A Little Bird Told Me…

, , , , | Right | April 5, 2021

I’m doing work experience for a week at a zoo. I’m in the farmyard inside a barn-esque building as people wander around. A boy, no older than seven, approaches the flightless cockatoo who lives inside on a large branch wedged in a pen fence. The cockatoo is named Charlie.

Cockatoo: *Looking at the boy* “Hey, Charlie!”

He says his own name sometimes, as he’s so used to hearing it.

Boy: *Gaping* “Wow! The cockatoo knows my name!”

Me: “Actually, the cockatoo is named Charlie, too. You have the same name!”

I thought this child would be excited, but nope. He tears up and starts absolutely bawling. He seems to be literally having a breakdown.

Boy: “I don’t want to have the same name as a cockatoo!”

I was speechless. The mother came over and, thankfully, apologised and walked away.

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We Don’t Dabble In Monkey-Business

, , , , | Right | March 26, 2021

I work at a well-accredited zoo in guest services; my duties include taking calls, answering questions about the zoo, and selling animal sponsorships and annual passes. It’s a slow, snowy day so we haven’t gotten many calls or guests and we’re bored out of our minds, so when the phone rings, I’m on it right away.

Me: “You’ve reached [Zoo]. This is [My Name] speaking.”

Caller: “Hi, I’m looking to adopt a… um… a monkey or something.”

Me: “Great! Did you have any specific animal you were looking to sponsor? We have quite a few different ones.”

Caller: “I’m not sure; I’m just looking to adopt some kind of primate.”

Me: “Okay, well, we have quite a few species available for sponsorship, including Orangutans, Black-handed Spider Monkeys—”

Caller: “The spider monkeys sound cool. How much is it to adopt one?”

Me: “Our sponsorship packages start at $25. Higher donation amounts will grant you more benefits and have varying levels of tax-deductibility. All packages include your name on a digital sign stating that you sponsored the animal, as well as a few other goodies.”

Caller: “So how much is it to purchase one? I don’t need my name on a sign or anything, just a monkey.”

Throughout this call, I have been using the term “sponsor” specifically because some other zoological facilities will use other terms, like “adopt,” for the same purpose. At this point, I realize he may have other intentions.

Me: “Sir, were you looking to purchase an animal from the zoo?”

Caller: “Yeah… how much is it?”

Me: “I’m sorry, sir, but we are an AZA-approved zoological facility. We don’t sell our animals.”

Caller: “Really? D***. I’ve been looking all morning for a place to buy a monkey.”

Me: “You’ll have to look a bit more, then.”

Caller: *Hangs up*

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Unstable Unicorns Meets Exploding Kittens

, , , | Right | March 25, 2021

I work in the ticket booth of a large zoo. We have all kinds of animals, even a habitat with wax extinct ones. One day, I overhear this:

Coworker: “I’m sorry, sir, but the golf carts are reserved for the keepers. I can get you a wheelchair or scooter instead.”

Guest: “Fine! Whatever!”

He grumpily takes a scooter. He, his son, and his grandkids go into the extinct animal wax habitat. The man comes back up to my coworker a few minutes later.

Guest: “My granddaughter wants to see unicorns! Where are the unicorns?”

Coworker: “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t have unicorns. We have horses and zebras, however. They’ll be near the petting zoo. You can also pet some kittens in the shelter.”

Guest: “How dare you make fun of me?! Kittens in a zoo! Hmph!”

Coworker: “We really do have kittens. We help rescue cats and dogs and other animals.”

Guest’s Son: “Come on, Dad, quit being a jerk. We’ll go see the horses next.”

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Welcome To Idiotshire, Population: Me

, , , , , , , | Working | January 19, 2021

The animal rescue/sanctuary charity I volunteer with also serves as the helpline for a national bird of prey charity. We only have the resources to go to local cases but have a directory of rehabilitators across the UK so we can put callers in contact with someone close to them. For those unfamiliar with the UK’s counties, many are named after the most important city in them — Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, etc.

In this instance, I’m helping a caller who came across a wounded peregrine falcon and I have reached the stage of finding someone who can help them.

Me: “All right, let’s see if we can find anyone close by. Whereabouts are you?”

Caller: “I’m in Cambridge.”

Since this is one such city as I mentioned before, this would be enough for most people to go on. But in this case, my brain completely fails me and I respond before I can stop myself.

Me: “Right. My geography’s not very good; what county is that?”

There’s a slight pause, just long enough for it to sink in.

Caller: “Cambridgeshire.”

Unsurprisingly, the feeling of idiocy strikes me hard as I realise how incompetent I sound and I try to think of something to say to get things back on track.

Me: “I rest my case.”

For what it’s worth, that did get a chuckle out of her and helped lighten the mood of an otherwise serious call. Mercifully, I was able to find a rescue center close by that the caller could take the bird to for treatment, without even forgetting the layout of my own country again!

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You Run Into Some Real Animals At The Zoo

, , , , , | Friendly | November 20, 2020

My family rents a large house for a week on Cape Cod to celebrate my grandfather’s seventy-fifth birthday. There are about fourteen of us staying here. I, as the oldest of my grandfather’s grandchildren by far, am the one looking after my younger cousins the most, but I don’t really mind, since most of the kids pair up quite nicely age-wise with one of their cousins.

One day, as a day trip, I take my aunt’s new ten-year-old stepson — [Cousin #1] — and my seven-year-old cousin — [Cousin #2] — to the zoo, which is about an hour away. They are surprisingly well-behaved so the drives there and back are quite uneventful.

It is worth noting here that [Cousin #2] was born with several disabilities, including severe lazy eye, missing fingers, and limited use of one leg. She cannot take more than a few steps at a time and usually prefers to use forearm crutches, as she was on that day.

We get to the zoo and spend most of the day there. We pick up some cheeseburgers from a drive-thru on the way to eat at lunch. We sit down in a quiet area away from the crowds to eat lunch.

As we are eating, an old lady who is there with what appear to be her toddler grandchildren walks over to us. She begins talking to [Cousin #2], saying quite rude things about how little children shouldn’t be wearing glasses, how her hair is too long to be becoming for a little girl, and how her very pale complexion indicates she ought to go outside more.

Then, she notices my cousin’s crutches, which she has propped up against the bench right next to her, and the obvious brace on her leg.

Woman: “You should stop eating that burger, dearie. Otherwise, you’ll be too heavy to use your crutches.”

Perhaps it is the really calm way in which she says it, or perhaps it’s that [Cousin #2] is really absent-minded, but she very politely and enthusiastically says:

Cousin #2: “Actually, I have a really high metabolism. That means that I eat a lot of food just to keep my body warm. My mom says that when I become a teenager I’ll probably be eating double what she eats.”

The woman looks taken aback, which the kids seem to interpret as confusion.

Cousin #1: “No, metabolism is a real thing. My dad says it’s not fair because I eat like two teenage boys and never gain weight and he eats like a normal man and is kinda fat.”

The woman doesn’t seem to have noticed [Cousin #1] up until this point. She looks at him, a short, skinny black kid, and then at [Cousin #2] and me, very pale kids with similar shades of blond hair and rather similar faces. About the only thing we have in common appearance-wise with [Cousin #1] is that his glasses looked quite similar to [Cousin #2]’s. The old woman turns to [Cousin #1].

Woman: “Are you all right, dearie? Have you been kidnapped by this man? I’ll call for help, shall I?”

Cousin #1: “No, I’m their step-cousin. My dad married their aunt.”

[Cousin #2] raises her hand, which is missing a few fingers and has a rather unconventional shape, and points at [Cousin #1].

Cousin #2: “Yeah, he’s our step-cousin, but we usually call him just our cousin because…”

She trailed off as she saw the old woman’s eyes grow wide at the sight of my cousin’s hand. The old woman picked up the toddlers and walked off in a hurry. That did hurt my cousin a bit, but after some ice cream, she seemed to have gotten over it.

Indeed, that evening after dinner, she confided in me that she had a new idea for her Halloween costume. “I’m gonna be a pirate,” she said, “because if my normal hand scares adults away already, then if I get a hook hand, I can scare all the adults! Then, my friends and I will get all the candy!” She then attempted her scariest evil laugh, which would have been more threatening if she weren’t wearing glasses, her mouth had all its teeth in it, and she wasn’t giggling while she did it.

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