Zoo: people watching

It never fails.  We get ourselves ready to voyage to the National Zoo on the same day that everyone else has the same idea. And we elect not to drive in and hunt for parking in favor of the trains (because Ya loves trains, you know?). But Metro decided to delay trains and run intermittent single track service.

ready to board
It’s obviously been awhile, because the round trip fare is nearly $11 per person off peak. I don’t remember that… but then, maybe I’ve never taken more than two passengers aboard.  We board at the first stop,so the train is empty and seats are ours to claim – this is especially important when traveling with a stroller.

w IMG1133As the train pulled away from the station, Ya’s expression changed. His excitement turned to queasiness. He looked worried.  Questions. How fast will he go? Why did they stop? It goes underground?  How long will it take? How many more stops? I began to wonder if he suffered not only from motion sickness, but also anxiety.

Ri had never been on a train (in her recollection ), so the whole experience was new. The big seat next to mommy with the massive window -it caught her attention and held it. Whoa! Whoa! She said as the window darkened. She held her ears and eyes widened to see as we traveled through tunnels. But above ground, she chattered away about the passing scenery and waved at the waiting passengers on the platforms.
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At Metro Center, we suffered from tourist don’t know.  Riding one elevator to the upper level only to watch our train arrive on an unreachable track.  We rode the elevator down again, walked the short distance to another elevator and waited to take it to the proper train platform.  The escalator at Woodley Park suffered from rickets. It grinded upwards at a steep incline, shuddering and shaking beneath our feet.  I spent much of the nearly 5 minute trip to the surface with my eyes closed. I vowed silently to wait forever for an elevator rather than suffer that experience again.

The zoo animals made themselves scarce. People of all variety, however, made for fantastic viewing. We waited in line for half an hour to see the Great Pandas, each of whom were sleeping inside.  They looked dead, and the research cameras’ images looked tantamount to forensic files crime scene investigation.
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Despite the beckoning smell, we skipped the $5.50 funnel cakes.  We sipped on our brought from home sodas. Ri snacked on Doritos; Chi, Rico, and I enjoyed sandwiches; and Ya had watermelon.  Mom picked an iced coffee. That stop to the convenience store outside the entrance was just what was needed.

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We spent the most time in The Bird House.  Two males and one female bird makes quite a show, especially when one male has a worm to present. There was some serious courting!  Another bird cackled like her audience. Each time she sounded, her laugh was reciprocated by people watching her. want my worm
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At the outside exhibits, it was like a lens convention. The motto? Bigger is better (and clearly, mine’s bigger). Camera wielding folk quardoned off space and stood alert, willing – praying – some zoo inhabitants would draw near enough to the natural looking parts of the habitats to look “wild” in pictures.
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Near 6pm, the masses moved toward the exit, and we made an unencumbered trip into the Small Mammal House. Naked mole rats?  There’s a reason they hide underground.  A monkey used a sloth as a hanging chair (serves him right sleeping above the food). Lemurs jumped and chased. And the skunks paced.  We were chased out by an officer insisting “I’ve got a lot of other buildings to close. Move out now.”
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At the entrance, families stood in line to pose with the zoo sign.  It’d make a great picture, as the lighting was phenomenal.  But the wait? No thanks. I felt sorry for the mom whose child decided to put on a clown show for the crowd when it was finally her turn to pose. There’s no way she wanted pictures of the child’s contorted face, wildly waving hands, or splayed leg acrobatics.

Again the master of bad timing, we arrived to the station with every Nationals fan from the night’s game.  A sea of red crowded every space in the train car and we ended up separated, clinging to bars as the train lurched along the “one track” service line and stopped without warning intermittently. Passengers continued to squeeze in, despite the cramped standing space. I fought to shield Ya and a sleeping Ri from swinging purses and elbows of oblivious riders. It was an hour of discomfort and I wondered how mom stood so stoic across the isle.

I learned several things on this trip, the most important being that next time I should just people watch at our mall. I didn’t need nearly empty zoo exhibits surrounding the eccentric folk to add interest (though the shared “look, I think I found something!” seemed to create a common connection among strangers).

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