The One About the Baboon

As Ian was leaving the van he said, “I wonder how smart the baboons actually are.”
I was sitting securely belted in the van. Sharon, in the row behind me wanted out which would necessitate me also vacating the vehicle.
I didn’t want to get out.
Everyone else on the team was out, armed with their cameras, ready to capture the moment.
The moment, by the way, was a group of baboons entertaining tourists next to the mountain road we were taking to Cape Point.
I didn’t want to get out.
We’d passed to styles of signs that were pretty clear in their message. The first was simply an exclamation mark sitting atop the word “Baboons” in bold lettering.
The second was the more officious and daunting in its message, “Caution! Baboons are WILD animals…” That was enough to keep me in the car.
Behind me I could feel Sharon’s growing momentum toward exiting the vehicle. I got out to let her photograph the playful monkeys.
I decided to stay out as well, flashing on Nev Campbell answering the phone alone in the house in Scream.
It was as I was rolling up the window as a precaution that we learned “how smart the baboons actually are.”
Finding 1: Baboons can open car doors.
The Alpha Male, we’ll call him (Sprinkles), opened the driver’s door of the van. We’d later come to realize the more officious signs had encouraged passengers to close their windows and lock their doors.
Sprinkles didn’t stay in the driver’s seat long. In a flash, he was to the third row, picking up and tasting empty plastic bags for signs of food. He was on to something.
Finding 2: Baboons are not to be messed with.
Noble, in an attempt to embody his name, opened the rear driver’s-side door and attempted to shame Sprinkles out of the van. “No! No!” he yelled. “Out! Out!”
As it turns out, the status of Alpha Male is not so easily transferrable.
Finding 2.5: Baboons have large incisors.
(see annotation of Finding 2)
Finding 3: Baboons aren’t good with pockets.
As it turned out, I was the only member of the team who had packed snacks for our day trip to Cape Point. Sprinkles, equipped with an above-average proboscis detected my snacks and evacuated the vehicle through the rear driver’s-side door (all doors were open at this point. He left with my bookbag. Once clear of the van, he sat square in the middle of the road and attempted to find the food he’d smelled.
My oranges were in a side pocket intended for holding drinks. With no zippers, the oranges were easy access. They should have been, anyway. Sprinkles struggled with finding exactly how to get to the oranges. Perhaps from previous highway robbery, he knew of zippers, first trying to open the bad with his teeth and then with those beautiful opposable thumbs. Those damned thumbs.
In one pocket, he found the fruit leather I’d been hoping would last me to Kenya. Sprinkles ate it wrapper and all. Then, he found the Clif Bar. This one he opened before eating.
Finding 4: People will stop to watch a monkey.
While all of this was going on, traffic was appropriately stopped in both directions on the road and the other tourists who had already stopped to watch the monkeys had come over to photograph and video tape. “Who’s bag is that?” they all asked mid-laugh. I raised my hand and nodded.
Fruit leather and Clif Bar disposed of, Sprinkles returned to the oranges. Sitting in the road with approximately 20 onlookers recording the event to share with their friends and family when they returned to their international homes, he began to empty the contents of my pack into the road. My water bottle flew one way. My iPod flew the other. My journal was dropped on the pavement along with a book I’m reading on the teaching of reading in the content areas. Then the headphones and some stray papers. Then, a stuffed bear I travel with to pose for pictures with important landmarks.
Truly, life was complete.
Finding 5: A baboon will not leave a find until he’s finished it all.
Sprinkles eventually worked the first orange from the pocket and began to eat it. (They’re good peelers.) All the while, Noble had secured two granola bars from Sharon, broken them to pieces and tried to distract Sprinkles by throwing them a little farther down the road. At some point, one of the volleys proved successful and victory was ours until Sprinkles hurried back to his find and fished for the second orange.
Finding 5.5: Baboons are messy eaters.
Dripping baboon saliva and orange juice on my bag and belongings, it almost appeared Sprinkles was posing for the assembled onlookers as they chuckled and chortled at the tableau staged before them. I just wanted my stuff back. As Sprinkles finished off the last of the orange, it became clear he could sense the meal was over and he wandered off. Sharon, Jody and I ran up and shooed away a mother and her baby and another juvenile baboon who were intent on the spoils. Finding 2.5 isn’t quite as true about the little ones.
Finding 6: See image below.

9 thoughts on “The One About the Baboon

  1. I’m still laughing over the name “Sprinkles.” And the imagined sight of Noble trying to shoo a monkey away like a large pesky fly!

    Was the iPod ok? Oranges are more easily and cheaply replaced. If it’s any consolation, perhaps the fruit leather gave the baboon indigestion. At least you have a great story to tell everyone at home!

  2. This might have been the one time where “If you can’t beat ’em, join em” would have applied. I could say I felt sorry but you got a wonderful story out of this.

  3. OMG I have stopped crying long enough to type this message. That may be the funniest story I have read -EVER. Wow. That was damn funny. We like you Zac -for the rest of the trip please mind the signs! Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!

  4. Quite interesting life story! That’s a good welcome by the African Baboons. Finding no 7. listen to the signs and do not bring food or snacks next to the Baboons.

  5. Pingback: The One About the Baboon at Autodizactic « baboons

  6. Pingback: Things I Know 33 of 365: These are not my secret thoughts at Autodizactic

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