Every time I see video clips from one of those drive-through animal parks, where a giraffe usually is sticking its tongue through a gap in someone’s car window and is giving the driver a face washing, I can’t help but think back to the time my husband and I dared to venture to such a park.
I still clearly can recall the summer we were discussing where we should go for our annual vacation.
“Remember that drive-through animal park we went to in Canada way back when we were first married?” my husband asked. “That was SO much fun! Maybe we could go there again! It will be like a trip down Memory Lane.”
I honestly wondered if his memory already had taken a vacation. Believe me, the words “so much fun” were not something I’d have used to describe our trip to the animal park in Canada...not even close.
First of all, we’d had the misfortune of visiting the park on one of the hottest days in July. There we sat in our cramped VW Beetle with no air-conditioning and all of the windows (per strict park regulations) rolled up so tightly, we felt like a pair of canned sardines.
As we crawled along on the dusty road through the park, we read the signs announcing which animals were supposed to be in each area. Eagerly, we craned our necks to see these magnificent beasts. We saw nothing but grass and bushes…and more grass and bushes. We began to suspect the park actually didn't have any animals—that they’d just put up the signs to make people think they did.
“Look!” my husband shouted, pointing. “There’s a big bird—maybe some rare type of African species — over there in that tree!”
I squinted up at the tree and frowned. “It’s only an old crow.”
Too soon, our car’s interior temperature began to reach the equivalent of a broiler oven’s. I started to look like a “before” photo for an antiperspirant advertisement.
“I’m opening the window,” I told my husband as a ball of sweat plopped off the tip of my nose and landed in my lap. “I’m going to pass out if I don’t!”
“No!” he shouted, slamming on the brakes. “All the signs say not to! We could be attacked by wild animals!”
“Good!” I snapped. “At least we’ll finally get to see one! I’m going to open the window only a crack. It’s not as if I’m going to hang my head out of it the way our dog does, and yell, ‘Here, kitty, kitty!’ in the lions’ area!”
I rolled down the window only about two inches, then put my face close to the opening and took a deep breath of what turned out to be scorching, dusty air. I then heard what sounded like a thud on the car’s roof and suddenly, I couldn’t move my head. “Help!” I cried.
My husband again slammed on the brakes. “What’s wrong?”
“Something’s grabbing the front of my hair!” I whined, struggling to free myself.
He glanced at the vehicle ahead of us. “I think it’s a baboon,” he whispered. “There was just a whole bunch of them on that car in front of us over there and they were going wild, tearing off the chrome, the antenna and the windshield wipers!”
“Shhhh!” my husband said. “I don’t want anyone to know you opened the car window! It could be a federal offense in Canada, for all we know! We could end up in jail here…and we don’t even speak French!”
“I’m about to be scalped, and all you care about is going to prison?!” I snapped.
At that moment, the baboon (or whatever it was) loosened its grip. I quickly rolled up the window. The top part of my hair was standing straight up in the air.
“That will teach you to obey the signs,” my husband preached. “You’re lucky it was only a baboon. It could have been a cougar sitting on top of the car and when you opened the window, it could have stuck its claws inside and shredded your forehead into confetti!”
I wanted to tell him to roll down his window and stick his tongue out there, just so I wouldn’t have to listen to him preach any more.
So, when years later, my husband suggested we revisit that same animal park to recapture our younger days and take a stroll (or drive) down Memory Lane, I lied and told him I’d heard that the park had been shut down years before, due to some horribly virulent animal-park plague.
And then I prayed he wouldn’t go investigate the place online and find out it still was open.
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