When I was in Mississippi I met my dear friend, Natalie's cousin Kinna.
Kinna is a zookeeper in Kansas. She is in charge of pachyderms. How awesome is that?!
Kinna knew I was a zookeeper as well so we had lots to talk about. Thank GOD, because I was totally feeling like a douchebag poser when we first met. Our introduction went something like . . .
Kinna: Where do you work?
Me: The Butterfly Pavilion in Denver
Kinna: That's cool!
Me: What do you do at your zoo?
Kinna: I do husbandry and training of the elephants. What do you do?
Me: Spiders. (Shame)
I love my spiders and and I love my job SO much - but how do you compete with elephants?!?!
You can ride on elephants! My animals don't even have a backbone . . .
We seriously bonded over our mutual intolerance for stupid visitors who can't seem to read. If you can't read, an establishment with animals that may or may not be able to harm you seriously is not the place for you. There are places for those who can't read - it's called Six Flags.
I'm going to use a section of my work called "Water's Edge" to illustrate my point.
When I am atworking the "Waters Edge" section that displays underwater invertebrates I'm usually standing right behind a starfish touch-tank and a sign that says "touch gently with the back of your finger". If that is too confusing for you - don't worry - it's also illustrated with a picture of someone touching a starfish with the back of their finger.
However - half of the people that approach the little starfish just itching to touch it do one of two things. A) They poke it (and then I poke them) or B) they say "how do you touch it?"
This is when I roll my eyes and I show them, by reaching OVER the illustrated sign to demonstrate, how to touch a starfish. Then, as I pull my arm back, I show them the sign, just hoping that they'll feel stupid for not bothering to read something 6 inches above what they so badly needed to touch.
Also at Waters Edge is a horseshoe crab. There's a sign above it, and guess what it says. HORSESHOE CRAB. Does that stop hundreds of people a day from saying "Look - a stingray!". No. No it doesn't.
I can feel the stupidity taking over me and I have to remind myself to breathe.
The last thing at Water's Edge that irritates me once every 4 minutes is a toy starfish. It's out on a counter and there for really little children to pick up and look at. Guess how many adults see it and ask if its real. Enough that we had to take a magic marker and write "TOY" on it. Guess how many people still ask. If I told you that the same amount would you believe me? One person actually told me that someone wrote "toy" on our starfish! Yeah? Those rascals! They also put copyright information on the bottom. . . You butt head.
One last little piece of advice that will prevent Kinna, myself, and zookeepers around the world from wanting to break your nose is to listen. Especially if you ask a fucking question.
Here's an example from MY job:
Visitor: What kind of turtle is that?
Me: She's a red-footed tortoise.
Visitor: (usually to a little kid that they are passing their stupidity on to) Look at the turtle! Isn't he pretty!
I'm sorry. Did you not hear me? She is a red-footed TORTOISE.
I want to call child services on these people and report that they are raising their children to ask questions without listening to the answer just to be as annoying as possible. Or perhaps to become reporters for Fox News?
Eventually zookeepers will meet their patience threshold and stop being as helpful and just start laying on the passive aggressive attitude.
Here's an example from Kinna's work:
(I should mention that the only species of buffalo in the world are water buffalo. The buffalo we think of are bison. Kinna's zoo has bison, but not water buffalo . . .)
Visitor: Excuse me. Where are the buffalo?
Kinna: We don't have any.
It's an honest mistake, but lets face it people. Those who don't read and don't listen have ruined it for everyone.