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Archive for July, 2018

When we were in Yellowstone last summer, my son was the family photographer. It was for just a day, when we visited Mammoth Springs, a complex of hot springs that formed terraces of travertine that look like brown, orange, and green ice. There are countless photos of me and my  husband, on bridges, on stairs, in front of multi-colored waterways. He snapped a photo of me that was so flattering, I use it as my headshot for work.barbirusa_faces

My son seemed so honored with the job of family photographer that on a recent trip to the San Diego Zoo, I allowed him to use my phone to photograph our adventures there. I handed it to him as we stood over an area that housed the babirusa. The babirusa are pig-like animals that have strange tusks or canine teeth that grow right out through the skin in their snout and curve back toward their forehead, a feature that’s won them the moniker of “a wild pig with a dental problem.” My son was calling them warthogs and spent the first 20 minutes at the zoo saying, “I want to see the warthogs. Let’s go see the warthogs.”

The animals were housed in a large area covered with wood chips and saw dust and surrounded by walls of rock that created different sections like rooms in a house. The viewing area was on Treetop Way, which, as the name sounds, was about 15 feet above the ground. My son hadn’t even taken one photo when I heard, “Mom! Your phone!” And I looked down one story into the babirusa pit and saw my iPhone lying on the ground. Apparently, a large male babirusa saw it, too, because soon he was walking over to it and sniffing it. A layer of dust formed on the screen.IMG_5181

“I knew it,” I said. “God, I’m so stupid. I knew that was going to happen.”

I was about to say it a few more times, but I looked over at my son, who looked like he felt so badly about what he had done that he was starting to sink into a deep depressed state.

“My fault, dude,” I said. “I shouldn’t have given you the phone.”

My way of making him feel better was to assume culpability. It worked. Either that or he was just glad to hear my tone change.

Just then, my cousin, who had accompanied us to the zoo, arrived at the babirusa pit with her son, Sammy.

“Guess where my phone is?” I said.

“No,” she said and looked over the edge of the pit.

“Wait here while I go get someone from the zoo,” I said.

I ran down the spiral road, past the aviary, near the monkeys, not far from the penguins. I grabbed the nearest zoo employee I could find, a woman who wore a large tag that said, “San Diego Zoo Volunteer.” She called someone who could actually do something about my phone. Soon, Sarah arrived in an official brown zoo uniform. She told us she would have to go down into the pen and lure the male babirusa into a separate section before she could get the phone, as it had fallen not far from female babirusa and babies.

“How do you do that?” I asked.

“With food,” she said.

We watched from above as she entered thIMG_5161e pen with some food and dropped it on the ground. The whole family followed her, all of them walking right by my phone. One sniffed it. Another came so close, I thought it was going to step on it, or worse, urinate on it, but it did not.

When all of the animals were cordoned off in a separate area, she went into the section of the pen where my phone had dropped and retrieved it. As she handed it back to me, I said, “This must happen all the time, right?”

“People drop things down there sometimes, yes,” she said.

“But I mean a lot of people must drop their phones, right?”

“We sometimes get phones,” she said.

“Like, how often?”

“I don’t know, maybe a couple of times a year,” she said.

“A couple of times a year?” I said. “That’s not much.”

It made my poor decision making seem all the dumber.

Not wanting my son to feel badly about what he had done, I turned to him and said, “It happens all the time.” But he had already set his sights on finding the jaguar and leopard and a tiger-colored animal called a Serval, which looks like a large cat but scarier.

“Look, Mom, an Ibis!” my son said.

Clearly, whatever bad feeling he’d had about the phone debacle had already floated off like a dandelion seed. I took his lead and let him lead me out of the dark cave, where I tend to linger too long.

“Well, waddaya know,” I said.

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