St. Louis Zoo - 1975
I was 18 when I moved to St. Louis and began taking advantage of the free zoo admission. It meant you could go for a brief visit, just to see your favorite animal.
I loved the monkeys most, even though the cages weren't glassed at that time...and I sometimes had to plug my nose.
I also fell in love with the old building that housed all the different kinds of monkeys.
There was something a little enchanting about every visit.
Not A Raccoon!
I can't remember how I started talking with the man who was cleaning the cages one day. But I remember his comment about the ring tailed lemurs. "They aren't raccoons." He said, almost sadly. He wasn't reprimanding me, he was confiding...sharing about his job frustration. He told me about the zoo guests who teased and showed disrespect. But he was equally bothered by their ignorance. "It's so infuriating when I see a parent hold their child up and ooh and ahh over the "cute raccoons" when they have no idea how unusual and special these lemurs are!" We stood for a very long time as he wiped the bars with soap and water. I told him that the monkeys had always been my favorite. I can't remember our exact conversation, but he probably had to remind me that lemurs are primates, but they aren't monkeys.
I had the feeling that this man's job was limited to cleaning the filthiest of the zoo cages and yet he polished each bar with great pride.
Zoo Visits, Since
Since chatting in the stinky primate house 37 years ago there have been a lot of changes. The primate house replaced the bars with glass and a new ape exhibit was built. I've enjoyed dozens of visits with family and friends since that day I listened to the zoo man.
Thank you to the Man who cared about the Monkeys!
I never saw you again even though I visited often. But over the years when I visited with my children, I was always careful to not call a chimp a monkey and I always smiled a secret smile when I saw a ring tailed leumr.
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers