Thursday, August 5, 2010

81. The Flamingo Keeper

So I am having lunch at a cute local cafe with my two sons. They are wolfing down their $17 sandwiches and I am trying hard not to eavesdrop on the conversation at the next table. But I can't help it: the lady just said something about how she was reading her book in the "pen" with the flamingoes.


Surely I did not hear that right. What rhymes with flamingoes? blamingoes, shurlingoes ... I am pretty sure I did hear her right. Trying to not be too obvious, I continue to listen. When you think of the phrase "leaning in a little bit closer", yep--that's what I'm doing.

"And so their main keeper says that they can bite, and their beaks are actually serrated. And the worst part is that if they ... "

"Mommy, this sandwich is really delicious! Much better than the ones you make."

"Shhhhhhhh! I mean, uh, thank you. Don't talk anymore! uh, I mean uh, don't talk with your mouth full, just eat your sandwich, Sweetie."

"... and apparently then they twist it and it's vicious!"

Her companion says (stupidly, I think), "I never thought of flamingoes as particularly dangerous animals."

Ohjustshutup! What do you know! Let her talk already, she is much more interesting! No one cares what you think, Buddy, because you obviously do not hang out with flamingoes on a daily basis.

My back is to the next table, so I have no idea what my fellow cafe patrons look like. Now I am maneuvering around trying to catch her reflection in the window so I can see what a person who reads books to (to? with? about? near?) flamingoes looks like.

She does not look like a teen-ager. She has frizzy hair and a floral dress. She is wearing glasses (do the flamingoes try to peck her glasses off?).

How do you get this job? I am dying to turn around and ask her. Was she, like, the Temporary Fill-In Flamingo Watcher for the day? Did the normal (salaried) Flamingo Watcher call in sick? What is the official job title: Famingo Keeper? Why do flamingoes have to be watched? Is there a danger they will fly away?

Every time I have gone to the Zoo, I just see them all standing around on one foot, usually sleeping. Is that all just a big act?  Now I am realizing that the flamingoes might be like babies or small children: you must babysit them. You cannot leave them to their own devices.

And the biting? Is Fill-In Flamingo Lady worried about them biting her, or biting other flamingoes? Is there some sort of "flamingo rabies" that we should all be aware of and take precautions against?

"So I ate most of my sandwich, remember you said we could split a cupcake?"

Huh?  Stop talking! I can't hear Flamingo Lady!

"I think they hired him because, you know, he's someone's kid ... it's like he knows nothing about animals. What a waste, really. So many other people would want that job."

Yikes, I missed something! Are we still on flamingoes? have we maybe moved on to pandas?

"But is he in college?  Where did he go to school anyway?"

Come on, Companion-Of-Flamingo-Lady! You have absolutely NOTHING of any value to add to this conversation. You are useless.

Flamingo Lady and her (idiotic) friend get up to leave. My Insane Curiosity is fighting hard with my Sense Of Normal Social Boundaries, and guess which one is winning. I want to ask her a million questions about flamingoes!

It does not occur to me at this moment that perhaps I could just Google "random flamingo facts" when I get home.

I am broken out of my bizarre Flamingo-Trance by my older son tap-tap-tapping me on the arm.

"Mommy! Mommy!" he whispers conspiratorially, "Did you hear what those people at the next table were talking about?"

He is about to burst. Aha! I realize that Tall must have been paying attention too. He loves to go to the Zoo, he loves animals, he loves the Nature Shows on TV, and clearly he loves flamingoes.

I look at him and wait expecantly, a smile creeping across my face.

"They were talking about school!"  His grin is taller than a flamingo. 

("My Other Vocation")

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