There is a children's book that I vaguely recall from growing up - part of the fun of today's post was that I got to waste a lot of time on Google trying to recall what it was - about the various animals of a zoo (talking, of course - this is a children's book) bickering about who lives next to who. It seems everyone has an issue with whoever lives next door - from stolen hay to slips caused by carelessly discarded banana peels - and envisions how much better life would be if they lived next door to someone else.
When planning a zoo and laying out habitats, we try to be conscientous of where animals are placed. After all, they can't pick their own neighbors.
Neither, alas, can the zoo.
There's a keeper at the zoo - we'll call him Jerry - who has been there since before the reach of man's memory... in other words, a while. Decades. He tells a lot of stories about the old days, and since I've been around for a while (though nowhere near as long as him), I've heard quite a few repeats. Besides the classics - escapes, keeper injuries, erratic bosses - there's one story - not even really a story, an anecdote, really - that always cracks me up. In concerns a woman who lived across the street from the zoo.
To hear Jerry tell it, he would be cleaning an exhibit near the zoo's perimeter fence - the section of fence across the street from the old woman's home - when, at least once a week (more often in the summer), she would imperiously call his name from her window, and he would shamble over to the fence. From there, she could look down upon him from her bedroom window across the street.
"Jerry!" she would call.
"Tell Dr. Bryant (that's what we'll call the zoo director here) that the stench is particularly offensive today."
And then Jerry, who would do no such thing, would get back to work. I mostly like the story because of Jerry's rather impressive rendering of a snooty, wealthy old woman's commanding voice.
I've lived in a zoo before, and rather enjoyed the experience, neurosis and all. That being said, I love animals and I love the work that goes into caring for them. The same can't necessarily be said for our neighbors.
We get complaints. Often. Sometimes it is about the smell, but not as much as you'd think. More often it's the noise. Macaws screaming, monkeys chattering, flamingos honking, wolves howling, and big cats roaring... those are the sorts of sounds which might sound charming and incredible when you first hear them... but, as I discovered when I lived on grounds with my gibbon alarm-clocks, the allure can wear off. Especially between the hours of 11PM and 5AM.
Many of the problems can come from visitors. Traffic can be problematic, especially during the busy season. We're very close to a residential area (obviously, considering the story above), so visitors have been known to block driveways with their cars. Special events can lead to late night noise issues, which we try to control.
Oh, and ask me how popular we are when our free-roaming peafowl go for a walk around the neighborhood? The answer is "not very."
As sympathetic as I am to the concerns that neighbors raise, I do sometimes wonder what they expected. After all... the zoo is rather old. Some American zoos are plugging their way through their second century in their current location. It's not like *SURPRISE* there's a zoo next door - all of our neighbors moved in knowing what they were coming in to.
I shouldn't make our neighbors all out to be complainers (nor should I pretend that their concerns aren't sometimes valid - I've seen what kind of a "hood ornament" a peacock can leave on a car). Many are delightful people who are regular visitors, and I often see them strolling through the gates as soon as we open in the morning for a quiet walk. Many visit so often that they sometimes pick up on new things before members of the staff even do.
But, back to our cranky old neighbor, the belaborer of poor, long-suffering Jerry. She has since passed on to her heavenly reward, so we no longer get daily updates about the smell. Her adult daughter, on the other hand, has since moved in.
She's not a fan of us, either.