The Oregon Zoo!

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

October 14, 2008

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Categories: The Balancing Act

Peter & Levi stand in front of the giraffe exhibit.

Peter & Levi stand in front of the giraffe exhibit.

On the second Tuesday of every month, the Oregon Zoo drastically cuts their ticket prices and they charge only $2 per person and $2 per vehicle.  That means a family of three can see the zoo, and drive there, for only $6.  Quite a deal!  A $13.50 savings off the original ticket price.  Peter has wanted to take Levi to the Zoo for months, and we finally got our priorities aligned and made it happen.  Unfortunately, my dear husband works nights, so early birds we are not.  We arrived at the zoo about 12:20pm, and we left around 3:00pm.

Today proved to be an interesting character study as the day wore on.  I’m not sure how to approach this topic delicately, but I will try.  The zoo is much larger than any zoo Peter and I are used to, so with the winding paths, it took some practice orienting ourselves to what we saw and what the map read.  Regardless, we started with the aquatic animals.  We visited the otters and the sea lions, and then moved onto bears and piggybacked to the penguins.  At the otters and sea lions, I was quite impressed with how respectful people were.  (Although, we elected to leave the sea lions when a woman squeaked, “Look at the seals!”)  There was a natural, comfortable wave of people, courteous of others and their surroundings.  No one person stayed at an exhibit too long, especially if there was a crowd growing.  It was as if they (and us) took the cue, “Okay, it’s time to move and and make room for others so everyone can have a turn.”  About the time we were leaving the penguins, the crowd had changed.

The Giraffe

The Giraffe

Now, we found ourselves being crowded out of exhibits.  There were more kids, but also there were more kids running without parental direction.  More kids unaware of their surroundings, and more parents unaware of theirs.  The parents were louder, and a by-product of that were louder children.  We also began noticing the harnesses, or kid-leashes.  Peter was the one who pointed it out.  We saw at least two.  They are fuzzy and disguised as little bear backpacks.

Several years ago, I had a discussion of kid-leashes with a friend.  We were both in agreement that they seemed a cop out for parenting, or a way to fence kids in.  Having Levi has made me rethink the desire for a kid-leash.  I can understand now what could prompt a parent to use one in crowded places where you fear prowling people eying your child.  But, is it just another gadget that we can use to abdicate our responsibilities?

The Zebras

The Zebras

Peter’s answer to that question was yes.  He found the kid-leash a cop out for parenting.  When we had Levi out of his stroller, the rule was he had to hold onto my hand. If he didn’t, he was going to go back in the stroller.  If we were in an uncrowded place, he was allowed to run around, but he had to stay close, which meant we had to monitor him.

Over the time we were at the zoo, strollers gave way to harnesses and unruly parents and children.  We saw that people made more assumptions about the animals and read less about them.  Crowds hoarded more, and they moved less.  There were several times when we were swarmed after enjoying only a few seconds reprieve from the last swarm of people, parents, and preteens.  We were glad for the opportunity to see the zoo on the cheap, but next time we’ll pay the $9.75 per person and go early with the hopes of avoiding the crowds and really paying for the freedom to dawdle without being swarmed.

Levi enjoying an exhibit, perhaps the Duiker.

Levi enjoying an exhibit, perhaps the Duiker.

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