Friday, June 13, 2008

Don't Ever Laugh at an Orangutan!

Our school district took elementary, junior and high school students by bus to the Pittsburgh Zoo and the Planetarium every spring. Because of this, my family didn't take us, except for one time when my grandparents wanted to go to the Zoo. My parents, my brother Bill, my grandparents and I piled into my grandfather's dark gray DeSota coupe and we arrived at the Pittsburgh Zoo about 45 minutes later. In the 'fifties, trips took longer because the roads were all two-laned and narrow, and the cars didn't go so fast.

Since my brother and I were very familiar with the zoo, we lead the grown-ups around, pointing out the many exotic animals in cages or fenced-in areas. My grandmother, who we called "Mimmi", had a bad habit of sometimes making fun of others. On that day at the zoo, she directed her laughter toward the hippopotamuses, the elephants, and most of the apes. The animals were oblivious to her behavior until we reached the cage of the Orangutans. As we all stood gazing at these most intriguing, colorful creatures, my grandmother stepped up close to the cage bars and started to laugh as she pointed and made faces at the Orangutans. All of a sudden, the largest one pursed his lips and spit. His aim was excellent and Mimmi was hit in the face with the spittle. The rest of us didn't know how to respond -- with horror or with laughter -- because we were as shocked as Mimmi was. I can remember feeling embarrassed for my grandmother, and at the same time wanting to laugh. And there was a mean-spirited part of me that felt like she got what she deserved. Needless to say, Mimmi was much more subdued the remainder of the day. We all knew not to EVER mention the episode in her presence, but over the years, we had many chuckles at her expense.
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