Fellow jackal lamh36, aka @psddluva4evah on Twitter, highlighted a thread on a little-discussed childhood trauma — being terrorized by monkeys at Florida tourist traps:
— #ListenToBlackWomenKamalaHarris2020 (@psddluva4evah) March 10, 2019
I should say up front (as the author of the tweet thread acknowledges) that the true victims of these tales are the captive monkeys. It’s perfectly understandable that they’d want to terrorize children herded into their prisons by human captors.
But that doesn’t make the terror of those children any less real. I know; I was one of them.
My tale begins at a local tourist trap with my kindergarten classmates. It was a field trip, and a dumb one since all of us had seen everything at that nature-themed roadside attraction before with our relatives, so it wasn’t educational. Maybe the principal was getting a kickback from the person who owned the place, who knows.
Anyhoo, the way it was supposed to work is that tourists would board a boat that would chug slowly around a lagoon and series of canals to see animals, including a bored hippo, some manatees, flamingos and other exotic birds, etc.
One of the draws on the tour was Monkey Island, a spit of land inhabited by feral spider monkeys. The boat would motor past — not too close! — and the monkeys would screech and fling shit at the people gawking at them from the boat.
Well, on this tour, the boat broke down just as we were approaching Monkey Island and started drifting toward it. The monkeys, perhaps sensing that something was amiss, screamed even more loudly, showed their teeth and flung poo with greater force the closer we got.
It was like a slow-motion scene in a horror movie, the monkeys’ rising hysteria as we drifted closer and closer, matched by the increasingly terrified screams of the children. As we ran aground on the island, the monkeys swarmed the boat like an invading horde of hairy pirates, swinging from the bars that held up the canvas roof and screaming right in our faces. Utterly terrifying!
I crawled under the bench seat, curled up in the fetal position with my face pressed against the hull and apparently went into a catatonic state. I don’t really remember much after that, but was told later we were rescued by another boat and there were no physical injuries among monkeys or humans.
Anyhoo, decades later, I saw that island again. It still has a handful of monkeys on it, but it’s part of a nature preserve now.
My father says my memory of the field trip incident is ridiculously over-dramatized. I know he’s right because I was shocked when I saw the island again as an adult.
I remembered a much larger island teeming with dozens of angry, screeching, revenge-seeking monkeys. The reality is a little clump of rocks and vegetation occupied by few desultory primates who aren’t at all interested in passersby.
That’s the thing about growing up. Reality scales down the remembered terrors. It diminishes the sense of wonder too, I suppose, but I’ll take that bargain. I bet most folks who were terrorized by monkeys as children would too. And don’t even get me started on hissing, angry swans!