Register Tuesday | April 16 | 2024

The Baby Zoo

I keep forgetting to tell you guys about the Baby Zoo! This has nothing to do with anything, but it's something that makes me happy and maybe you'll like it too.

Even back in the days when I thought babies were sticky, noisy emergency-room-visits-waiting-to-happen, and wouldn't hold one unless I was sitting on the floor (less falling distance, should I happen to lose my grip) (uh, that would be my whole life up until about three years ago, when the first of my good friends had one), I still liked looking at babies from a distance. It's pretty much the future of the species in adults finding babies cute-looking, and someone really got all the design elements right on that project.

Even now, when I know some babies quite well and enjoy hanging out with them, my most regular baby glimpses happen at the Baby Zoo. This is an indoor playground that has an entire wall of windows. The architecture probably has more to do with allowing the babies to see out rather than passersby to see in, but it definitely works both ways.

The room is full of soft furniture of indeterminate function in bright pastels (er, brighter than a normal pastel, but not white free of, you know what I mean?) There are little climbing ramps and big weighted beachballs for the older kids and musical instruments that can be shaken or whacked for the littler, immobile ones. And there's parachute silk everywhere!

I walk past this place at least once or twice a day, depending on what I'm up to, and have for years, so I can tell you on good authority that the babies go bananas in this place! They can't be unattended even for a moment, so you see a baby laboriously scooting backwards up a slide on his butt while a mom or dad stands at the top, cooing and encouraging and/or (quite often) filming. Sometimes babies just run or crawl on the squishy floor and the parents chase them. Sometimes, in a sea of babies, two will encounter each other face to face and suddenly realize that they are not alone in the universe--you see the occasional ET-style finger-touching moments.

Sometimes babies ignore all the cool expensive equipment in the Baby Zoo and just try to escape, ducking into the cloakroom and trying to clammer back into their strollers and be taken away. Yes, the cloakroom's windowed, too--as is the eating area where you can watching some of the older babies (I guess these are toddlers) smear themselves with pizza sauce and/or frosting, while the parents eat ravenously and listen for choking. Once, I saw a small small boy in a brown corderoy suit desperately suckered to the window (mouth and nose, too), trying to osmose through to reach the goth teenager who was sitting on the ground just beyond the class, eating grocery-store chicken.

Sometimes, I walk past the Baby Zoo at night and then, of course, there are no babies. Occasionally, instead, I catch sight of the old man who cleans the place, carefully vacuuming the everything-resistant rubberized surfaces of the floor and all the equipment. He's chubby fellow with a grey-white beard, a kind of dissolute-looking Santa, and his clothes are the sort I wore too when I cleaned for a living--nothing you'd be too upset about getting puke or pizza sauce on. He probably cleans a lot of office buildings and the like, at night, but you can tell the Baby Zoo is his favourite. He takes off his enormous filthy sneakers and pads barefoot on the squishy pastel floor--and once I saw him toss one of the bright enormous beachballs across the room.

(From Rose-coloured.)