I had to work today. On a Saturday. My sixth day of the week. Yes, like everyone else, I do certainly enjoy my weekends, but these days – more often than not when I must work on the weekends, I admit that it’s not to sit chained to my desk and my computer all day.
Usually, it’s because I’m working an event, as was the case today. This usually means that I get to be a part of some sort of fun/cool/interesting experience at the zoo. There’s only so much one can declare that grueling “work,” right? Today it was for Zoofari, a pretty sweet event for those qualify and register before it fills up, to go behind-the-scenes of five different areas of the zoo.
My responsibility for the day was to be the “Zoomer” (aka, golf cart) driver for folks who had trouble walking quickly from one area to another. My side gig when I wasn’t driving the Zoomer was as photographer. (Being the non-profit we are, Zoofari is a low-budget event.) When you get an opportunity to go behind-the-scenes and spend time around the animals – and nearly as cool – the keepers who are so in love with these wild creatures, pretty much every moment is a highlight. I say that nearly two years into working at the zoo, but I guarantee that others who have worked there 20+ years (and there are quite a few…) would say the same thing. It’s striking how passionate everyone is about their job. But I digress.
Aside from every moment being a highlight, if I had to actually name a few from this particular event it would be:
1. Not actually today, but on Wednesday when I attended a team meeting for a walk through of today’s event: We arrived at the hoof stock area and the zoo’s two giraffes, Bakari and Riley, could not have been more curious about what we were doing back behind their area. Both of them came right over with their heads hanging over the fence as if they were there to say, “Hello! What are you guys up to? Can we play, too??” Talk about your meeting distraction!
2. Also on our Wednesday pre-event tour, the black bears playing games with each other. I mean, how hard is it to pay attention when three furry bears are in front of you, one balancing on a barrel, pawing at his friend, and then tumbling over on top of him. Seriously?
3. Okay, this one happened this morning: Waiting for my group while they were touring the inside of the roundhouse – one of two shops on site where the train engineers take care of the zoo’s beloved railroad system – I was hanging out around the steam engine. It was at the station warming up to begin taking passengers for the day. After the engineer saw me busy taking pictures, he got out of the cab and came over to ask if wanted to get in and have my picture taken. Really?? Well, duh, of course!
4. The whole afternoon tour (we had two full tours – one in the morning, one in the afternoon) was a highlight. Why? Because Ian joined me as my official “assistant.” It was great – I was able to keep up with my event responsibilities but also give Ian his first opportunity to take advantage of some of what I get to do at work. He got the chance to see behind-the-scenes but he was also pretty great about being understanding that I was there first for my job and sometimes that meant that we had to cut part of a visit short.
I think that for a lot us of who work at the zoo in “traditional” positions that involve a lot of time in front of a computer screen, it’s always refreshing and much-needed to get out in the zoo and interact with the people who actually work with the animals, guests and members every day. Not to mention the little ones who come for camps, or one of the 1,600 strong volunteer force – including ZooGuides and ZooTeens who devote a ton of time to the zoo.
Tomorrow I’ll be running around like mad getting errands done for the weekend before Monday beckons. It would have been nice to have two days this weekend. But if it had to be just one, at least it was because I had to “work.”