Everyone I know eventually hears this joke. I now offer it to you. Punch line is delivered by video. Suffice it to say there are spoilers below the cut.
One of the country’s oldest zoos sits within a quick walk of my current apartment on Hosea Avenue. I wake to the sound of shrieking gibbons, exotic songbirds serenade me in the summertime, and many of my friends volunteer there. But the Cincinnati Zoo is still a bona fide research institution, specializing in the care and understanding of highly endangered species, including the bengal tiger and one particularly vicious cassowary.
But over the past year, the zoo has also hosted a penguin.
Said penguin became a favorite of the staff, and a darling of visitors. Birds are unique in evolutionary terms because they are extremely well suited to their own environments, while simultaneously super-uncomfortable in others. Put a penguin underwater and it glides like an aquatic gazelle, deftly maneuvering toward the small fry and evading the clumsy orca.
But this penguin had so charmed the world that the zookeepers allowed the penguin a bit of a summer vacation. Thee days to do whatever he wanted.
And the penguin decided on a road trip.
And being a bird after my own heart, the penguin decided that his preferred mode of transportation would be an old, old car. Something of a cross between the old Studebaker used in the original Muppet Movie, and something that Bob Falfa would have called a field car.
A car you gotta sneak up on just to put a little air the tires. But I digress.
So the penguin gets in the car early one morning and takes off across the verdant countryside of the Midwestern United States. The bedrock hills west of town, the farmland as you head toward Metamora, Indiana, and onward. Perhaps toward Bloomington and the girl I watched Ponyo with, perhaps toward that unique suspension bridge where the girl with no legs lived…
(can I just mention that I’ve led a very interesting life so far?)
But somewhere along the line, the car starts sputtering. Smoke begins wafting out of the front vents, and it’s clear that the Studebaker needs immediate attention. So as the car turns through the next little one-stoplight town, the penguin pulls into a repair shop along the main drag.
“Yeah, I can fix it,” the earnest greaser mechanic tells him, “but it’s gonna take a few hours to figure out the problem. Can you chill out for a while?”
Chill out for a while. That’s a penguin’s entire raison d’etre, of course, and he hobbles across the street toward the grocery store. The air conditioning provides the initial luft -the day was quite sweltering by now – but the penguin then spotted —-
The Freezer Case. Which was full of Vanilla Ice Cream.
And in he went, rubbing his back along the frosted walls and doing little backflips on the icy floor. But this being the freezer case, the penguin then indeed noticed the ultimate discovery: That his visit coincided with the store’s once-a-year sale.
At first, the penguin was content to prod with his beak, poking through the cardboard containers for little nibbles of frosty lucre.
But then his lust intensified and he began ripping the bags apart with his little penguin beak and slashing through the cartons with his little penguin flippers. The freezer became a fusillade of ice cream splotches that landed… All over the penguin.
Sensing it was time to retrieve his vehicle. The completely satisfied penguin, now covered head to toe in vanilla ice cream, walked back across the street.
I’ll take it home from here…