The Amazing Powers of Weebots

Tara Gaffney Photography

Aside from last night, when Gbot shook an enormous red thigh until a lone, leftover Tootsie Pop fell out, life P.I. (Post Ironman) has returned to normal. It’s a heavy, pre-monsoon 106 degrees outside our air-conditioned box, and so we went to the zoo early. The fun of visiting the zoo often and at different times of day is that it offers the opportunity to see all of the animals active some of the time. Yesterday, one of the normally sedate Colobus monkeys was zooming back and forth across forty feet of tree branch, long white fringes flying, making him look like a throwback from the seventies; any minute I expected him to hop on a mechanical bull.

Mbot wanted to ride the merry-go-round, but the zoo was in sleepy summer weekday mode and it wasn’t open. As we walked past the silent carousel, Mbot asked thoughtfully, “Do you think the guy who works there has to stay home and listen to his mother?”

A little further on, Gbot broke free, raced past the monkeys and the birds, and disappeared around the eucalyptus trees. I knew where he was heading: to the reptile house. The bots are in thrall to reptiles these days, as long as they are alive and not just a reconstructed set of ancient bones. I found him using his whole small body to angle open the glass door. It was all his thirty-seven pounds could do to keep it open long enough for me to slip through, too. He looked up, his rump and shoulders still pressed hard against the glass, and said from beneath sweaty curls, “I opened the door with my AMAZING POWERS!”

It occurred to me that he had never opened that door before. Had never been allowed to; had never been able to. And now he could. It wouldn’t have been any more amazing if I had suddenly shot a web out of my index finger and pinkie and swung on it into the top of the eucalyptus.

My single-minded pursuit of the perfect Ironman last week removed me from the daily reminders of how amazing the weebots’ world is, and mine. The most amazing power, I think, is the power to be amazed.

Tara Gaffney Photography


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Which Fish Are You?

Weekends are a particular challenge, especially with the normally helpful Husbot on the road so much. Each day is a fourteen hour aerobics class with emotional trauma thrown in. At least I don’t have to do it in front of a full-length mirror and listen to Billy Joel. But by Sunday night–hell, by Saturday afternoon, I can feel the burn.

I devise plans to keep the Midgets from climbing the shelves. The zoo is a particular favorite. Not everyone does, but I like zoos. They’ve come a long way since I was five feeling sorry for the giraffes in Central Park staring out over iron rails in Central Park.

No matter how you feel about zoos, the thing about them is that they are not virtual and I am a fan of not virtual. You can hear the ear-splitting shrieks of the macaws and smell from the petting pen the reminder that most animals are just a cute way to transform vegetation back into compost. You can see that each creature needs to be taken care of, from jaguars to ibises, even if that just means leaving them alone.

In 1975, the Wildlife World Zoo, ten minutes up the road, opened as a small breeding zoo that had a knack for keeping endangered creatures alive, convincing them to have sex, and raising their healthy progeny. Since then, the unprepossessing safari-themed complex,  rising dustily from acres of rose fields just outside the sound contour of Luke Air Force Base, has grown to include an aquarium with penguins and sharks and crocodiles.

Pushing a stroller through the threshold of the aquarium–from the baking heat punched occasionally by the roar of F-16s  into a small, cool, darkened, and uncannily quiet building– is like plunging into the ocean in a spacious submarine manned by a lot of short deckhands with ADHD. There are tanks to pet horseshoe crabs and sting rays. The very low sinks for the washing of very small hands afterward are a great attraction, too.

This morning, the Asian small-clawed otters were in fine form.  Mbot said, “That one’s me.” He was pointing to a playful little fellow zooming up a log and diving into the water repeatedly and with what appeared to be great joy. Its body language was telling everyone behind the glass that it was just the luckiest animal ever to land a gig in a ten-by-eight foot tank with a fake pond and a forest painted on the walls. Its fellow in fortune was curled up in a ball, asleep. “That one’s Gbot,” said Mbot. It was the same the last time. Poor Gbot, but he was heading toward the sink again, so he didn’t have a say.

“Which one am I?” I asked. Mbot’s eyes wandered to the next tank over, the curving wall of glass behind which the gar fish circled slowly and endlessly. Gar fish look like they got the cut-rate lobotomy and inherited their noses from the wrong side of the family. “That’s you, Mom,” said Mbot. “You’re a gar fish.”

“But I want to be an otter,” I said. “I want to be that one.”

“No.” Mbot shook his head with certainty. “That’s me. You’re that gar fish.” He pointed to a particularly lumpy, zombie-oid individual.

“Thank you, Moon Pie,” I said. I was comforted by the fact that this declaration was generated by the same brain that, when considering what to take to show-and-tell, produced the answer, “poop.” I am quite sure, too, that his response had nothing to do with the answer he gave me from the backseat on the way to the zoo. “What animal do you want to see today?”

Gbot: “Wan to see Mong-ee. Oo-oo,  aah-aah.”

Mbot: “I want to see the gar fish, Mom. They’re my best.”

We made it through the day. I could sleep ’til Christmas. I want to be an otter.

What do you want to be?

* photo of the gallant long-nosed gar from Wikipedia