by Maria Schulz
The other day, I saw an article about a family that got caught in their burning car while visiting a drive-through safari.
Not only was it terrifying to think about getting caught in the lion’s den like this family, but it also made me remember the time it happened to me.
So here’s the story: my very best friend in THE WHOLE WORLD invited me to tag along on a family fun trip to Jungle Habitat on her birthday. The temperature that day was close to 100 degrees, but I didn’t care. My own family never went on trips like this, because even they didn’t want to drive through a jungle safari with 9 people jammed into a car with all of the windows shut and no air conditioning. My bestie (let’s call her Juliette Moynihan) and her family had air conditioning in their station wagon. So off we went on our adventure.
It was all very exciting…at first. Mr. and Mrs. Moynihan were laughing and chatting. Juliette and I were doing Mad Libs and giggling over our idiotic responses. Her older sister, Maeve, was busy using her instamatic camera to take pictures of anything that caught her eye. Even Juliette’s little sister, Jenny, was playing quietly and for once, not crying.
We saw the giraffes and the elephants, and even enjoyed the monkeys who scampered across our car as we drove slowly through the “jungle.” That air conditioner was working its heart out, and just as we entered the lion’s enclosure, it began to give out.
“Maureen,” Mr. Moynihan said, as he pulled the car over. “Did you put water in the radiator like I asked you?”
“Joe,” Mrs. Moynihan said, “You can’t expect me to do everything.”
“Damn it Maureen! The car’s overheating! Did you throw a few gallons of water in the back of the car?”
“Well? Did you?” Mr. Moynihan said, turning a scary color that was somewhere between fire engine red and Barney the Dinosaur purple.
“Girls,” Mrs. Moynihan said, “did you to put the water jugs in the back of the car like I asked you to?”
All four of us shook our heads. I watched Mr. Moynihan; I thought it was a distinct possibility that his head might explode.
“I have to turn off the air conditioning.” Mr. M. said. “Let’s open the windows.”
As we cranked the windows open, I read the nearby signs that said:
WARNING: this is a lion enclosure. You should NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOWS. In the event of an emergency, stay inside your vehicle and WAIT FOR THE PARK RANGER.
Juliette’s parents continued to fight over whose fault it was that we were now stuck in the middle of the lion’s den with no clear way to escape certain death. They could not stop screaming at each other, and their voices seemed to carry across the New Jersey “savannah,” alerting every animal within a 2-mile square radius of our dilemma. Now, little Jenny got so flustered by all the screaming that she decided to scream and cry too. Meanwhile, their older daughter was hanging out the back window, running through film and flash cubes, and saying things like:
“Here kitty cat! LOOK THIS WAY!”
Juliette sat looking at the diary I’d given her as a birthday present. She opened it and started writing. I was wondering if her first entry would be:
Today is the day I will be eaten by lions!
The Last Will & Testament of Juliette Moynihan
As for me, I had already calculated that unless God and/or the park rangers showed up soon, I was going to end up as lion food. The Moynihans were all tiny, skinny little things, and they would run much faster than I ever could. My only hope was that the lions would get to Mr. Moynihan first, because he would still be screaming at Mrs. Moynihan and maybe I could get away.
But let’s face it…there was no way I would ever be able to climb a nearby tree to get away. If I tried to run to safety instead, I’d most likely get a cramp in my calf muscle or a stitch in my side, and within seconds, the lions would be sharing my carcass with all of their friends.
I was not ready to die! I hadn’t even eaten lunch yet. I never got to have my final meal! I could feel panic closing around my heart with its Vulcan grip when the voice of God rang out in my ears.
Actually, it was a park ranger in his Jeep.
“Miss,” he said to Maeve, as he walked to the back of the car. “You shouldn’t be hanging out that window. You could get eaten.”
Maeve clicked away. “I’m taking photos of the lions.”
“Yes, well,” he said. “Shut the window now.”
He walked up to the front and leaned in. The Moynihans stopped yelling.
“Is there a problem, officer?” Mrs. Moynihan said.
“Yes. You need to get out of here.”
“We can’t.” Mr. Moynihan said. “Our car overheated.”
“IT’S NOT MY FAULT!” Mrs. Moynihan roared.
What seemed like an eternity later, and thanks be to God/the Park Ranger, it took a few gallons of water and a park ranger escort to send us on our way again.
I have never had so much fun with a friend’s family before or since.
Last Meal Ribs
Nothing says: “Last Meal” like getting stuck in a car in a lion enclosure. This recipe looks like an excellent choice for a final meal—give it a try and see for yourself.
So Hungry Lifers…did you ever get caught up in a friend’s family drama? Did you ever visit a lion’s den? What would you choose for your last meal? Please leave a comment below. Thanks!