Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Polar Party

I hung my visitor badge around my neck, smiling my thanks at the zookeeper before lumbering into the building with one large bag on my shoulder and another rolling behind me. I had to shuffle my luggage in order to extend a paw, greeting the other creatures who had invited me to their zoo for a brief stay.

"Welcome!" they said, all of them smiling and mentioning their names before looking at me expectantly.

"Hello," I replied, charmed, and cocked my head inquisitively.

"So," their leader said, linking his hooves in front of him, dipping his antlers abashedly. "Did you bring the toy?"

"I did," I said, realizing what they wanted and nodding my furry nose toward the bag on wheels. The herd of reindeer took a collective step forward before pausing, allowing their leader to eagerly reach for the handle and scamper away.

"We're going to look at it!" he called over his shoulder, leaving me to trail behind them as I looked curiously around at their habitat. I sat in a corner of a conference room, watching them remove the object and place it reverently on a table. They murmured to each other, some of them pawing in the ground to make notes and draw pictures. I couldn't bring myself to stop them from dismantling it, so adorable was their interest. So I watched as they carefully took the sleigh apart, the herd watching a single member as he worked to remove pieces and set them carefully aside.

A line formed where the reindeer waited patiently for their turn to view the pieces of sleigh up close. They tended to pair, discussing how wonderful or interesting it was. When they finished, they would bow their heads in thanks to me, antlers standing regally, while I dipped my chin in return, smiling in affectionate amusement.

"How," their leader said, speaking to me though his attention remained on the toy, "did you get it?"

"I took it," I said simply. "Went in on Sunday, picked it up, put it in my bag and asked the people to put it on the plane." I took a moment to think a tranquilizer and comfortable crate probably would have been better than the multiple flights and long layovers and shrugged. "It's not a big deal."

"No," he argued, "it's wonderful. We're very happy." And I nodded as I smiled.

Apart from that, it's mostly been an odd visit. While these reindeer know a lot about Christmas (let's say - I don't really know anything about reindeer) and had great interest in the sleigh, they shocked me by not knowing how to link reins to it and pull.

"So," I ventured, having watched them try and fail for about an hour, "you think it's very nice but you can't use it?" Then they looked terribly disappointed so I tried to think of something soothing to offer.

"I can make comfortable blankets for the seats," one of them told me. I nodded, suitably impressed and smoothed my paw over one after he fetched it.

"I'm working on self-propelled sleighs," one of them offered bashfully, motioning me over to show me his initial design. I patted his back in congratulations for the effort.

I know very little about sleighs, but I tried to answer their questions, directing them back to the snowy topics where I had more expertise. I wanted to be helpful but was largely confused by their strategy. While orderly and patient while viewing the fancy sleigh I'd brought, they kept bumping into each other and tangling antlers as I watched them work. They dispersed randomly and I wasn't sure what direction - if any - they were collectively heading. Still, I found myself fond of them.

I am to head back to my own habitat tomorrow. Interestingly enough, that will change only if I get snowed in.


Amelie said...

I love your toy stories, Katie.

post-doc said...

Thank you, Amelie. There may be another as my flight was canceled and I'm here until tomorrow morning rather than this afternoon.

Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

I hope that you get out soon. From what I understand, being snowed in is little fun. Safe travels!

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