My Trip To The Oakland Zoo

At the Oakland Zoo, you can see lots of animals and find out about their habitats. You might see things like this!

and this!

That’s a badly focused picture of the biggest bat variety in the world!

After looking at the adorable meerkats, say you get thirsty. You make your way to the Africa section of the zoo, where you see people drinking slushies and this:

A bathroom! You might think. Useful, in a zoo!

But you would be wrong if you did. Read the helpful placard, tourist.

Really?

You look around, confused. Is this sign a trap? A joke? There’s a concession stand right next to it, exactly the same in shape, where you can buy slushies. You hesitate. You think, no one would put a human “dwelling” in a zoo. It’s not like the pandas were next to a sample Chinese abode. It’s a bathroom, surely! Suddenly primed, as is the way whenever you spot a bathroom, with what your Aunt Deirdre calls “the urge to splurge,” you go in.

Huh, you think.

Ah? You think.

It dawns on you then: there is no bathroom here. You had hoped—admit it—that the “African Woman’s hut” sign was really just a winky-winky Ladies Room sign. You were wrong. It was not a misguided joke. The fact is, you are standing in a fake bedroom. Belonging to a non-existent African woman. In a zoo.

There is no men’s hut, in case you were wondering. (Do not wonder what country in East Africa the fake woman might be from, which “tradition” the signs describe and whether those details might matter—these thoughts will hurt you.)

There is, however, this, as you exit the Traditional East African Woman’s house:

Wanna read the caption?

(Are you sure?)

Fine. Here it is:

If you can’t read it, it says “Holding Tomorrow’s Hearts.” And below: “A Tribute to the Nurturing Principle Inherent In our Fathers, Brothers, and Sons.” Amana J. Johnson, Sculptor.

You stare in some perplexity at this motto, and at this statue, and ask yourself some questions. Such as, What?

The simple promise of a slushie far behind you, thirsty, confused, and heavy with pee, you stagger past the zebras and on to the next exhibit:

Haha! Just kidding. That would be absurd.

M

*Thanks to Zunguzungu for investigating this when I couldn’t, afflicted as I was with a disorder that made me confuse other people’s houses with zoo exhibits and bathrooms. Read there what Oakland Zoo Director Joel Parrott (I am not making this up) has to say, and read the comments—apparently these “cultural exhibits” are the latest thing for zoos. Photos are from a trip to the Oakland Zoo I took last year. Except for the last one, which is one of five known photos of Ota Benga, a “cultural exhibit” back in 1904.)

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