Another summer activity with our fellow homeschoolers (and everyone thought when we said homeschooling that we meant schooling at home? hah). With storms threatening on the horizon, and the heat climbing to an almost unbearable high (when last did we see a week of temperatures over ninety degrees?), we gathered in small groups under the picnic pavilion to play with air. Sound boring? Never.
We really enjoy going to the zoo. I know it's a controversial thing, zoos, and I can see both sides of that argument, but since they're here, and while they're here, we like to take advantage of seeing animals we would never otherwise have the good fortune to see. Still, while I love going to zoos, I'm not fond of the crowds, the heat if it's summer, or the crowds, or definitely, definitely the crowds. There's something about zoo going that brings out the worst in people. I swear the idea of calmly and patiently waiting in lines, a thing we all supposedly learned about in kindergarten, goes out the proverbial window faster than the proverbial baby in bath water. And since the jostling, pushing, constant people in the way, and overall monotony of voices drives me batty after a time, I can only imagine what it's like for the animals, who from their small spaces must put up with, day in and day out, the human cacophony that accompanies any crowd.
But the work day is blessedly short for your average zoo animal, and although I never put much thought into zoo after hours before this week, I can now say with utmost certainty that happy hour is a thing at the zoo. Think of it this way: once all that cacophony, all that humanness, walks out the front gate, all panda-monium breaks loose.
They're gone! the animals are thinking, Let's get our party hats on!
The minute the after hours hush falls over the zoo, the animals come alive. Whatever animal you couldn't find because it was hiding behind the rock is now out cavorting with whatever enrichment device was just now placed in their enclosure by the equally relieved keeper. It's better than happy hour beer, it's happy hour frozen fish, or crackers in a box, or grubs in a ball. This is the life.
And you know what else? All the animals that don't officially live at the zoo, all the free-loading rabbits, ground hogs, geese, and ducks also come out for the fun. And everyone's in such a good mood, the rabbits don't even think of taunting the wolves, who are too busy galloping all over the enclosure now that nobody can see them to give a hoot anyway.
Yes, zoo closing time is just like closing time anywhere else, and I know this because now I've seen it thanks to a summer time homeschooling field trip. Just as everyone else was skipping out the front gate, about twenty of us were sneaking in (not really, because we were there by invitation) to take part in the happy hour festivities. We toured the grounds, we made enrichment activities, we saw (as best we could) animals playing after dark, and we slept with the fishes in the zoo aquarium, the sharks, rays, and sea turtles slowly floating by all night long. Then the next morning, functioning on only as much sleep as we'd been able to muster, we were given another tour of the zoo before the front gates opened and we were set loose with all the other zoo goers.
Of course, by then we'd been privilege to the zoo as it is in its off time, and the open hours were less impressive, but we did get to feed the giraffes.