The ape’s jump resonated strongly with me. I sure liked the way he shocked all those holiday-wrapped onlookers, as if he were a Christmas window gone haywire. Did it have to do with some big issue about society, captivity, the vanishing grandeur of nature? Then I heard a lanky, pasty-faced fellow standing next to me say of the ape’s rage: “It’s like working in a home office.” Suddenly the zoo looked like my work world, the world of small office-home office captives, a collection of cubicles full of grumpy creatures who don’t get out enough. Remnants of food lie everywhere in my work space too. When people come near me I think first of escape, then I growl. Kids playing nearby just make me meaner. Soon I was primed to go banging into glass myself just thinking about it.
I got back to the reptile house as the first strains of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” began to bounce brightly around the vaulted hall. My daughter, in a Santa-red vest and stocking cap, looked sternly at her music and struggled to sing over the brass in front of her and the yammering crowd beyond. Then, to introduce Good King Wenceslaus, the choir conductor turned to us and asked us to join in. The crowd went quiet waiting for his cue, then on the stroke of his baton sang, beginning surprisingly loudly and in tune. They hadn’t just stumbled in, they had come to sing. Standing next to me was the guy who made the home-office comparison, singing out in a round, honey baritone. On the choir’s risers, Elly and the other children perked up, lifted by the unified voices. I’m not Christian and I have no clue who King Wenceslaus was, but I began to feel lifted too, maybe not spiritually but at least back up the evolutionary scale.