A story by Mark Smith (part 3/7)
They made their points most clearly by using my car as an example. They didn’t like my car at all. It was small. No good. A good car was a big car, and the bigger, the better. It was a Mazda, and it was made in Japan. No good. A good car was an American car made in Detroit. I liked it because it had a Wankel engine in it which was technologically interesting. The engine made the tiny car go really fast. It was like a rocket and it wasn’t safe at all. It could easily go over 200 km/hour. But that made no impression on the keepers. They decided to show what they thought about my un-American taste in cars by all getting together on one occasion, picking it up, and carrying it to the top of some stairs. They left it there. I had to pay a car towing company to get it back down. The car problem finally solved itself, but not until the end of the summer. That wasn’t for some weeks yet.
Despite all this, I was learning a lot in the internship. The curator gave me complete control over how to solve the measurement problems. He met with me almost every day, and really liked what I was doing. I liked it too. I was designing all kinds of radios and sensor circuits. Everything was analog. I was making antennas that could be hidden in the palm trees they had in the exhibit to make it look Indonesian. Some of the radios with sensors I had to design so that the dragons could swallow them. That was cool and I had all kinds of discussions with the curator about how to make those so they wouldn’t come apart inside the dragon. I was discovering a lot. The other thing I really loved were the animals in the zoo. Snakes and lizards are not very personable, but a lot of the others were. I would get to work by 5:00, way before the zoo would open to the public. The animals knew about the public, and so during normal open hours they would mostly hide. People sometimes would astonish me by how they would try to tease or throw things at the animals. Why would they do that? But at 5:00 the animals knew that only their keepers were there, and they loved their keepers. I went around and met as many of them as I could, and the animals met me too. Some of them ended up recognizing me and they would come up to me. I couldn’t reach them as I was not supposed to go into their enclosures. But they would still come up to the edge. My favorite was a Gray Seal who would always come swimming over to me. She was beautiful and would come right up to me. Other animals would say things as I came by, like various monkeys. They would howl and sing. Even birds would get to know me. That was my favorite time of day there. After the gates opened and the people came in the animals got out of the way. I did too.
I met some other animals as well. I was 21 years old when I had the internship, and it wasn’t just the keepers in snakes and lizards who thought I was supposed to be in the military instead of going to school. The entire city was filled with military police who, among other jobs, were always on the lookout for people trying to run away from whatever military unit they were in. I fit the description perfectly. Male, between 18 and 25 years old, and not dressed in a uniform. I learned early on not to drive my car near any of the parts of the city with bases, which was most of the city. If I did I would be stopped by the military police and questioned. It happened so many times that I finally decided not to see any more of the city. The worst event was one night I got a phone call from a friend who was going to University of California in San Diego.
Stay tuned for part 4!