Team Building or: How To Be Violated at the San Diego Zoo

Just to get this out of the way right out of the gate – I hate team building exercises. Hate them. It’s not that I don’t work well with others, I just don’t like working well with others.

Sadly enough, the release from monthly team building exercises was one of my favorite parts of landing my unicorn job. Working from home means no more monthly team building exercises. I’ve hit two blissful years of no bowling, no mini-golf, no seminars. No “your attitude is less than we expect.”

So when I was summoned to California I didn’t even consider team building.

I did, however, agonize over proper business attire, tricky for a rural girl who has spent the past couple of years working in pajamas or yoga pants. After shelling out a desperate couple of hundred dollars for what friends and family deemed suitable, I was somewhat dismayed when I was finally handed an itinerary after I touched down.

Wear comfortable walking shoes. Jeans are fine, as long as there are no holes.


The San Diego zoo will be hosting our team building exercise and a hike around zoo grounds is expected.

Son of a bitch.

First problem, I didn’t have comfortable walking shoes with me. Aside from the bright green Crocs with the holes in them that I wear for gardening and flying.


So I opted for the combat-style knee-high boots with the low heel, over the heels I’d just paid a hundred bucks for.

Second problem. I didn’t have jeans. Ok, the black dress slacks will have to do. (Thanks, husband, for insisting I get those in addition to the dress.)

Thankfully the sales team overdressed more than I did, so I didn’t stand out too much in this room full of people I’ve never met before.

As the evening approached, Zoo staff broke us into three groups and took us out to a small stage at the entrance to begin our nocturnal team building exercise.

It seems someone has broken into the zoo, and has been stealing some of the animals. It is our job to scour the zoo for clues. We would encounter guides along the way that would help us with our quest and we were to collect the clues (read: body parts) and meet back at the entrance to determine what animals were stolen, which part of the animal we’d found, and why someone may have absconded with said critter.


Our first clue was a tooth. Clearly identifiable as such, and definitely belonging to a carnivore. A fox.

How do you know that?

Lynnette, shut up! You’re hick is showing.

Someone just put that in your pocket for later.

Guide number two. A claw. A little tuft of tawny fur still clinging to it. And while we’re at it, everyone step up for a little snack. Ranch flavored cricket or BBQ mealworm.

Umm. Gross.

I’ll just linger back here and let Laurence try them both. I’m just so infatuated with the claw that I didn’t hear the guide ask if everyone got a bite. Poor me, I missed my chance.

Guide number three gave us a little lesson in scat. For any non rural folk, that would be the hunter’s term for poop. Thanks, sir, for giving us gloves with which to handle the little balls that smell suspiciously like chocolate. I didn’t gag, but others did when he popped the little ball in his mouth.

Tootsie Roll.


He gave us the third clue, and this is where the fun begins. No need for gloves, he assured us. But what is it? For the first time no one could identify the clue. We passed the little baggie around, squeezing, sniffing and being utterly perplexed.

What was that smell? Not scat, but something I’ve smelled before. But I’ll be keeping my mouth closed this time until we know what it is.

We’ll just set that one aside for later.

The fourth guide was at the bug house. Bug. House.

Have you ever seen a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach?

Here you go:

Step up folks, hold the little critter. So of course there was a collective step back.

I sighed. Quinn loves bugs. The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is one of his favorites. It’s right up there with the Dung Beetle. He would love a picture of me holding that revolting thing.

Since a number of people had cameras, I sighed. “If someone will take a picture so I can show my son, I’ll do it.”

So I stepped up and held out my hand. Which the guide ignored in favor of placing not one but two cockroaches on my shoulder. Near my hair!

This is not a musn’t-muss-my-‘do alarm, it was if-that-thing-gets-tangled-in-my-hair-I’m-going-to-freak alarm.

Quick! Someone take a picture. AH! It’s on my bare neck! Shudders ripped through me so harshly that my hair actually hurt.


Thank you team-member-I-don’t-know. That photo is the only thing that could redeem this revolting experience.

The guide finally moved to take the bugs from me . That hissing in my ear had me tap-dancing a little bit. But the second bug did indeed get a little snag of hair, taking me back into my six-year-old self with a June Bug caught in her hair, screaming and flailing until my father cut a hank of my hair out to rid me of the nightmare.

That better be a stellar picture.

To make up for the bug, this guide gave us the easiest of all clues. A tortoise-shell bracelet.

Back at “base camp” we sat down to go over the clues. I’ll just skim over the part where I explained to a team member that the claw clearly did not belong to a sloth, because of both its length and color, and that the claw we had clearly belonged to a member of he big cat family. I did that.

Why? Why do I keep talking at these things? That makes people think I know things. So they gave me back the odd unidentifiable clue. One of the girls remarked that it smelled like tea. Suddenly I identified the smell.

Fenugreek. It is a supplement I took when I was nursing Quinn in an attempt to increase my milk production.

What in hell would smell like that, that was part of an animal??

An organ? It was dense, and dark brown with little fibrous elements.

A chunk of kidney?

This game was getting less fun by the minute.

We went with monkey kidney, while I compulsively wiped my hand down the side of my new dress slacks.

And finally it was time for the answers to be revealed.

Kidney was close. It was something from the inside of the animal.

Fenugreek was also close. It was indeed something that helped produce breast milk.

Penis. Tiger penis to be precise. For close to a half hour I’d walked around holding a chunk of tiger penis. Holding it, squeezing it and smelling it.

Suddenly I felt violated.

And later, at the after party, I tried to track down the guy with my bug picture.

Turns out that guy? Was just a random stranger that no one knew. Not part of the team at all. He’d apparently managed to stay in the zoo after it closed and joined our group thinking it was a public nocturnal zoo tour.

No picture.

Did I mention that  I hate team building exercises?



7 thoughts on “Team Building or: How To Be Violated at the San Diego Zoo

    • Sometimes I swear I am a walking punchline. Thank God I was granted a sense of humor, ’cause a LOT of people would not find this stuff funny. I figure all this stuff happens to me because I CAN find it funny.


  1. Pingback: A Veeewy Quiet Check In | Rant Rave Write for GroupThink

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