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Whatchamacallit 32: Panda eating bamboo

Panda Bear eating bamboo

The above photo is of a photo I took at some point between 1999 and 2003 – judging from the fact that the Memphis Zoo claims to have received them in 2003, it must have been 2003 because I moved to Germany in the summer of 2004 and there’s no way I took this photo in spring 2004.

After I started flying long-haul to Europe, I quickly realized that by flying from Amsterdam to Memphis instead of Detroit, I could earn about 600 extra frequent flier miles. At that point in my life, I was not going for status, merely going for banked miles – and every spare mile mattered.

I would vaguely assume that I took this picture on either Sunday, November 30th, or Monday, December 1st. Probably Monday – I remember the zoo was dead.

Basically, I must have flown to Amsterdam for Thanksgiving, then returned to Indianapolis, via Memphis, on Sunday, November 30th. Upon getting to the gate for my connecting flight up to Indianapolis, the plane was oversold, so I took a voucher to fly on Monday plus a free hotel room.

I even recall telling the check-in agent at Schiphol (Amsterdam’s airport) that I hoped to get bumped in Memphis in order to see the panda bears at the Memphis Zoo – and that she was opposed to zoos because it upset her to see animal in cages. (I still like zoos and I think responsible zoos have a place in society; I’ve only been to one zoo that, in retrospect, now horrifies me – the Yerevan Zoo.)

Then, Monday morning, I caught a taxi to the Zoo with the specific intent of seeing real, live, panda bears. As I said, the zoo was basically empty, which is why I suspect it was Monday, December 1st. When I found the panda exhibit, this panda was munching on bamboo – which I promptly took a picture of with my – then amazing – digital camera. Back in Bloomington, I printed it out and stuck it in a frame.

Another little thing I remember is that I spent a lot of money on two taxi rides – today I would Uber it, but back then, I made a mental note to check out the price of renting a car for a day: it’s only about 8 miles from the airport to the zoo, but I recall that I spent what seemed like a fortune for the two rides – of course, this was when I had very little money, so what I was doing was a huge splurge.

The framed photo hangs in my kitchen, in a relatively dark spot – I fear that 2003 photo paper and a 2003 digital camera do not combine for high quality, long lasting prints – so it never receives direct sunlight. Regardless, the quality for the time still impresses me.

I like looking at the photo – this is the only time in my life that I’ve seen panda bears alive and in person. They’re not the most active creatures, so capturing this one whilst it was eating bamboo makes the photo doubly awesome for me.


During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

3 comments to Whatchamacallit 32: Panda eating bamboo

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