Ryan does game drives like I would like to do them. We start early–about 6:00 am. He brings his pillow and blanket, and he sleeps in the back seat. Whenever anyone spots an animal, he wakes up, spends some time watching, then, when he’s seen enough, he goes back to sleep. It’s the best of both worlds–he gets to see the animals and sleep in like any other normal teenager would do on a summer day. In the park, there is a designated picnic area, which has some restrooms and a few picnic tables. On this particular drive, we stopped at this picnic area to eat some lunch. Lauren, and I, and a friend of ours named Tianna, got out of the car and started walking toward one of the picnic tables. I was carrying a portable cooler in one hand, with a bag of sliced bread in the other. All of the sudden, I felt the bag of bread being tugged, and nearly pulled out of my hand. I tightened my grip as I turned to see a monkey, still eyeing the bread, about to take another shot at swiping it from me. “Hey!” I said, as I moved the bread out of his reach. He glanced rapidly between the bread and me, anxious and preoccupied. Honestly, he was so cute, and I would have liked to break the rules and “feed the animals”, but his intensity was also a little unnerving! Where ever I moved the loaf of bread, his eyes and body quickly followed, like a desperate little kid trying to grab a piece of candy.
“Somebody get a stick”, a safari guide yelled from her vehicle. The picnic area was being used at the time by several safari groups, but none of them were using the picnic tables. Instead, they had little camp tables set up right next to their vehicles, with coffee pitchers and stainless steel mugs sitting on them. “Put the bread away!” The same safari guide yelled, a little ornery, as if I should have known that already. Her yelling now gave me all sorts of unwanted attention from the coffee drinking tourists. I felt just a little embarrassed, but wasn’t I simply trying to have a picnic at a picnic area? Why are there picnic tables here, I wondered? The monkey continued to grab for the bread as I moved it up and around and out of his reach. What lengths he would go to to get it? I knew the cooler was full so I couldn’t fit the bread inside, and it was becoming apparent that a picnic on the table was out of the question, so I quickly headed back to the car, with the monkey following me. I opened the door to the back of the car, set the bread and cooler inside, and quickly closed the door before the monkey could get in. “All gone!” I said. The monkey was still looking at me. I shrugged my shoulders and lifted my empty hands to show him I had nothing.
Feeling like I had solved my problem, I turned to talk to one of the tourists who had been watching and laughing at the interaction. All of the sudden, Lauren yelled, “Oh my gosh, it’s in the car!” As soon as she said that, I saw this quick motion in the back of the car, as Ryan shot straight up into a sitting position. I had forgotten about Ryan! And what was in the car? Now, keep in mind that we are in a game park, and all morning we have been diligently looking for wild animals, but in particular lion and leopard. Hearing the panicked words, “It’s in the car!” can send a shot of adrenaline through your body like none other!
Lauren, Tianna, and I all rushed toward the car. I got to the rolled down window of the passenger door just in time to see the monkey grab a bag of mints from under the console, then climb quickly out the sunroof. I turned to Ryan in the back seat. “Are you ok?” I asked. He was fine, just a little startled, but at least he was now very much awake! Wildlife inside the car. That was a first! The monkey ran off to a tree just a few feet away, climbed to a tall branch out of reach, and sat down to eat the mints. At least I saved the bread! And that monkey was going to have some really great breath!