Sunday, December 12, 2004

Houston, Texas—San Antonio, Texas—Day 316

Well my friend is right. San Antonio is a wonderful place. It actually feels a lot like Tucson in a way and I immediately felt at home. My flight this morning was short and sweet and I made it to San Antonio early. I rented my car from Avis. The man was a little too excited to rent it to me and REALLY excited that I was an Avis “wizard” member (their frequent renter’s club). Oohhh.

So I got my keys and took the shuttle over to the rental car part just outside the airport. The woman driving me there was also very excited. “Is this your first time in San Antonio?” she asks. I told her yes and she just about let out a whoop of excitement. “Well, well” she says and proceeds to tell me how I needed to drive to downtown. She helped me off of the shuttle when we arrived at the second Avis building where all of the cars are located and waved as she drove away.

I checked in with the guy at the desk who handed me my keys to my exciting Chevy that I would have the privilege of driving today. I went outside with my stuff to my allocated spot but found a much nicer SUV in my spot instead of the car that I rented. So I started walking back to the office when a shuttle bus driver pulled over. He got out and helped me try to locate the missing car, but we couldn’t find it. So I continued my walk until the shuttle driver called back to me. “Miss! Its over here!” He had found my car which was nowhere near the spot it was supposed to be in . and drove away waving.

I popped the trunk when another woman (equally as enthused) came over and apologized for the car being in the wrong spot. She also informed me that the car was “not cleaned” because their car wash was broken. But, if I wanted to, I could take it to a carwash myself and they would reimburse me. I looked at the car and told her not to worry, it seemed just clean enough for me.

But then I got in.

Good god, it was awful! It was like the combination of bad body odor AND bad cologne all wrapped into one horrible stench that permeated the entire car. I didn’t think about the INSIDE of the car. Everything smelled like nasty man. Throwing up was not an option but gagging certainly was. Good lord, did people REALLY have to smell like THIS?

I masked my disgust as I drove away, smiling and waving.

I headed straight to the zoo and since it was Sunday, there were quite a lot of other people there. I got my ticket and went in and found the hippo enclosure. It was a big concrete pool with an upper area that lead into the hippos’ indoor enclosure. There was one hippo outside but I knew that there should be two hippos there. I went over and to my luck there were signs giving me the names of the two hippos, Tumbo (the male) and Uma (the female). I watched the hippo in the water for quite a while and it didn’t seem to have any intention of moving about. A keeper eventually walked by and I stopped her to ask about which hippo was in the water. She seemed to be keen on hippos and went over to look. She told me that it was definitely Uma in the water and that Tumbo was inside. They were separated because Uma had had a baby hippo recently who was just shipped off to the Phoenix Zoo on Thursday. They had separated the two due to safety reasons (as do many hippos with new babies) and were hoping on reuniting the pair later on in the day. “It should be interesting” she told me.

So I thanked her and waited for this interesting thing to happen.

After spending most of the afternoon sitting first at a table by the snack bar next to the hippo enclosure then on a ledge overlooking the hippo enclosure, I was getting antsy for the hippos to reunite. Uma had at one point gotten out of the water and wandered around on the upper part for a bit so I snapped away until she resigned herself back into the water.

No sign of Tumbo.

But I patiently waited, and waited, and ignored the stares I was getting from people passing by. Eventually a keeper appeared in the hippo enclosure and shut a gate between the pool and the upper level. Then the door to the indoor enclosure opened and viola! Out stepped Tumbo. So I took pictures of him walking out and for the next hour or so of him in the enclosure. But there seemed to be no sign of a keeper and little chance that he was actually going to be let into the water with Uma. I waited and waited and took pictures while I could. Tumbo and Uma grunted to one another and Tumbo rested his head on the gate between the two sides, clearly wanting to get out. Poor guy.

After quite sometime Tumbo seemed to lose all hope of going back into the water and went and stood next to the door that let him out. Soon it opened and he went back in. What? What about this reunion I had been waiting for? The keeper came back out and locked the door that had shut behind Tumbo. Checking my watch there was only an hour before the zoo closed so I guess I missed my chances today.

So I got my things together and headed out of the zoo. I drove into downtown San Antonio and found my hotel. I parked in the parking structure across the street and checked in, spending the rest of the afternoon catching up on work before heading out for dinner. I came across the infamous San Antonio River Walk without realizing what it was. There were tons of people out—I guess it being a Sunday—and I walked along the river while carol-singing school children passed by on boats that cruised up and down the river. I eventually settled on a Mexican food place for dinner and left for my hotel completely stuffed with chimichangas and margaritas.