A few years ago when I lived in Florida, my wife and I made a trip to Memphis to visit some of my family. Visiting Memphis was always something I looked forward to and in my head, and sometimes on my phone, made lists months in advance of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to eat, because even before I moved here, Memphis was one of my favorite places in the world. The trip to get there was a long one. It would have been nice to pack up the car and enjoy a nice road trip to get there, by my 1994 Honda Civic was anything but reliable. I didn’t trust it on the interstates where I lived, much less to make the more than thousand mile round trip. We took the bus rather than flying, because as it turns out, and it may be shocking to many of you reading this, but being a failed realtor doesn’t really pay very much.
We left Fort Pierce about six in the evening in a bus so crowded that my wife and I couldn’t even sit together. We weren’t even close to each other. I sat in the front and she sat with a loud group of people in the back near the bathroom. Better her than me. When we finally arrived in Memphis the next day around two in the afternoon, after multiple bus changes, spending hours in sketchy Greyhound stations, and traveling overnight, we were exhausted, and went to bed fairly early that night, but the next day, intent upon not letting our excruciating travel experience ruin anymore of the trip, we hit the ground running. The Memphis zoo, although I haven’t been to too many others, is one of my favorite zoos I’ve ever been to, and is regarded by many whose opinions carry more weight than mine, as one of the best zoos in the country, so that was a high priority for us, and the first point of interest we visited on our vacation.
The zoo added a new exhibit called stingray bay, where visitors could see stingrays swimming up close and even reach out and touch them, so it wasn’t much of a debate whether or not we would spend the extra three dollars per person for this once in a lifetime experience. We wanted to do it right, to get the most out of it, so we even shelled out a few more dollars to buy some “stingray food” so there would be no chance that these things would come right up to us so we could pet them. I don’t know what was in the food, but it didn’t smell edible, and apparently the stingrays agreed as we tossed bits of it into the water and watch it float down to the bottom of the pool untouched. We did get to pet some of the stingrays though, which felt really weird, almost rubbery to the touch. It was an interesting experience that I haven’t been willing to pay to try again, even though I’m a member of the zoo now and visit a couple times a month. That day left me with a fun memory, and a terrible odor left on my hands from the “stingray food” that to this day, I have not been able to wash away.