Thursday, July 21, 2016

More Zoo Memories and My First Vacation

Every generation complains about the next one. I know my parents had a difficult time. It wasn't easy for immigrants, speaking a different language, in their late teens, with a child to pull up roots and begin again. I can't imagine doing that and I appreciate how difficult their struggle was.

It's interesting how during my more youthful years, when we wanted something, we were willing to take extra jobs on weekends and holidays to earn the money. We did what was necessary. We didn't complain that we were working too hard. We didn't obsess over the meaninglessness of whatever the job was. We didn't try to do as little as possible and get something for nothing. We simply took care of business. I don't want to go so far as to say today's generation is spoiled or generally like that. Not all are. There are those who struggle and put in multitudinous hours to achieve their goals. There are many who are successful and accomplished in their twenties. I am always amazed at some of the olympic athletes, just as an example.

While working part time at the zoo (see previous blog), I did a lot of research. Since Al Gore had not yet invented the internet, and googling, was far into the future, I had to go to the library and find information in books...the kind with paper pages and print. Each week, I tried to research the plants and animals and an area of the zoo in which I was working. Visitors asked questions and I was glad to be able to give them intelligent answers. My official title was "guide" although my job consisted of making sure nobody abused any flora and fauna in the facility. I believe I had a shoe box sized walkie talkie assigned for this purpose, adding to the official look of my lovely brown uniform.

After only a few weeks at the zoo, they downsized, deciding that fewer employees were essential. I panicked. I had not yet saved enough two dollar and twenty five cents' or centses or pennies (a monetary unit in the 70's) for our planned vacation. Fortunately, I was one of the employees to be retained.

I actually enjoyed the diversion so much, that I ended up keeping this summer and part time weekend employment for several years. Then-hubby was hired later and the two of us sold tickets and memberships. We even sold zoo maps, partly on salary and partly on commission (3 cents per), until someone realized that our eager, loud, and enthusiastic shouts of "get your zoo maps here. You can't see the zoo without a map,"gave us far too much income and was cutting into zoo profits. Then back we went to the membership sauna (see upcoming booth description).

The zoo became so popular and crowded in the summer, that extra cash booths sprung up outside the gates. These little wooden structures were something akin to a Finnish sauna, complete with solar heat, but no cold lake water. A greenhouse might have been a more comfortable working environment. Breaks were few and far between. But alas, I didn't complain. There was always the additional income.

On one occasion, I worked an entire weekend and earned nothing thanks to a dishonest customer who bilked me out of twenty dollars and absconded with it into the crowd. I had been momentarily distracted while wiping my dripping brow. It was then that my view of the world started to change. Did people not realize or care that any shortages would come out of my pay? Too many shortages could result in termination of employ. That's how things worked at one time.

Nonetheless, eventually, we earned enough for the big trip to the Bahamas. We were there at approximately the same time as our neighbours and their friends, although, our resort was considerably more modest in We boarded a $99 non inclusive night flight (available back in the day). We also filled our luggage with food. The frozen loaf of bread began to perspire more than we did as we dragged our soggy suitcase through Bahamian customs. The officers must have felt sorry for us because once they were assured we weren't smuggling anything more than tuna and peanut butter, they sent us on our way.

It was a memorable job and an even more memorable trip. I had my first taste of conch chowder and my first experience in the gorgeous, not to be forgotten, Caribbean.

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