I’m working on turning over a new leaf in terms of being flexible (especially with the family schedule), so when Dan suggested that we eat breakfast out this morning, I went along with it, even though it totally blew our busy schedule of chores and house cleaning. We had a lovely time, and still managed to get to the grocery store and do a bit of laundry and organizing before nap time.
It was important, after all, that we keep our afternoon free, because we had plans to go to the zoo today. I mentioned it to Benjamin earlier in the week and he has been talking about it non-stop ever since. He would wake up in the morning and ask if we were going to the zoo today. Then, all day, he would periodically tell me that we couldn’t go to the zoo today because we couldn’t go without Daddy, and Daddy had to work.
Today, we finally went to the zoo. It’s on the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace, which we’ve visited before. We saw giraffes, tigers, reindeer (with babies!), cranes, lions, monkeys, goats, water buffalo and a rhino. (We tried to see the Pandas, but they were hiding or sleeping or otherwise unavailable.) It’s very zoo-like . . . by which, I mean, it’s what you’d expect: lots of animals.
But, it’s different, too. First, many of the animals (although not the big carnivores) could get out of their enclosures with relatively little effort. The reindeer, for example, were behind a 3′ fence that I imagine they could jump easily if sufficiently motivated — I’m guessing the designers are counting on them being sufficiently motivated very, very rarely (and I’m sure they’re right — why would a reindeer want to visit downtown Vienna when he’s got a cushy reindeer-friendly habitat at his disposal?). Also, people could get IN to many of the enclosures even more easily if they wanted to (which I am not used to). Even Benjamin could have climbed into several of the enclosures (again, not the lions or the tigers, which is good) if we had let him.
Me: “What if someone climbs in to the enclosure! They could get hurt!”
Designer: “Why would anyone do that?”
Me: “I don’t know . . . curiosity, foolishness, showing off for their friends?”
Designer: “That would be stupid. They’d probably get hurt.”
Me: “But, they might hurt the animals.”
Designer: “I don’t think so. No one would do that.”
In the US, this conversation would be a precursor to a multi-million dollar lawsuit from the family of someone who was mauled by a reindeer or trampled by goats after climbing into the enclosure with the animals. In Austria, it’s an attitude which is part of the oldest zoo in the world (it’s been there for over 250 years).
If you ask Benjamin, his favorite part of the zoo was the tigers and the flamingos (which we didn’t actually see — but he’s been learning about them on “Go, Diego, Go” all week, so he’s got them on his mind). My favorite part is the fact that you could climb into the enclosures with the animals, but no one does. I love this philosophy that is so pragmatic and irreverently Darwinian, and the fact that people actually seem to be able to control themselves and behave, even though they have the option not to — imagine that.