Yesterday, I went to the California Academy of Sciences for the first time. As I wandered around with my children, I thought it seemed like a standard, well-rounded science museum with the obligatory IMAX theater, displays on global warming, fishtank with a guy in a SCUBA suit answering questions, and corral of reindeer.
Yeah, you read that right, they had reindeer in a corral in back. As I walked up to ask what reindeer were doing in a science museum, I noticed the woman answering questions (while showing off a reindeer antler) wore a jacket that said “California Reindeer Rentals.” She wasn’t with the museum, she was a reindeer specialist brought in for the occasion. There are in fact, reindeer professionals. You can rent reindeer.
Sensing a blog post, I began to ask questions.
Me: You rent reindeer?
Me: For, what, parties and museums?
Her: Sometimes. We also do living nativity scenes.
Me: What’s that?
Her: We set up a little manger with actors in costumes and some animals.
Me: There were reindeer at the birth of Christ? Santa Claus was at the birth of Christ?
Her: Well, no, but people ask for it. We also have some sheep and goats, and a miniature camel.
Me: A miniature whahey?
Her: Camel. It’s called a vicuna. They’re actually endangered. We’re part of the breeding program bringing them back.
Me: The vicuna were hunted to near extinction for their use in live nativity scenes?
She showed her antler to a young, Asian couple. When I came back to talk to her she let out a pained sigh.
Me: What about a moose?
Me: What if I wanted to rent a moose? Do you have any?
Her: No. Moose aren’t usually very friendly. They’re also pretty big, so they’re not good to have around kids.
Me: I guess a crocodile would be out of the question, then.
She doesn’t answer. I realize I’m losing her and change tactics.
Me: Why do they have muzzles on?
Her: They aren’t muzzles. Their mouths are open so they can eat. They’re wearing halters so we can grab them and lead them around.
Me: I thought halters were women’s clothing.
Her: Those are halter tops.
Me: You have reindeer in halter tops? Cool! (to my children) The reindeer are wearing women’s halter tops!
Her: No, I-
Me: So, you can hook the reindeer to a sleigh or something?
Her: We do that sometimes for Christmas displays, but only for a short time. State law prohibits-
Me: Can they pull the sleigh very fast?
Her: No, they’re far too small. They can’t even-
Me: What if they were really scared?
Me: I mean, what if we did an experiment to see if they could pull a sleigh if they were scared? You know, we could go to California Wolf Rental or California Bear Rental and rent something.
Me: I was hoping we could scare them into pulling the sleigh off a cliff and see if they could fly. There’d have to be someone actually in the sleigh, though. Someone Santa-like. Know any fat, bearded guys you really hate?
Her: I’m done talking to you.
After that, she turned away from me and brandished the antler in my direction whenever I came close enough to talk.