Adventures with Giraffe or are we great yet?

Please excuse me, I couldn’t help myself.

Most of the people I encounter at my place of work are really fine to be around.  All of us are there for the animals.  The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has 700+.   The favorite are the Giraffes.  We have sixteen of them, the largest population of Giraffe in North America.  They have a face one cannot help falling in love with, unless of course their tongues, a purplish black muscle and the gluey slime coming off of it strikes you as repulsive and you allow that to rule your ideal of the world’s tallest mammal.   The tongue was the impression I was left with for years until I have gotten this wonderful opportunity to work around them.  Now I am fortunate to have a moment or two each day to watch them.  I have come to know when four in the afternoon is approaching without looking at my watch (yes, I still wear one).  The herd, then outdoors are starting to cluster further from the lettuce baring humans and closer to the entrance to their barn.  When they go indoors they get fed, some more.

Their faces are adorable.  When you are nearby in the barn or outdoors they approach easily and with a large-eyed look that says one thing:  Do you have lettuce for me?  Most of our visitors feed them one small piece of Romaine at a time.  Yesterday I had about three cups of romaine hearts in my cupped hands.  None of them showed interest.  They can be picky.   One of the herd turned their head just enough to pick up in their extraordinary peripheral vision the best part of the lettuce awaiting a taker.  In one swipe of their great tongue they took every little bit of it .  We were both happy.   I smiled and he or she chewed with their head straight up in the air.  Just as quickly as they licked my hands clean two or three other Giraffe were at the railing with a Muppet like look that said, “What about me? Where is it?”.

Yet we still have some misunderstandings.  It is not uncommon for a visitor to drop their smartphone over the side into the Giraffe area.  I like to give the humans the benefit of doubt, however one such visitor had something close to a child’s melt-down when I had the unfortunate task of informing her she would be able to get the phone back after 4pm that day, some five hours later, and the phone most likely would not be in the same condition it was before it fell to the ground.  Others had witnessed the phone biting the dust and informed me not to feel bad as she was standing on the railing leaning out as far as possible to get a photo.  Maybe even a selfie.  Probably a selfie.  Fortunately the phone was retrieved before one of our precious giraffe stepped on it and crushed the glass creating a very troubling hazard for the animals.

Yesterday was smartphone free, however a youngster threw their red balloon into the area and the parents thought it ever so cute.  I haven’t had a chance to ask the animal keepers exactly why it’s a problem.  I know balloons inflated in their area are a very bad thing.

Visualize one stepping on it, the baloon burstng (doings like a gun, yes?) and the herd getting spooked. You take it from there.

Also dropped was a plastic milk bottle which by the time I saw it and reported it to the keepers was splintered at its base, creating another potential problem for the Giraffe and the keepers.  I haven’t mentioned it,  working around their feet is dangerous.  One kick of a Giraffe hoof is powerful enough to take off the head of a lion.

A sippy cup dropped in the elephants’ outdoor enclosure became of dire need for a visitor to regain.  Yup.  A sippy cup.  I want so very much to say, “Give it up, toots” but I do what I can to help them.  The Elephant keeper I spoke with over a radio had a bit of exasperation in their voice as they asked, “Does the person know it may not be in the same condition as before it was lost?”.  I understand why animal people may not have a great deal of patience with all of us humans.

I’m rained and snowed out of work today which is just dandy.  As I was exiting the Zoo grounds after work yesterday, the battery light came on my auto dashboard.  The drive home was even longer than usual as I realized it could very well be the alternator.  Oh monkey poop.  I’ve got it on a charger so I can get it to my favorite mechanics.  It probably is the alternator and the battery.  I had charged it up this morning and took it for a spin around the block.  Lo and behold in the middle of the street was a plastic shopping bag and a green plastic bottle inside.  My first thought:  Free mouthwash.  Free Palmolive dish soap.  I did a quick U-turn, opened my car door to retrieve it and saw an empty Gin bottle.  Most likely some alcoholic had guzzled the whole half liter down and threw out the evidence in the middle of the street before they got home.  What I wonder is who they think they are fooling?  Not many mouthwashes are Juniper flavored.  And what I also wonder is why people fool themselves into such a sense of self importance. Throwing trash on the ground makes no difference to the rest of us ?  Like that million dollar sippy cup left on the ground with no consideration for the animals and nor their caretakers safety.  Oh turning yourself into a giant selfie stick so you can show the world however small it is and that you spent a day in the presence of giraffes.

Excuse me.  I couldn’t help myself.


Judging a Book by its Cover

This weekend I am participating as a human book at the Penrose Branch of Pikes Peak Library.  I’m transforming myself into ink and paper, large font for those of us without 20/20 vision. I will be a nice thin volume sitting on the “Must Read” shelf, my illustrated cover depicting wildflowers, little blue birds holding a banner the title on it in golden gilt letters.

It would be a sweet dream come true for this wanna be a writer.  That isn’t how it’s going to play out.  A dozen or so of us have been chosen to tell our stories, personal stories about a part of our life which makes us each a bit unique.  Patrons and others will make 20 minute appointments to speak with us and have a conversation, leaning towards the interview side of things about ourselves.   We have amongst us Human Books a 1960’s Unwed Mother, a 90 year old, someone with Autism, Campus Assault Survivor, Christian homemaker, a person with Depression, Disability, Felon, Female Merchant Sailor, Homeschool Parent, Native American, Refugee & Serbian concentration camp survivor, Schizophrenia, Self-harm, Sexual Abuse Survivor, Single Mom-3 kids 3 dads and a Transgender.

The library held a training session for us books.  At a point they had us count off, one two, one two, to break into groups of two to practice answering and asking each other questions.  Our individual identities had not been divulged although it was a drop-kick to pick out the Ninety year old man and the Disabled.  I wondered if anyone would want to group up with me having been accustomed to be the last kid picked for the teams in phys-ed and largely ignored at recent family functions.   Sure enough, I was left standing alone until a staff member directed the Disabled to wheel themselves over to me.

One of the objectives is not to judge a book by its cover.  The lines in my face are a long shot from a pretty floral picture.  I’m a short woman shrinking annually.  The lines in my weathered face show some disappointment, a map of the road less traveled, not a party invite. I’ve gotten accustomed to being overlooked or misunderstood.

These days I work at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  Last weekend I was stationed to sell Romaine lettuce for visitors to feed to our Giraffes.  Three bucks for a “feeding”, five for two feedings.  One guest appeared at my window and asked if I could break a large bill.  Expecting to see Ben Franklin or Ulysses S. Grant on the face of a piece of currency, I was presented an oversized, overvalued $2016 piece of a joke with a thinner, younger combed over President Trump on it.  I wasn’t humored.   “Sorry,” I responded, “only valid currency please.” Politics is a subject I avoid at my place of work.

“Aw, come on.  You are a hard-core lifelong Republican voter, I can just tell”, the customer joked to me.  “I can read people pretty well.  You voted for him, admit it.  And you drive a Subaru, too.”

“I voted against him.  My candidate wasn’t on the ballot.”

“Who was that?” he pressed on.

“Bernie.”  I gave the guest his appropriate portion of lettuce. Smiling I thanked him for his purchase, and before he turned to the Giraffes I finished, “and I drive a Miata.”


After our group encounter at the training we reconvened in our original places.  We went around the room stating which ‘book’ we are.  I will remind you no one was interested in speaking with me at the get-go.  When it was my turn to say “What’s My Line” most of group overwhelmed me with surprised admiration. Suddenly I became the star of the show.    Some of you having been familiar with me for most of our lives know my title, most of you not.  I will close this only by adding I was elected by my High School Class as Most Athletic and an “Ahoy.”  I’m the Female Merchant Sailor.