Night vision, lights, quick focus, stabilization thingamabahobbers. We zoomed in. We zoomed out. I zoomed so much, I think I actually got footage inside a bear's nose. That's a powerful little camera. This morning, we finally got around to watching what we'd taped, and besides now knowing that the inside of a panda nose is surprisingly spacious, I came to the realization that the people at the zoo are far more entertaining than the animals. We actually found ourselves rewinding the tape to point out to each other odd things people had done and going back again and again to try and make out what someone had said in the background.

After nearly thirty minutes of zoo footage, we came up with a zoorific theory on the people at the zoo. On first glance it may seem that there are simply two types of zoo patron, kid and adult. Closer looks however break that down even further; hyper kid, bored kid, adult. A trained eye, however, will be able to distinguish between twelve, yes, that is a twelve, subspecies of zoo patrons. They are as follows:

1. The Scooter Alonger. The Scooter Alonger can be recognized by his inability to stay at any one display for more than a few seconds. Scooter Alongers, much like sharks and helicopters, are unable to stop moving. They're not necessarily in a hurry, but also will not be caught dawdling. There's constant shuffling of feet, never more than a mere glimpse of any animal, and quite often a confused look on their faces as they have to double back to find thier family members who fit into a different category.

2. The Attention Defici...Wha? What's Thaters. These folks have the attention span of a gnat. In fact, even gnats bore them. They are easily distracted by bright lights, the waving of arms, the sound of jingling keys, or motion of any sort. At the zoo they can often be heard making broad statements like, "I love the monkeys. The monkeys are my favo...Hey. Is that a polar be... Camels. Look everyone, camels." Do not get in their way, they bounce to and fro in a potentially (unintentionally) violent and dangerous way.

3. Sign Readers. Always wanting to be well informed about every detail about every single animal they do not see, because they're too busy absorbing paragraph after paragraph aboubt the mating habits of the naked mole rat and holding up their arms to compare them with the wingspan of the California condor and matching thier handprints with those of all of the great apes and turning knobs and flipping flaps and spinning wheels... These are the people that miss the rare occurrences when a captive animal actual does something different than sleep or lick its own butt, because they are too busy reading the signs. They can often be heard complaining, "Oh, I missed it." These folks don't realize they could go home and read a book about an animal, but unless there's an aardvark in their living room, there are certain things you can only accomplish while actually in the confines of the zoo.

4. Sign Scanners. A close relative of the sign readers, sign scanners are a dangerous sort. They merely skim the material presented to them on the zoo signs, often misinterpreting what they've been told. These are the people that believe that lions are making a fashion statement with the hair-do, tortoises are simply turtles after puberty, dolphins are in fact fish (not eat fish), and red pandas and giant pandas belong to the same bridge club. Sign scanners absorb a small percentage of the information given, but spout it back at their compatriots as if they know the whole story - often times filling in the blanks with professed expertise. These sad folks are most often found pontificating misinformation to their young. Sign scanners should be considered dangerous, keep children and elderly away.

5. Excessive Picture Takers. Are easily spotted, just follow the strobe effect of the flash bulb. They often have a dazed look in their eye from the light bouncing back at them off the plexi-glass enclosures. They often make proud declarations about the size of their memory cards and can usually be found scrolling through thier camera's memory and proudly showing thier companions the seventeen perfect shots they got of the "whatever that thing is." EPT's rarely know what they're photographing, but manage to frame each snap in such a way that it appears that they've just happened to stumble across a bandicoot in their backyard. An endagered subspecies of EPTs is the Almost Out Of Film EPTs. Before the advent of digital photography these folks could be found everywhere, but sadly, now a sighting is rare. If we don't take care to prevent their demise, out children may never hear a AOOFEPT bemoan, "I'm almost out of film. I took sixty-eight pictures of the gibbon, now I only have two shots left, and I have to save them for something really cool."

6. Linger Way Too Longers. These are the people that stare at the baboon butts just a wee bit longer than socially acceptable. At first they seem harmless. At first you believe they're trying to be in touch with nature. At first you disregard the odd behavior. Then, as if a light bulb just smacked you in the temple, you realize that if you saw the same person exhibiting the same behavior at the neighborhood playground, you'd be dialing 911 before I could sing the chorus of "Man in the Mirror." Be forewarned, do not look directly at the folks. Do not engage and for the love of Mike, do not make eye contact. If unsure, keep in mind, their finger prints are probably on file someplace.

7. Know It Alls. While annoying, like dung beetles and spiders, these creatures actually serve a purpose. Many an animal kingdom illiterate parent could benefit from following one of these people from pen to pen. Know it alls show up at the zoo with the knowledge that sign readers want and the sign scanners believe they've found. If you can find a nice know it all, one who doesn't lord his/her/its knowldege over the little people, stick with them. A very rare sighting, but absolutely priceless.

8. Don't Know It Alls. A far more common cousin of the Know It All. Sadly, these folks think they are Know It Alls. Like those butterflies that aren't poisonous, but look like other poisonous ones to fool the predators, these somewhat dangerous pests hook you in with an interesting fact. It seems plausible, and you figure that they must be smart, so you listen and believe that you're learning. Next thing you know it, you're at work the next day, telling your friends that canaries come from the Canary Islands, and Wolves come from Wolfistan, and Camels are bred and traded for small aircraft in Camelonia.

9. The Absolutely Clueless. The elderly, the very young, and the mentally disabled are usually the only ones that fall into this category. They generally have no idea where they are, what all the fuss is about, and are mostly wondering who will change their diapers. Zoos that serve alcohol (yes, they exist, so someone must have thought that Long Island Ice Tea and dangerous wild beasts made a good combo) have a more abundant population of ACs, but they can be found in most public arenas, usually playing with a straw or a napkin, completely satisfied with a form of entertainment that didn't have a fifteen dollar ticket price.

10. Schedule Keepers. These are fast moving folks who have a mission. Much like migrating geese or marching penguins, these people have somewhere to be and they are usually behind schedule. You can identify this species by their folded, unfolded, and refolded maps. You'll most often find them moving very quickly, herding members of these other categories, and shouting, "We've got a schedule to keep, people. We only have so many hours and there are a lot of animals to see," or something to that effect. Schedule Keepers are, without fail, close to a stroke due to the incompliance of their sign reading/lingering/clueless/photo-op/attention span lacking cohorts.

11. Shove the Kids to the Fronters. Always accompanied by their offspring, these zoo patrons are often pushing and shoving their children into prime viewing spots. These folks, regardless of what said offspring want, desire the kids to be front and center at each and every exhibit. They are easily recognizable by their mating call, "Do you see the ocelot, Timmy? Can you see it? Do you need to move closer? Let's move closer? Step over the barrier, Timmy, we'll see better. Don't worry about that ocelot, he's nice. He won't eat you, get a little closer, Timmy. Stop whining, so he took a little nibble, it's memories like this that you'll cherish forever, Timmy."

12. Careful Observers. These folks are a harmless breed. They are not grounded in reality. They, in fact, believe that they're on a nature safari in the wilds of what ever continent LaLa Land is on. They stare at the animals (sometimes even take notes or make sketches) as if they are Jane Goodall. Like a caterpillar or Wilford Brimley in the Cocoon, they can sometimes metamorphosisize into a Linger Too Longers or a member of the Know It All family. Can usually be recognized by the pith helmet and the blank stare. Of course, there are other species and subspecies and speciesubsubspeciespecies, but these are the most common humans found at the zoo.

Remember, it takes a keen eye to discern between the species, but this handy little guide should give you a head start. So, on your next trip to your local zoo, enjoy the lack of nature, dress for the weather, and steer clear of the people (the animals are much less dangerous). Let me know, which of these fits you and your family. Happy zooing.

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Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

I, myself, am a scooter-a-longer. But it's because I've got a sensitive gag reflex which goes into overdrive with certain oders.

I'm sure all the linger-a-longer types that follow me can appreciate my haste.

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Wow, you've really pegged everyone. What about the snack barflies? The ones who cannot walk around the zoo without carrying a bag of peanuts, cotton candy, or soda? And what about the animal harrassers - the ones who throw the peanuts at the monkeys, or tease the lion until they get eaten?

Bee said...

First I wondered what Zoo you went to but judging you solely on your blog and the chats I would say Brookfield.

I like the monkeys.