I had a 5pm appointment at the Cosley zoo, a neighborhood establishment run by the Wheaton Park district. They had animals you could mostly find in your back yard like raccoons, deer and some frogs, but I was there to talk to them about Roger, their 13 year old Chimpanzee. My appointment was with Dr. Scott Wainwright, the zoo’s director. Later, I came to find out that Dr. Wainwright had no previous experience with animals or zoology; he was a retired Dentist of 35 years.
Matt’s and my idea to travel across the country selling his new book out of the back of my ’93 Corolla to try to start a grass roots movement that would eventually lead to the propulsion of his book to #1 on the New York Times best seller list was quickly coming together. The only missing piece at this point was Roger.
Dr. Wainwright welcomed me heartily into his office and I could tell he was eyeing my incisors. He spoke as he pulled a long piece of used brown floss out of his front jacket pocked.
“Son, I’m glad you called me yesterday, I was shocked by your proposal at first, but the more I thought about it the more I thought it could be good for our little zoo here.”
I expected him to laugh at me or just give me a stern no, but for him to actually be considering it made me A) question this man’s sanity and B) slightly pee my pants from excitement.
Dr. Wainwright continued, “Having you ‘borrow’ Roger for a road trip across the country seems like the kind of controversial PR we need to give donations a little boost.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Well, according to this book,” he pulled out a small paperback book from his other inside jacket pocket titled Crazy Fundraisers for Inexperienced Zoo Directors.
“Wow ,that book is targeted to a pretty specific audience, “ I pointed out, trying not to sound condescending.
“Oh boy, let me tell you,” Dr. Wainwright excitedly gushed, “this was the best 7 cents I’ve ever spent at a Goodwill in my life. The author suggests you create publicity by staging a zoo breakout, or letting your animals go on local talk shows. I figured your idea of writing a book with Roger as one of the stars was the next best thing.”
“Well, I appreciate you giving me a chance. So does this mean I can take Roger?”
“Not so fast, “he hesitated, “ I want to make sure it’s ok with Roger first.”
On that cue, Roger sauntered in. He was holding a stereotypical banana in his left hand and an AM radio in his right. Dr. Wainwright pointed out that Roger loves talk radio.
“Roger, would you like to go on a road trip with this young man?”
“You’ll get to ride in a car with him and another guy and they will document your trip in a book to release Spring 2011.”
I decided to chime in, “And not just any car, a ’93 Corolla with 155,000 miles, no A/C, a busted radio and a lot of heart.”
Dr. Wainwright spoke as he flossed his two front teeth, “I think we can take that as a yes.”
Roger blew a line of snot onto Dr. Wainwright's desk in approval. Within a few minutes we were loading up the car and I was buckling Roger into a special chimp seat in the back.
Matt’s plane had just landed at O’Hare so I decided to call him to give him the good news.
Me: Hey man, guess what?
Me: I secured us a chimp for our trip.
Matt: Like a chimpanzee?
Me: Yeah, man.
Me: Dude, it was your idea.
Matt: I was joking – I didn’t think you would actually find someone stupid enough to give you a chimpanzee.
Me: Hey, he didn’t give it to me, he lent it to me.
Matt: Whatever, how are we supposed to take care of a chimp?
Me: Don’t worry about it…I got it covered, he’s got a suit case full of bananas and an AM radio - he’ll be fine.
As I spoke these last words I locked eyes with Roger in the rear view mirror, his banana caked face lit up with a smile and in that moment I knew in my heart that things were going to be just fine.
To be continued……