They Score Zero Out Of Tenrec

, , , , , , | Right | March 18, 2020

(I am working at a zoo and am holding a tenrec — a small mammal that looks like a hedgehog with spines on its back — for guests to touch and ask questions about. A mother and her son walk up.)

Mother: *jokingly* “It’s half porcupine and half rat!”

Son: “Is it half porcupine?”

Me: “No, it’s all tenrec.”

Son: “Well, what’s a tenrec?”

Me: “This is. It’s related to hedgehogs, and this one lives in Madagascar.”

Son: “Is it half rat?”

Me: “No, it’s just a tenrec, not related to a porcupine or a rat.”

Son: “Well, what’s a tenrec?”

Me: *looks at his mother desperately*

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That’ll Do Snake… That’ll Do

, , , , , , | Right | February 21, 2020

(I am part of the education staff at a zoo, and when our story takes place, I am handling a friendly, relaxed little milk snake so that visitors can pet her. It’s been a pretty slow day, and the area I’m stationed in is mostly empty. Suddenly, this tiny old woman rounds the corner, dressed in a colorful suit and jaunty hat. She’s using a walker and has to be somewhere in her 80s. When she sees me, more specifically when she sees the milk snake wrapped around my arm, she hesitates.)

Me: “Would you like to pet her? She’s a milk snake so she’s non-venomous, and she’s very gentle.” 

Old Woman: “Will she hurt me?”

Me: “Well, she’s been handled and pet dozens of times and she’s never hurt anyone.”

Old Woman: “Okay… I’ll try it.”

(She proceeds to march up to me and listens very carefully as I explain the proper way to pet the snake. Then, ever so cautiously, she reaches out and gives the milk snake a pet. Her eyes light up. She tries again, more confidently this time. Then, she looks me straight in the eye.)

Old Woman: “I am eighty-three years old and this is the first time I’ve touched a snake.”

(She proceeded to do a victory fist-pump and went on her way. It’s always stuck with me because, in less than two minutes, her entire worldview on snakes seemed to shift. Job well done, little milk snake, job well done.)

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She’s Getting A Dolphin And That’s Fin-al!

, , , , , | Right | February 17, 2020

(I’m a face painter at a famous zoo in California. All of our face paints on our menus have text explaining what they are, i.e., a kid wearing a lion face paint will have text on the bottom saying “lion.” A family comes up to me first thing in the morning and looks at our face paint menus. The little girl chooses a dolphin and the aunt walks over to the register to pay for it.)

Aunt: “Which one did she pick?”

Mom: “The dolphin.”

(The aunt tries to find the picture of the dolphin on my display boards which is not pictured. She points to the elephant.)

Aunt: “This dolphin?”

(I show her the picture on the menu; she ignores me and then points to the shark.)

Aunt: “Oh! This is the dolphin, but does it have to have a horn? Can you paint a flower, instead?”

(I look at what she’s pointing at and see she’s talking about the dorsal fin — the top fin on the shark.)

Me: “Ma’am, that’s a shark. And that’s not a horn, it’s a dorsal fin.”

(I point out the dolphin.)

Me: “This is the dolphin.”

Aunt: “That one has a horn, too! Can you paint a flower, instead?”

Mom: “She knows what she’s doing. Just pay her so we can get started.”

(I ring her up and then go to the kid. While I’m painting, I hear the aunt and mom talking.)

Aunt: “I thought she wasn’t going to paint the horn.”

Mom: “It’s a dorsal fin.”

Aunt: “What’s a dorsal fin?”

Mom: “I don’t know; we haven’t learned about it on Octonauts yet.”

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Blind As The Bats They Came Here To See

, , , | Right | February 14, 2020

(I volunteer at a wildlife charity that mainly runs on our entry cost and visitor donations. It’s a relatively slow Sunday and I’m making my way past the aviaries near the entrance when I see a family that just came in. We notice each other and I think nothing of it; I’m about to get on with my duties when one of them approaches me.)

Visitor: “Excuse me, mate. Where do we pay?”

Me: *looking back toward the entry gate they must have come through not two minutes ago* “Just at the window there.”

(They apologised and went back to pay, looking rather embarrassed about it. I went to go serve them, silently wondering how they had managed to miss the multiple notes we have at the entrance reminding people to pay before entering, including one on the price list, attached to the gate they went through in the first place!)

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Searching Around The World For Them

, , , | Right | January 12, 2020

(I work retail at a major US zoo. It’s worth noting that it’s a really large zoo and it takes a while to get from one area to another. On this particular day, I am working the rentals booth where guests can rent strollers, wheelchairs, or electric scooters. Whenever a guest rents one of our electric scooters, we give them a phone number to call if they have any issues with it so that we can bring them a new one. I have just finished my break and walked back into the booth.)

Coworker: “Hey, I had a call a few minutes ago about a scooter. They said it’s not dead, but it’s running slowly. They’re in Polar, but right as they called I got a long line and I haven’t had a chance to call someone to go run them a new one.”

Me: “Well, it’s time for your break. Do you want to run the scooter out and then go on break or have me go do it and wait to take your break?”

Coworker: “You go ahead and run it; I’ll be fine waiting.”

(I hop on one of our remaining scooters and begin driving towards Polar, which is a trek away from the front entrance. I finally get there and drive all around Polar looking for a guest on a scooter. After going all around the region and finding no one, I give up and drive back. It takes me several more minutes to get back to the front of the zoo where Rentals is located.)

Me: “I searched all over Polar and couldn’t find her.”

Coworker: “She called back after you left and said she moved to Africa. I tried finding a way to get a hold of you.”

(I groan because Africa is even farther in the same direction I had just been.)

Me: “Well, you need to take your break. You go, and I’ll call someone to hold down the fort while I go back out there.”

(He leaves and a couple of minutes later I get a second coworker to come in from another shop. I thank him for his help and then grab another scooter to leave again. In order to get to Africa in our zoo, you have to go through the North American region. North America is set up in a loop so there are two paths you can choose to take to go through it. I had already taken the right-side path to get to Polar, so I decide to take the left path this time. After driving a few more minutes I pass by a guest on a rented scooter.)

Guest: “Are you the one bringing the replacement scooter?”

Me: “Yes, are you the one who called from Africa?”

(It turns out she is. Luckily for her, I chose the path through North American that she was coming down. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have run into her and I would’ve spent who knows how long driving around Africa, which is one of our largest regions, trying to find her until someone could get a hold of me to tell me she wasn’t there. When I get back to Rentals the coworker who was helping me is seething.)

Coworker #2: “Did you find her?”

Me: “Yeah, luckily, I chose the right path through North America. Otherwise, I never would have known she’d left Africa.”

Coworker: “Shortly after you left, she called here and chewed me out, complaining about how long it was taking to get her replacement and how she was moving again. I tried to get her to understand that if she didn’t stay in one place we wouldn’t be able to find her.”

(I get that the guest didn’t want to waste her time at the zoo just staying in one place, but if she had just been a little patient and stayed in Polar to begin with, I could have gotten her replacement to her at least thirty minutes sooner.)

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