Last weekend, we went to the National Zoo. It’s a huge zoo–getting through it is about 5 hours and a lot of walking. When I got home, I was exhausted but proud of myself for doing the whole thing. Later, on the telephone, I bragged about my “accomplishment” of walking all day to my mother, but she dismissed it, saying I should try it pushing a stroller with a 2nd kid on your back. Ok. That wins.
The zoo was the same as ever–depressed amimals, crying babies, greasy guardrails, and the smell of elephant urine stinging your throat. At every exhibit, you struggle to see the tail of the animal, past 85 people furiously snapping pictures. People don’t care about seeing the animal; they care about getting a picture. The panda moves its head to the right and cameras start going off like crazy. You start to wonder what the point is, beginning to care less if you actually see the Yellow Footed Monkey at all. “Where is he? Where in the tree? Oh, ok, there. Got it. Checked him off my list. Let’s keep moving.”
But the zoo is a good time, and a great way to just wander outside in a park setting–or if you’re asking me, a great way to get a 35 MILE DEATH WALK in. I love reading the dated exhibit signs; I love the mist tents; I love Praire Dogs. I love finding a water fountain when you’re about to drop dead from dehydration. I love when it doesn’t work. But most of all, I love the gift shops.
A love of the gift shop was instilled very early on, because it meant I was getting something. It was a very important decision to make–what I would pick out for myself. We always had to pick out something for my grandmother too, a tchotchke to take back to her. She would pretend it as the greatest gift she ever recieved. For a while, we were on a kick where we always brought her back decorative thimbles, and so she had this entire collection of these useless things. But she loved them all. The woman was a damn saint for making a production over every single one.
Gift shops haven’t changed. Souvenirs of similar types and themes can be any museum, attraction, amusement park, or Cracker Barrel gift shop. I wanted to review the zoo gift shop and do some in-depth reporting, and I made a total weirdo of myself taking pictures inside the gift shop. So here we go, what I deem are the
15 Essential Items of the Zoo Gift Shop:
1. Snow Globes:
I think these are important because they introduce some of the most perplexing questions of our youth:
– How do they get the water in there?
– Can you drink it?
– Is that real snow? Do you think it is?
2. Grabber/Biter Guys:
Definitely essential. Probably the funnest item you can find in a gift shop. For about five minutes.
3. Oversized Lollypops:
Beautiful, colorful, completely disgusting. These always grossed me out. For one, there was no way you could finish it in one sitting, so you would have to save it for later, meaning you’d have to save the saliva on it for later too. Also, no matter how clean you were, somehow, your hand always got sticky. You know what that was? Your drool sliding down the lollypop and landing on your hand.
4. Panda Shot Glasses:
A Panda Shot Glass? Pretty frivolous. When God invented the majestic Panda Bear, he did not sign up for this–cheapening them by selling them on a shot glass, of all things. Oh whatever. Let’s do shots.
5. Squeezy Water Tubes:
Maybe these are funnest item in gift shops. Also, the most likely to be completely covered in germs.
6. Useless Little Balls:
What can you do with these little balls? Throw ’em at your sister, at the dog. Throw ’em at the ceiling fan, ricochet into the wall, knock over a glass, and have it shatter on the floor. Yeah, that’s something to do with ’em. But then what?
7. Some Complete Piece of Crap That Came From the Dollar Store:
Magnetic Calculator Clip? Individually, a magnet, calculator, and clip all have useful functions. But when combined, they just make up a big piece of dollar store crap. What’s it got to do with the Zoo? Absolutely nothing.
8. Awkward Science Kid Shirt:
Ah yes, the shirt that only the most painfully awkward, nerdy kid in class wears. On other days of the week, this child may also wear Native American-themed shirts with wolves, or the shirt with the cat faces on the front and cat butts on the back. This child is 78% likely to look androgynous, and 47% likely to have a mother with bushy, frizzy hair. 100% likely to wear glasses.
9. Frog Ring:
Here is our hand model, The Girlfriend, showing off this rubber Frog Ring. And what a lovely other ring you have there. Someone must have bought that for you.
10. Safari Hat:
This was going to be the souvenir I chose for myself, but it was $10, and I couldn’t think of anywhere I could wear it besides the rest of the zoo.
11. Zoo Pencils, Pens:
Another classic. For awhile, as a budding writer, I always picked up a souvenir pen anywhere I went. But souvenir pens are the most hand-cramping, heaviest pens you’ll find. Stick with Bic.
12. Great Wall of Stuffed Animals:
Cash cow. Stuffed animals are your first friends. Your only true friends. Sometimes they are aliens, like in the Last Mimzy. And sometimes, they are psychotic killers, like in Poltergeist.
And sometimes they are really depressing memories, like the little stuffed lion my sister brought back for me from her field trip to the zoo, the same day the dog died.
13. Keychains and Crap:
Keychains and crap. Some were shockingly overpriced too, at 6 dollars a pop. The Zoo was really peddling the Pandas, big time. You’ll see there are a row of Big Ass Panda Christmas Tree Ornaments there as well. For when you really need to weigh down a branch to cover an open patch.
14. Crap That Has Nothing To Do With Attractions, But Cashes In On Crazes:
There were no dinosaur exhibits at the zoo, but here they are, available for purchase at the gift shop. Dinosaurs became a certified craze when Jurassic Park came out, and everyone cashed in–from confectionary companies making crap like dinosaur sprinkles, to the hundreds of direct-to-VHS movies released. Just take a look here for The 90s’ Worst Dinosaur Movies. Like all these things, this shelf of dinosaur figures was just a money grab.
15. Souvenir Pennies:
What can I say? It’s a cunning and brilliant idea, selling pennies for more than they’re worth. If only I could invent shit like this, I’d be rich, but instead I’m still just taking pictures of stupid crap.
BONUS #1: Lunch at Panda Cafe:
Here’s a secret that few people know–Zoo food is the best. Anytime you walk 535242 miles, your appetited whetted by the smell of the monkey house, and you finally have a chance to sit down to an $8 dollar pretzel with all these bees hovering around you–let me tell you, that pretzel will be the best goddamn pretzel of your life.
BONUS #2: Cuttlefish I Blinded:
I was immediately reprimanded by a zoo employee after taking this photo, because apparently, this fish has sensitive eyes. I felt pretty bad, because this fish is really cute, and now he can’t see. I mean, look at his face–it kind of looks like I hurt him a little bit. His face looks glum and his eyes are squinting. I’m an asshole. Sorry, cuttlefish. But you know what? I did take a damn good picture of you. This thing could be in National Geographic.
BONUS #3: Master’s Lil’ One:
A lot of times, I’ll take pictures of other people at the places we go. The Girlfriend says I shouldn’t post them because the Surfing Pizza isn’t mean-spirited, and she’s right. I don’t want to make fun of people. But this picture I had to post. These people were walking in front of us, and we noticed this interesting garment choice the woman was wearing.
This garment is:
b) practical on a hot day
c) hopefully not missing the apostrophe in “Master’s” which implies ownership.
Is this apostrophe under the waistband? We’ll never know.