past the zoo

This is the first of what I’m sure will be many posts about “something that happened while I was running in Phoenix Park.” I’ll report other events when they happen, but I don’t often leave the house except to go running.

So today (while I was running in Phoenix Park—which, by the way, is massive) a driver pulled over and asked for directions to the zoo. He looked quite stressed, as if he’d been driving around in circles. Now I noticed the little girls on the back seat—quite a few of them, all understandably anxious to see the caged animals. Usually when someone asks me for directions, I pretend to be as baffled by our surroundings as they are (it’s for their own good), but on this occasion I was the only other person around, and the man had already put quite a lot of effort into helping me understand his accent, and actually I do know the park quite well—I even run past the zoo every day—so I told him how to find the zoo via the north road. Visibly relieved, he thanked me and drove off.

Of course it soon dawned on me that I had sent him the wrong way: there are no visitor entrances on the north road, so if anything, he would be feeling even more lost in the zoo’s immediate vicinity, and in his anger take a long time to discover the narrow dirt road that cuts across the polo grounds to the carpark on Chesterfield Avenue. I felt quite bad when I thought about the girls. I imagine that for them, a fun afternoon planned in advance is really just a bunch of ways that an afternoon can be spoiled. Now I’d already gone and introduced disaster. By the time this thought had fully come together, I was running downhill through long grass, and feeling quite a lot worse for the man than I had felt for the girls. My sadness passed, and for the rest of the run I thought on-and-off about the zoo contingent, interspersing made-up scenarios—involving myriad combinations of a dad, up to four girls, zoo keepers, and all different types of animals—with scenes from my own actual and made-up past and future life. To top it off, when I was running past the wrong side of the zoo, where the big animal enclosures back onto the north road, I heard the shrill trumpeting of what could only have been a baby elephant. I hope the girls heard it.

By the way, telling the man “Chesterfield Avenue”, i.e. the correct name of the road, would not have helped him find the zoo. The roads in Phoenix Park have names—you can see them on Google—but for some reason there are no road signs in the actual park, which might be why so many people get lost.


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