Zoo animals are ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.
Mystery Maker: Chris
Location: San Francisco, CA
Friends . . . now this is a great example of using your network to create a Mystery Date.
One of Kathleen's friends was dating a Zookeeper, Lee, at the San Francisco Zoo and every time we hung out I would ask him different questions about his job. He would happily oblige and talk about the different things he had to do during his day and I could really sense the passion he had for these animals. He reminded me of another big animal lover I know, but one with red hair and the nickname "Elmyra".
So naturally I thought, "How fun would it be to get a behind the scenes tour of the Zoo?!?!” I love learning about how things work, Kathleen loves the animals, and Lee clearly loves his job. So I emailed Lee, explained our Mystery Date tradition, and asked if he would be interested in helping me out. He thought it was a rad idea and was totally on board to make it happen.
The day came and we headed over to the Zoo. With the Pacific Ocean waves crashing on the shore to our left and large Cypress trees standing on our right, Kathleen got really excited when we pulled into the parking lot and figured out the Zoo was our Mystery Date. Little did she know I had another trick up my sleeve and I couldn't wait until we met up with Lee for our behind the scenes tour!
The first area we walked through was the Lemur habitat, which looked pretty awesome. There were plenty of swings and structures for the lemurs to jump around and big grassy knolls to relax on. They looked very happy and these silly creatures seemed to have an entire social scene, rarely paying attention to the humans passing through their world. These guys seemed to have it made!
We walked around some more and observed a free roaming peacock, water loving bears, funky monkeys, cool penguins, a majestic bald eagle and an adorable koala. Kathleen wanted to go explore more, but I had to get us to our meeting spot with Lee, so I pretended to be thirsty to get us back up front for a drink. When Lee came up from behind and surprised us, Kathleen exclaimed, "Lee! What are you doing here? Wait a minute, are you part of the Mystery Date?!?!" It was a classic reaction.
Now, I wasn't sure what to expect out of the unofficial behind the scenes tour, but Lee started us at the endangered Black Rhino habitat. For the record, I would just like to say Rhinos are big . . . I mean really enormous. Lee talked all about the rhino's characteristics and idiosyncrasies while we fed this magnificent beast carrots, celery, and branched leaves. The rhino had these really crazy pointy lips that would reach out and grab the food.
Next was the shining moment of the Mystery Date. Our gracious host took us to the indoor shelter where the giraffes come to feed. Feeding time is very popular for zoo-goers as the giraffes can be seen up-close and personal. As everyone watched from behind the gates, we were invited back with Lee to help feed the giraffes. It was humbling to stand next to a towering giraffe as they looked down . . . There was Floyd and Camilla, and baby Dozer, a sweet little guy (all of 10 feet), who started off shy and quickly warmed up as we gained his trust (read: gave him more food). We held the lettuce leafs and bananas up and watched in wonder as each of the giraffes reached down with their heads, stretched out their long purple tongues, and wrapped it around the food in our hands. Giraffes also have these incredible big eyes and long lashes and they seemed just as curious and interested in us as we were in them.
After that we thanked Lee profusely for giving us a fantastic experience and such a fun date. This definitely felt like a once in a lifetime experience and to think without this Mystery Date tradition, we would have probably never experienced it!