If You Unlock It, Lock It Back Up (Or The Baboons Might Get It)
(Excerpt from Kindergarten Lessons I Learned in Africa, 2013, Xulon Press)
Packing for my third trip to Africa, I remembered a luggage company’s television ad featuring a monkey. The monkey jumped on some luggage and threw it around. The hinges didn’t break. The top didn’t come off. The contents didn’t spill. Random monkeys throwing luggage around was not on my agenda for this trip.
I soon found out differently. One bright morning during breakfast at a game park in East Africa, a buzz of excitement rose from the diners. People reported seeing baboons climbing three stories up the side of a log building housing the guest rooms. The lead baboon found a window that was obviously unlocked. In short order, the window had been pried open. The baboons slipped into the room. No one was sure whose room it was, but someone thought it was a room shared by two women. I was a little apprehensive, remembering I hadn’t bolted our window securely. My friend reminded me to lock the window on our way out. She was such a trusting soul.
Guests had been cautioned to avoid having confrontations with the baboons and monkeys. These animals routinely sat by guests eating in the restaurant and sometimes stole food out of guests’ hands. The baboons also knew from years of careless visitors that there was food in the individual rooms. They merely had to find an unlocked window to get the party going. That morning, they were heard calling to each other as
they scaled the wall. I could envision the conversation. One baboon started it all by shouting, “Hey, Big Harry. We found an open window. Bring the family and meet me in Window 303.” Before long, there were six very large baboons in the room fighting over my belongings.
We hurried to the room but were warned to stay away until the staff chased out the intruders. When we looked into the room, clothing and food wrappers were everywhere. The air smelled really pungent, as in watering hole pungent. Clothes hung from the lamps. Beds and walls displayed brown hand (or foot?) prints. Some of my clothes were shredded. Others were simply tossed around as though they had been twirled above the head of a fun-loving baboon. After the commotion died down it dawned on me that the “mud” the baboons brought in from the watering hole below the resort was a mixture of dirty water, mud and animal dung, making a heady bouquet indeed.
* All the food in the snack bag was gone except the energy bars. One of the baboons had tried a bite and tossed it aside. The rest were neatly wrapped on the floor. Really? Even baboons won’t eat energy bars?
* One dress appeared as though it had been carefully lifted out of my suitcase and placed on the floor. It was not unfolded or muddy. It turned out to be the only item of clothing I had to wear for several days until we got to a hotel with a laundromat.
* It appeared that one of the baboons had taken a special interest in a fake hairpiece and planned to take it with him. He dropped it on his way out the window. How many items of clothing actually went out the window with the baboons that day? Did something of mine show up a week later down by the watering hole being waved around by a bragging baboon?
My friend’s luggage, packed securely and locked, wasn’t disturbed. Everything of mine had to be packed in plastic bags and carried into the city for laundering. It all came out gray but smelling much better.
When I came home, I decided to invest in better luggage. Monkeys weren’t going to ruin my clothes again. Next trip, there were no baboon encounters. There was the lion, but he wasn’t interested in anything but me for dinner.