This past weekend my husband and I went up to San Francisco to celebrate our older daughter’s 30th birthday. The party was great fun, and we had a wonderful time all weekend. We stayed in a lovely Bed and Breakfast on the edge of the Mission District, right as it merges into Noe Valley. Which is to say that we were in a perfect location to take walks, see interesting things, and stop by interesting places.
On Saturday we were on our way to get a sandwich for lunch when we passed a small, very cool toy store. What caught my eye in the display window was a large, stuffed zebra. How could I not stop? I stood on the sidewalk, wondering if the zebra was for sale. There was a distinct possibility that it wasn’t. It was wonderfully decorated with a pink party hat on its head, a frilly ballet skirt on its bum, and fairy wings on its shoulders. Given the size constraints of the store, I thought that the zebra was used solely for display purposes, since it enabled the store to display products vertically as well as horizontally. I went inside to ask, but the clerk was busy, and we were hungry, so we went back outside and kept walking towards lunch. I glanced at the zebra again through the window on our way home. But by then I was tired, and needed to get some rest before our daughter’s party.
However, I couldn’t get the zebra out of my head. The next day I thought, “Well, the toy store probably won’t be open on Sunday.” We went to brunch with our daughter and son-in-law. Then I needed to rest. When all was said and done for the day, I looked at my watch. 6:00 pm. Surely the toy store wouldn’t be open that late on a Sunday. So I made a deal with myself. I’d try to find the toy store’s name and phone number, and call. Then I’d take it from there.
Google to the rescue. I found the information I needed. I called, very surprised when someone answered.
Nice Man on the other end of the line: The Ark Toy Company. May I help you?
Me: Hi. You know that big zebra you have in the window? Is it for sale? (I kind of held my breath.)
Nice Man: Yes.
Me: It’s not just for display?
Nice Man: Oh no, it’s for sale.
Me: (Further holding of breath.) How much is it? (I have seen animals that size for $300 and up.)
Nice Man: $100.
Nice Man: Yes.
Me: I’m so there. You’re open until 7:00? I’ll be there in 15 minutes.
Which I was. In 10 minutes actually. A significant part of which was uphill. In San Francisco.
We arrived (a little out of breath), and stood there looking in the window for a second. Yep, there was the zebra. He was big, but beautiful. We went inside. I said that I had called about the zebra. The Nice Man smiled and said he would get it out of the window. Which he did. All of it. It wasn’t big, it was BIG. Have I mentioned that I have very little spatial sense of size? Yeah, well….. I have to rely on my husband or one of my daughters to tell me if a particular item will fit in a particular place. I looked at the zebra. I stood next to the zebra. I mean the top of his head reached almost to my hip. I’m not that tall, but still.
I looked at my husband. We had already talked about where I would put the zebra, so that wasn’t an issue. But it was not going to fit as well as I had thought. My husband asked me what I would do if I got the zebra home and it was simply too big. “Give it to Barbara’s grandchildren,” was my response. (The grandchildren’s mothers, Barbara’s daughters, have no more room in their houses for a large stuffed animal than I do. But it sounded good.) So we decided to take the zebra home.
Doing so on a plane would have course been out of the question, but we were traveling by train so it was kinda-sorta feasible. Kinda-sorta. And just let me say, by the way, that Amtrack is a lovely way to travel. Among other things, you meet kindred spirits on the train.
Zebra is heavy, but luckily there is a nice round middle part, which you can tuck your arm around. My husband carried the zebra back to the B&B, but I insisted on doing the carrying to the train. And here’s another thing I like about trains: no one looked at me as if I had completely lost my mind. (I have, of course, but never mind.) I managed to get Extremely Large Zebra up the extremely narrow stairs to our extremely small sleeping compartment. There was not much room for us once we sorted everything and got settled.
The trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles by Amtrack takes 12 hours. So you have a chance to talk to lots of people if you wander around and eat in the dining car. But here’s the great thing: if somehow in conversation I would mention, “You should see what I have in my sleeping compartment,” people’s immediate reaction was an excited, “Oh you’re the one with the zebra! That zebra is so cool.” One young woman said she had taken a picture of me getting on the train with the zebra. Didn’t I tell you Amtrack is a wonderful way to travel?
I could, of course, just call the zebra Zebra. But I’m thinking that a more specific name might be nice. A few names have occurred to me, but I would like some help please. So, all of you out there who are members of the Zebra Club (and I count all of my readers as members of the Zebra Club, whether or not you are immune deficient), how about some names? Leave a comment anytime between now and next Sunday evening, May 2, with a name suggestion. You can, in fact, make several name suggestions. If you don’t want to leave a comment with your real name, make up a cute name for yourself or comment as anonymous. I promise I will consider the names in my head plus all of yours.