Dude, Where’s My Car?

Published in the Toronto Zoo Volunteer Newsletter – October 2010

During the past 3 ½ years that I have been volunteering with the Toronto Zoo, I have come to two distinct conclusions.  Firstly, working as a volunteer has the wonderful side effect of causing reduced stress levels.  Secondly, the Zoo experiences a very different sort of visitors during the busy summer months, as the grounds teem with guests from all corners of our city, province, country and globe.

Now, you may be asking yourself how on earth these two observations relate to one other.  Allow me to explain.

Reducing one’s stress levels is certainly not a bad thing, unless the result of this is an immediate dwindling of memory function.  This of course is something that I am more inclined to blame on the overzealous partying of my 20’s, then on a simple decline in stress.  Yet for whatever reason, the second my car passes through the parking barriers, not only does the stiffness in my shoulders and neck from a hectic work week begin to dissipate, so does my ability to remember small details.  Details such as, say, where I am parking my car.  This of course would be the express purpose of the signs posted around the parking lot, displaying letters of the alphabet and corresponding animals.  Now, if one actually paid attention to these signs while parking their car, the system would work.  I, of course, am not one of those people.  So by the time I work my shift, spend time visiting with fellow volunteers, and then return to the parking lot many hours later, this little detail has fled my Swiss cheese lump of a brain.

In order to overcome the confusion of wandering aimlessly around the parking lot, trying to locate a compact, silver car among the forest of other vehicles, I devised a fool-proof system.  By attaching a bright red, Styrofoam ball to my antenna, which I obtained free from a local radio station, I could now easily spot my car from a distance.  This technique worked flawlessly for over three years, and I began to pride myself in having one of the most idiot-proof car-locating strategies ever devised.

That was until this summer, which brings me to my second observation regarding the nature of summer visitors.  One late Saturday afternoon, near the end of August, as I ambled from the Zoo and started to make my way towards the parking lot, my mind as always had drifted onto various obscure subjects, none of which being my car.  So, as I walked towards the parking lot and began to scan the horizon of gleaming roofs, it never occurred to me that I would not find a red ball hovering above them.  However, almost 10 minutes later as I was still walking circles in the general vicinity of where I thought I had parked that morning, a growing lump of fear piercing my belly, I began to realize that my red ball was nowhere to be found.  Finally, after scanning license plates, and several more laps around the parking lot (which caused much stress to the cars following me, thinking I was leaving and they could take my spot), I finally stumbled upon my car.

It wasn’t long before the realization that my prized red ball had been brutally kidnapped while I was working my shift, began to sink into my muddled mind.  And as I stood by my now-naked car with my mouth gaping like an oxygen-deficient trout, I couldn’t quite believe that anyone could be so callous!  After getting over the initial shock, I began a quest that day, and now scan the parking lot for my lost ball, in the hopes of locating the thief behind the covert pilfering.

So, if one day you do happen to find me walking in circles in the parking lot, with a vacant look on my face, you will know that I have once again misplaced my car.  If you could find it in your heart to take a moment and help me locate it, I will be forever in your debt.