Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Human Zoo

It has probably been about 20 years since I’ve been to a zoo.  I doubt I will ever go to one again.  After living in Africa and seeing all kinds of animals in the wild, and often interacting with them voluntarily or against your will, it is hard to imagine garnering any joy from looking at animals in cages.  When I was in Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe I saw hyenas and vultures eating a cape buffalo which had been killed by lions the previous night.  You don’t get that kind of education in a zoo.

But today I thought about zoos and the fact that to a certain extent I feel as if I am in one.  Recently I was lying on the couch in my living room reading and suddenly felt as if someone was watching me.  I slowly lowered my book and turned my head to look out onto my porch.  Hanging from the bars on the sliding windows were two small monkeys peering down at me.  I looked at them, they looked at me, they looked at one another, perhaps to say, “Wow! Look at that giant human.”  It’s interesting to consider how the tables have turned; now I’m the one inside the cage and the monkeys are peering in from outside.  I went back to reading and the monkeys and their friends eventually lost interest in me and returned to playing.

Another day I was sitting at my dining room table and again felt the presence of a peeping Tom.  First it was just one.  As you can see here he is while his friends are wrestling with one another:
But I guess after a while curiosity got the best of them and they all decided to stop by for a look:
Yesterday I had an encounter which reminded me that there are cages in zoos for a reason: to keep the animals in and the “others” out.  My bathroom toilet stopped working and I had a plumber over at my house working on the repairs.  The plumbing assistant went back and forth between the house and his truck several times to collect parts.  It was daytime and I was in the kitchen anyway, so I told him he could leave the front door open and unlocked so he could easily come and go.  While this permitted him easy access to the house, two monkeys also wandered in. I heard a noise in the dining room and went to see what it was, discovering a lone monkey.  As I stood there looking at the monkey, trying to figure out my best course of action, out of the corner of my eye I saw a second monkey jump onto the front door and launch himself into the hallway where I was standing.  My first thought was, “I really hope they don’t bite me.”

After what seemed like hours, but I’m sure it was only a few minutes, of dancing around with the monkeys, balance had been restored.  I was locked back inside my cage, and the monkeys were outside, able to wander around and look at the other tenants in The Human Zoo.

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