I’ve reached a new low, which is amazing, because I’ve had my fair share of low moments in my life. There was the time in college when I had an explosive stomach issue while wearing a Halloween costume. On my wedding day, I had a dress shirt "malfunction." I had to wear a tie and a short sleeve button down shirt, which made me look like a Hardee’s manager on the most important day of my life.
But when I recently wore a rubber hat that had a giant dolphin head on it while watching an actual dolphin show at the Minnesota Zoo, I officially reached a new low. As if my gray socks in gray running shoes and grotesque sweaty lather weren’t enough to make me look like a total dipshit. My son thought it was hilarious when my wife jokingly put his new novelty dolphin hat on my head. Every time I tried to take off the hat, my son looked utterly dejected. So I kept it on because I’m a team player. While the dolphin hat on my four-year old looked rather cute and whimsical, it just looked completely stupid on a grown man.
"Why stop the funny?" my wife asked when I tried unsuccessfully to remove the silly hat for the umpteenth time. "You’re a dad. Who do you have to look good for?" I left the aquatic center in shame, the dolphin hat perched on my head like a loser’s crown.
The next stop on my trail of humiliation was the newly remodeled Central Plaza that now featured a $24 million dollar expansion called the "Grizzly Coast." The new exhibit is a replica of the rugged and beautiful terrain of Russia’s East coast, a land where forest meets tundra and spills into the Pacific Ocean. Among the awesome display of architecture and landscaping, there were massive boulder walls, evergreen and birch trees, and wild vegetation around state-of-the-art animal sanctuaries. We watched four hundred pound bears tear through fresh salmon, otters playfully spin in frigid water, and lava bubble up from simulated volcanic hot spots. As my son watched the mud squirt and sizzle, I slyly removed the dolphin hat.
We watched the Amur Snow Leopard prowl stealthily in and out of the rocks and trees. A hoard of frenzied visitors pressed up to the glass to see the elusive cat in action. One snotty kid broke through the railing barrier, climbed on top of a rock ledge, and did an obnoxious taunting dance.
"Malachi! Malachi!" the child’s frantic mom yelled at him. "Get down now!" I sat in the back of the pile and took complete satisfaction that it wasn’t my kid. I judged this poor woman without mercy.
My wife remained silent. Sarah simply pointed towards our son and said, "Check out our little Einstein." My son stood off to the side and casually jabbed his right index finger up his nostril. Murphy was ten feet from the rarest wild cat on the planet, but apparently nothing beats digging for booger nuggets. I pulled a complete "dad move" and started calculating the amount of money I had spend that day just so my son could enjoy the taste of boogers. I told him to stop and he did. He switched nostrils.
What started off as a nice leisurely day at the Zoo quickly became a game of "Parental Survivor." My hyper son dragged both my wife and me across every inch of the massive park. He badgered us with questions and military-like instructions, waiting to see which one of us would drop first. We walked through the Farm, the Minnesota Trail, the Jungle, the Butterfly Garden, and back to the Grizzly Coast. When we finally ended up outside by the Mongolian Camels, it was 90 degrees and we had been at the Zoo for five hours. I had a cramp in my leg and a slight hint of vomit in my mouth.
My still-chipper son looked out at the huge meadow and saw a pack of smaller horned animals grazing in the distance. "Hey Dad, what are those things?" Murphy asked eagerly.
"I don’t know," I replied with dire exhaustion. "Deer or some shit." My wife erupted with delirious laughter. Not only is Sarah gorgeous, but she also is the coolest woman I’ve ever met. She fully understands that I spend my work week toiling with a bastardly array of scallywags and sometimes bring home my choppy profane blue collar dialect.
Before Murphy could even soak in his daddy’s verbal slip-up, Sarah distracted him by yelling and pointing, "Buffalo! Buffalo!" As Murphy scampered off to see the Bison, I gave Sarah an apologetic look. "Sorry bout that," I told her. "No problem," she lovingly replied. Then she paused. "But I am going to have to ask you to put this back on." She handed me the dolphin hat. I begrudgingly put the aquatic dunce cap back on. And so, I finished my day exactly how I started it: looking stupid.