Problem Party People
Zooniversity teaches about 600 wildlife shows each year and a big hunk of them are at children’s birthday parties. Ninety-nine percent of the party parents and guests are wonderful people. They follow our safety rules, they respect our expertise as wildlife professionals, they are polite and interested audience members. But, there is that remaining one percent that we in the business label as "problem party people." They are all the same, they just have different names.
The Animal-Hugger – The grown-up that ooohs and aaaahs at every animal and incessantly begs to hold it. Once you concede, they snuggle it so tightly, you’re sure the animal can’t breath. One significantly inebriated adult birthday girl had to have 3 friends insist she release our fennec fox from her loving, Margarita-inspired, death grip, before she turned the animal loose.
The Know-It-All – These folks like to interject, at evenly spaced intervals in your program, lengthy comments (cleverly disguised as questions) for the sole purpose of impressing the other adults in the room with their knowledge of the animal kingdom. "Isn’t it true that the tarantula’s exoskeleton is soft and delicate immediately after a shed?" Uh, yep.
The Socialite – The adults, usually women, who treat the party performer as if we were invisible. They never look at the lowly hired help, but ooze hugs and air kisses for the other well-coiffed guests. The Socialites tend to lose track of their children at the party, never hear our clearly announced safety rules, and their cell phones usually ring in the middle of the program — which they answer in a loud voice, since they can’t hear the caller over the trivial wildlife program that’s going on.
The Heckler – Usually a man. He likes to whip-out a clever quip whenever we ask the children an animal question. "Look at this snake’s back, do you see the tree trunk pattern?" "Looks like a pair of boots to me!" he’ll chortle, looking to the other parents for some laughs and back slaps.
The Chatterers – Can be clusters of men or women, but they tend to huddle in the kitchen or in the immediate perimeter of the kid’s party circle where the show is going on. They chatter, non-stop, never quietly, forcing the wildlife educator to speak louder and louder. It becomes a battle of volume to see who can top the other.
The Questioner – When you only have 30 or 45-minutes to complete an entire wildlife program and still stay on schedule, there’s only time for a few poignant audience questions. Yet, there’s always the one child who asks incessant questions about the animals — of course, the answers were already presented in the show, had they been listening.
The Squeezer – We have a "one finger touch" rule, to avoid undo stress (and potential injury) to the program animal. But, there’s always the one child who just can’t resist. They raise the one-finger up to touch with the greatest self-restraint, and as the animal approaches for a gentle touch, they just can’t control the urge one more second, and reach out and squeeze the animal with their whole hand. Good wildlife educators must know the phrase "one finger" in at least three languages, and repeat it again, and again, and again.
The Fidget – Poor child just can’t stay seated or quiet no matter how many times they are reminded. And, their parent (usually "The Socialite" or "The Chatterer") is too busy to notice their struggle or to come to their aid.
The Sneaky Kid – You can see their little wheels turning… "she’s not looking, now’s my chance, I’ll just sneak a quick peek at what’s in that cage, she’ll never know, here I go…dang!" Nabbed again.