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Apropos of Nothing: I Wore a Baseball Helmet to the Zoo Once

When I was a young child — no older than five or six — I owned a plastic Phillies helmet. It was basically a bigger version of those helmets they serve ice cream in at the ballpark, or a cheaper version of the helmets that catchers wear.

I loved this helmet. Indeed, it was one of my most prized possessions. So prized, in fact, that I wore it everywhere. I think I saw it as my connection to the surprising 1993 team that ultimately made the World Series and introduced me to baseball fandom.

One beautiful summer day, my grandparents took me and my two-and-a-half-year-old brother for an outing to the Philadelphia Zoo. (Please allow me to use this space to thank my grandparents for the many enjoyable outings they took me and my brother on when we were little. Allow me to also use this space to say damn my grandparents for letting me wear a friggin’ baseball helmet to the zoo.)

This particular day at the zoo began like any other. Ooooh, lions. Ooooh, snakes. Ooooh, polar bears. Animals are great — especially when viewed from a safe distance and/or behind three inches of glass.

It wasn’t until we reached my favorite part of the zoo — the primates — that the trip took a disastrous turn.

At the primate house, one group of apes (chimpanzees, I think, but they may have been gibbons) was separated from the observation deck by a moat. At six years old, I was just tall enough to see over the railing if I stood on my tippy toes. At two and a half, my brother had to be held up by my grandfather.

As I admired the apes excitedly, I felt a jolt to the back of my head. I touched my head and felt nothing but hair. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with horror. I looked down, and there, floating in the moat, was my beloved Phillies helmet. In shock, I turned around to see my brother in my grandfather’s arms with the biggest shit eating grin on his face.

From that moment until I fell asleep that night I was inconsolable. I cried and cried and cried and cried. It was my helmet, my favorite thing in the whole world, and now it belonged to some damned dirty apes. I’m sure I was mad at my brother at the time, but I’ve since forgiven him. My grandparents, meanwhile, made it up to me by getting me a remote controlled car. It was alright, but it was one of those remote controlled cars that could only be steered by driving in reverse. And it wasn’t my helmet.

I don’t think there is a point to this story, I’ve just never shared it before and I was reminded of it when I was reading about primates on Wikipedia.