Call it the headline that almost was. My oldest son, a second grader at a small Wisconsin school got to visit the Zor Shrine Circus at the Coliseum. Due to limited space on the bus that was going, his 4k brother, who had earned a ticket through exemplary behavior in his class, could also go but could not ride on the bus. I had asked my uncle Sam if he wanted to go along, and before I knew it the endeavor turned into something even bigger.
I had childhood memories of going to the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in Omaha, NE. I was small, maybe 5 or 6 years old. It was by far the neatest thing that ever happened to me as a child. I wanted to share a similar experience with my boys, so I made a point of going along. Little did I know, I would be selected from an audience of thousands and brought to the main ring to act out two skits with this clown:
Reddy grew exasperated when the woman he also chose from the crowd wasn’t acting out the skit to his liking and made a big production of putting me in her place.
He wanted her to play slow-motion tennis with big sound effects.
I was amazed to see photos of this as I handed the camera to my 7 year-old son and he just kept shooting. The circus assistants wore all black so they tended to disappear into the dark auditorium while the act was brightly illuminated with spotlights. I noticed the door was ajar with 3 Bengal tigers and 2 Siberian tigers when one of the assistants raced over to secure it. Funny thing, ignorance: on the one hand we had an arena full of happy, happy, fun, fun, smile, smile, laugh; on the other hand, we had an unsecured gate with 5 tigers mere feet away from being loose among the crowd! Being an ER nurse, it is my job to notice things. I noticed the inconsistencies when people lie to me every single day. I am used to this; so used to this I just brush it off as part of the human condition. An unlocked gate on the tiger arena is a whoop–a HUGE whoop! Snapping photos like paparazzi, the time stamps would reveal the gate closed at 10:05:34 and ajar by 10:07:34–which means it merely came open on its own and was never secure in the first place!
I am not sure how many of the thousands at the circus noticed this teensy-weensy gaffe in security. Good thing all five tigers considered the ringmaster with the long whip the alpha male in the group. You can see in the photo above how well-fed the tigers appear to be; the Siberian on the end is too fat to be sassy. The time stamps on my photos reveal a 4 minute span during which that gate is ajar before staff noticed the mistake and ran over to secure it–4 minutes that could have made headlines if the tigers were more alert, less well fed, or less obedient.
Was a good time had by all? You bet!
Would I go again? Sure. But I will have my eye on that tiger cage from the start!