Away from home and smack dab in the middle of the urban jungle for Easter weekend with my wife on call all day Saturday, my daughter and I decided to make the best of it. We decided to hit the local zoo in the morning and kill some time. As an added bonus, or so I had thought, there would be an Easter Egg hunt there for little kids every half hour. There was no hurry to get there but when it opened at ten but my daughter was up at five-thirty so we were more than ready for ten o'clock to arrive.
Normally when we hit the zoo at ten, we will be one of perhaps a dozen families. Saturday when we pulled in, we were one of about three hundred families judging by the line that stretched clear across the parking lot and from the numbers arriving, we were the minority. We joined the tail end of the line and slowly shuffled our way across the parking lot to the door. That was when my daughter asked the obvious question that was starting to get me in a huff. "Why do we have to stand in line when those people don't?"
You could pick those people out a mile away. They would get out of their cars from some open space in the front half of the parking lot and see the line stretching all the way to the back of the parking lot. The majority of the people would shuffle towards the back of the parking lot with kids in tow to wait their turn. But 'those people' my daughter was referring too would look from the back of the line, to the entrance, to the back of the line. I could see their gears of turning and sure enough, they would walk towards the doors where people such as myself who had been in line for the past twenty minutes were finally gaining entrance.
There seemed to me two strategies. The most common strategy was the bold walk up with kids in tow and simply cut through the lines, gain entrance and then in the chaos, cut someone off, pay and proceed. Then there was the meek strategy where they would slowly walk towards the door (faster than those of us in line shuffled) scanning the line for someone, anyone they knew where they could give a hello, how is... what is your daughter's name again... and join them in line. If they made it up to the door without seeing anyone, they would stand there looking a little lost for awhile and then spying a gap in the line, would edge in with kids in tow.
Finally the zoo sent one of their staff members out to control the chaos and to send those trying to cut back to the end of the line but this was only after perhaps a third as many of those who were initially in line had slipped in already delaying those honest folks. One father whose wife and son were in line directly behind me obsessively walked back and forth to the entrance trying to get around that person and at one point I thought he had found a way. He called for his son to come up to the head of the line. When his son got there, they sidled closer to the line awaiting their opportunity while I was weighing my options. I wanted to go up and give him a piece of my mind but thought it unwise with a nearly five year old in tow. Evidently perhaps someone told him off or at least gave him a dirty look because just when it looked like he had successfully cut in line, he and his son turned around and walked back to join his wife directly behind me.
Finally we got in, waived our membership card and made it to where they were having the Easter Egg hunt for the smaller kids. It was a large fenced off area and there was yet another line of parents waiting with their children though this one was about a third the size of the first one. Two minutes later, the gate opened and the kids standing near the head of the line went running off and from a distance, I could see them frantically picking up eggs. I was immediately infuriated with the staff for their poor planning because I could see exactly what was going to happen. The first kids would get all the loot and those of us at the back of the line would have a disappointed kid who didn't even get a fair shot at an Easter Egg or perhaps worse, would have to wait yet another half hour in line for a shot. Fortunately I was wrong.
When we got up to the gate, I could see thousands of eggs just piled in different colored piles. They weren't hidden at all and looked as if they had been dumped by a dump truck into piles. The man at the gate said there was a ten egg limit and then we were to take them to the exit, dump them and get a stamp that could be redeemed for a prize. So my daughter dutifully walked over to a pile, picked up ten eggs, carried them over to the exit and dumped them into a large plastic tote there while the lady stamped her hand. We walked over to another building, stood in yet another line and received one larger plastic egg that had a sticker and two small chocolate eggs. What a rip. I'm don't think we will be going back there again on Easter.
Fortunately my daughter who by now was pretty disappointed about the hour of her life gone for a sticker and two small chocolate eggs still had fun doing our normal tour of the zoo. We did our normal tour which has been gradually whittled down to not much at all. The Australian display is being rebuilt, the Africa display is still mostly gone for the winter and the water animals were MIA and their pool just a muddy hole waiting to get redone. In total, we saw some fish, flamingos, giraffe, lion, tiger and a handful of monkeys. Twenty minutes after we had collected my daughter's meager prize, we were walking back to the car. There was still a long line of people slowly shuffling towards the door with a few parents with children in tow standing off to one side looking lost but waiting for the opportunity to teach their children how not to wait for things in their life.