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Turn Your Head and Cough #8
by Jason Torchinsky

After viewing a particulary gripping episode of " Charles in Charge," I was quite understandably affected by the troubling portrayal of the plight of humankind as brought up in the program, and I found it necessary to take some time to quietly re-edit my salients. Brow furrowed to the point of looking like a venetian blind, I thoughtfully made my way to my Volkswagen, as I find that a nice drive is frequently the best way to sort out my thoughts.

This time was no exception, as I began to calm my mind with the sound of the engine, the feel of the rushing air, and the curiously charming squeals of maimed squirrels. Then I remember sneezing forcefully at the exact same instant I took a speed bump way too fast. The next thing I knew, it was four hours later, my head had a knot in it the size of an egret egg, and I was bouncing down the median on I-40 at 70 mph.

Thinking fast, I wet myself, began to cry, and turned on my hazard lights. That out of the way, I jerked my steering wheel hard and flipped the car over two lanes of speeding traffic safely onto the shoulder of the road.

I recall that as I was helping the miraculously unharmed family of six out from under my car, which had the misfortune to land on the exact spot where they were enjoying a picnic, I was struck with a sharp sense of deja vu, coming perhaps from last week when I flipped my car off the highway onto a family of five having a picnic. Then again, perhaps even that event did not trigger it, for who can understand the workings of the mind? Certainly not I, as I shall now demonstrate by beginning a new paragraph about an entirely different subject without any attempt whatsoever at transition. Nutty, huh?

I happened to drive by a petting zoo the other day when I was out, just trying to see how small a nature trail my car could fit down, and it brought back a lot of memories for me. It also brought back a revolting rash, but that's neither here nor there. Well, actually, it's here, by my armpit. Anyway, I was a big fan of petting zoos when I was a kid. There were a fair amount of petting zoos in the town where I grew up, but, more importantly, there were petting zoo innovators.

Now, when anyone talks about innovations in the petting zoo industry, naturally the name Hans "Pops" Rudenheist leaps to mind. Well, old Pops Rudenheist just happened to perform his petting zoo miracles where I grew up, where I experienced his amazing establishments first-hand.

You see, Pops Rudenheist began as a zoo theorist. The standard zoo, he reasoned, afforded humans the opportunity to interact with our animalian buddies in a protected environment through three main senses: sight, sound and, luckily, smell. As you walk through a zoo, you view the animals, hear their calls and that crazy music they blast at all hours, and, of course, smell the odors that make wild beasts so popular among royalty.

People soon realized that these three senses were not enough to provide a true enjoyment of our fellow creatures. Hence, the petting zoo was developed. The first crude prototypes arrived in the late 1940s, developed by Bell Labs, and differed from today's simplified models in that each animal had a sophisticated containment and tactile-enhancement unit strapped to it, a unit that weighed no more than a small refrigerator. Naturally, improvements came, and before long people of all kinds could enjoy animals through their sense of touch as well. Now here's where Rudenheist's brilliance becomes apparent. After noting the success which came with the implementation of a fourth sense to the zoo experience, Rudenheist reasoned, why stop there? Why not incorporate every sense? And that's exactly what he did. In my home town, during the prime of my youth, Pops Rudenheist opened the first Licking Zoo.

Named after the activity it added to the standard zoo experience, like the Petting Zoo, the Licking Zoo finally brought taste to the animal kingdom. Once in the zoo, you could lick anything you wanted, with the only exception being the employees, as the 1981 court case Schmeedeer v. Torchinsky upholds. As you can imagine, for a curious child such as myself, this Licking Zoo was a dream come true. You could lick horses, dogs, oysters, yaks, ocelots, snakes, flies, fish, you name it, that is, if you don't like the name it already has. All beasts were fair licking game in this glorious place--even camels!

Oh, I remember back when I was a kid and my parents would be going out all day to the mall or selling military secrets to the Soviets or whatever it was that they spent their Saturdays doing, and they'd take me to the licking zoo and let me stay there the whole day. I was like a kid in a...well, I was like a kid in a place where I could put my tounge on big, sloppy animals. Yeah, sure, afterwards I'd spend seemingly endless hours hacking up hairball after hairball, retching and coughing, but I wouldn't trade the experience for all of the diamonds in the ocean.

Ah, memories. Sadly, Pops Rudenheist's wonderful licking zoo is no more. It seems that a couple of years ago he was caught with a goat that he was trying to make taste like a cheetah. Also, he had this controversial plan to increase his market to adults by putting a "Nubile co-ed" licking pen in next to the sloths. It was in all the papers. Anyway, within a few weeks of this announcement the whole zoo vanished in a cloud of hair and dust and light. All that was left was a odd smell in the area. Most people suspect that he must have had ties to the mob, but I prefer to remember the licking zoo in its prime, so the less said about its demise, the better.

Oh, yeah, before I forget, I want to gripe about this parking ticket I got on, uh, Saturday. So I'm parked in this metered spot off of Franklin, well within the lines, meter disregarded because, hey, it's Saturday, day to save dimes. I get back to my car after I finish my little errand stuff, and I have a ticket nestled in my wiper that says that my car is "overparked." I looked around for some time limit sign, but found none. So what the hell does "overparked" mean? My car was too parked? My car was too much at rest and not moving with nobody in it and the engine off? Too parked? Overparked? What do they mean? What? Why? Sure, it's only five bucks, but why the hell should I give up something that could potentially get me an armload of burritos from Taco Bell when I don't even know what I did wrong? Is there no justice? If anyone understands, do let me know.

Okay, enough. I've taken too much of your time already. You're busy people, and here I am rambling! Where is my head? Oh, here it is. Anyway, my friends, remain well, and don't forget to write. Sleep tight. Solidarity. Solidarity.

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