The Monkey Incident
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
“Excuse me, Room 46?”
The manager is standing in the middle of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge lobby glaring at me as I debark from the shuttle bus.
“Yes,” I respond. Slightly terrified by the fierce look in her eye.
“You left your back patio door open, even though we told you not to,” she says in an accusatory tone. “I’m sorry to tell you that the monkeys got in and trashed it. We are not sure what exactly they took, can you kindly accompany me back for an inventory?”
OMG. Was she serious? This was the first – and only – incident of theft I’ve experienced in Zimbabwe, and I was feeling a mix of guilty (I really, really hope the monkeys haven’t done actual damage to the room that I am going to have to pay for) and violated (how dare those baboons go through my stuff?).
“But I thought I locked my door,” I said feebly, aware everyone in the lobby was staring at me. “I’m so sorry. Did they damage the room?”
“No,” her face softens. “No damage to the room. But your belongings I’m not so sure about. One had your lipstick when we chased him out. Another a bag of some sort, but really you should come and take an inventory. Housekeeping has just finished cleaning up the milk and coffee they left behind. They got into the tea service.”
Of course they did.
“How many monkeys were actually in the room? Were you there?” I ask as one of the staff leads me down the corridor, passing the water hole where buffalo and elephants are drinking against a setting red sun in the distance.
“Oh there were at least five, maybe six. One of them had a baby,” he says. “They were making so much noise we had to enter. You’d left the do not disturb sign up, but when we knocked and no one answered we didn’t think it was you making the noise.”
The weird thing is I hadn’t seen a single monkey since checking into the hotel, although there are warnings everywhere about their shenanigans and not leaving doors open. They wait until you leave to enter, just like any good thief.
Back in the room someone had definitely had a party. My bags had been up-ended with clothes and papers strewn around the room, and the strangest things had been messed with. There were monkey teeth marks in one set of headphones and a pen – and upon further searching I found my big stereo headphones were completely gone. My prescription medications had had the labels ripped of them, but were otherwise intact – the childproof bottles, thank goodness, kept them from opening.
My purse had been ransacked particularly hard. I had candy in it and that was all gone. So were the cough drops and two tubes of Lancome “Juicy” lip-gloss. And so was my “3-1-1 airline liquids” small plastic bag where I was storing receipts from this trip as well as my chewing gum – I know, silly, but the theory was if the gum got hot it wouldn’t melt all over my purse this way.
Now I’m actually getting mad: Those monkeys had the nerve to steal my receipts, which I figure is about as good an excuse to give an employer as “my dog ate my homework.” At least they had left the laptop alone.
We spent two nights at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and the entire next day, whenever I was at the front counter, I was politely asked to explain to guests checking in the consequences of leaving one’s back patio door unlocked.
“Yes, the monkeys really get in,” I’d say. “Even though you don’t see them around, they are watching and waiting for you to leave. They stole my noise canceling headphones and lipstick.”