How is it that a hamburger has nothing to do with ham?
A legitimate question, but Beth Armstrong of Charleston, SC, and her hungry three-year-old son didn’t really care when he ordered one at a crowded family zoo eatery -– expecting to get ham — and vocally unhappy that he didn’t get it.
Despite the long service lines, an astute and empathetic snack bar worker sneaked some real ham over to the unhappy toddler, so that the exhausted parents could enjoy their break.
Who doesn’t love going to the zoo?
My favorite childhood big-city memory, the zoo has taken on a new meaning with even more adult appreciation and education for big and little kids alike. Hosting one million guests annually, the award-winning Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, is no exception, offering unique, themed ecological habitats, hands-on activities, and “KinderCamps” since 1974.
Big and little kids also learn the importance of ample rest and refueling, and the Riverbanks Zoo’s flagship restaurant, Tuskers, caters to just that. “My husband and I took my almost-three-year-old to the Columbia Riverbanks Zoo,” Armstrong began. “It was absolutely slammed with kids off from school. We stopped for lunch and my son ordered the hamburger.”
Easy, right? Not so fast — when someone needing a ham fix is just learning the language.
“In typical toddler fashion, he melted down when he found out the hamburger didn’t have any ham on it, and to reorder something would have taken another 20 minutes,” said Armstrong. “A very nice guy named Matt Francesco overheard, and came out with a plate of sliced sandwich meat at no charge.”
In case I left anyone hanging about hamburger origins, fear not. The consensus points to Hamburg, Germany, as the origin of the nineteenth century chopped beef concoction. Hmmm – in that case, what about the frankfurter? I’m on a roll. A bit of research reveals that Frankfurt is indeed the perceived origin of this tubular counterpart, also known as a “wurst.” I say “perceived,” because similar sausages originated in many other regions. Gosh – I really digress.
So, what’s the big deal about successfully tending to a fussy three-year-old on a field trip?
As a parent, I share Armstrong’s reaction to the zoo worker’s completely impromptu and unadulterated act of kindness, during what surely must have been a demanding workday for him. In a world of impersonal day-to-day action and reaction, I found the gesture – well, kind of touching.
Maybe it’s a parent thing. Maybe it’s that a three-year-old is still just a mass of basic impulses (just as we were once), too young to be aware of the concept of sucking it up. Maybe it was just one more thing that day that required more attention or effort than an expecting mom (and pop) had to give. Or maybe a well-meaning but tiring day of providing stimulating and fond memories blurred the lines between greater or less dire circumstances.
In the end, Armstrong herself summed it up just fine. “Such a small gesture, but it saved this very pregnant mama some major stress and made my son very happy. We appreciated it very much.”
We do, too.