Sunday, August 19, 2007

Overheard at Zoofari

Last night was our local zoo's annual Zoofari event, which thanks to one sponsor's generosity provides attendees with access to and samples of nearly every ice cream variety they sell. Peanut butter, bubble gum, cotton candy, rainbow sherbet and many more, all available for a single admission, all served on cones or in cups, with innumerable ice-creamed child faces included at no extra charge. Attendees can easily walk off the calories from whatever they sample, and parents are allowed to say improbable statements like, "No, son, no more hot dogs until we've had all the ice cream we want."

We attended, naturally. Mrs. T and I went for the ice cream, while The Boy (who values vanilla ice cream above all others) went largely to see the animals, especially those of his favorite Zoo destination, the Reptile House.

You see, The Boy has had a bit of a snake obsession lately, especially for rattlesnakes. The other day, as we drove by the nearby outlet, he looked out the car window and contradicted his usual assertion, saying, "I don't like Baskin-Robbins."

"What?" I said. "You always like Baskin-Robbins, buddy. Why do you not like it now?"

"They have too many rattlesnakes," he said, smiling.

No idea where he got that one, folks.

Then, without prompting, he launched into the following song, which he apparently composed on the spot.

I don't like Baskin Robbins
They have too many rattlesnakes
They bite bite bite bite bite bite
Ow ow ow ow ow.

Not bad, for a two year old.

But last night, with cotton candy-flavored cones in hand, we're on our way to the Reptile House when The Boy spots something. It's a man, wearing a zoo staff shirt, carrying something.

"That man got Snakers!" The Boy said, referring to a favorite stuffed animal.

So we give polite chase and catch up with the man about 200 feet later. Indeed, he's holding a snake. A good-sized snake.

He kneels down to give The Boy a better view.

"What's that's snake's name?" The Boy asks.

"This is a 'ball python,'" the man says, holding the snake carefully as it undulates around his forearm. "Don't get too close, now."

A big smile breaks across The Boy's face. "Can I touch him?" he asks.

"I'm sorry, but no, he might get scared," the man says as the snake's forked tongue flicks in-and-out toward The Boy. "But you can see he has these bumps on his skin..."

"Those are scales!" The Boy says, taking great glee in correcting an apparent zoologist. "What's he doing with his tongue?"

"Well, he doesn't have a nose like you or me," the man says, getting just a bit closer to The Boy with the snake. "That's how he breathes and smells things."

The Boy smiles for a moment, looking at the snake and enjoying the private showing. A small growd has gathered, watching The Boy react to the ball python as their own ice cream drips to the sidewalk.

Suddenly, The Boy forms a look of concern. As the man stands back up to continue toward his destination, The Boy decides a chiding is in order.

"You be careful!" The Boy tells the man, wagging a toddler finger at this trained professional. "He gonna bite you!"

The man smiles, and some in the gathered crowd hold hands to their chests and stare at my son, murmuring, "He's so sweet!"

As the man turned away and began to walk, I took my son's hand in extreme pride. "What do you say, buddy?"

Still smiling, The Boy gets on his tiptoes and shouts, "Thank you, Snake Man!"

How about that. Extreme parental pride and all-you-can-eat ice cream, all for the price of a single zoo admission.


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