Recently, I started tutoring to earn a little extra money, now that I’m no longer working at the antique market. I still have a lot of teaching resources, including children’s books, in one of the guest bedroom closets, so I went through the stack of books the other night, looking for something that might interest one of my new students, a child in grade 2. I found a couple of cool I Spy books and some other fun reads, and then I found a book called Dinosaur Bob And His Adventures With The Family Lazardo. I couldn’t remember ever buying it or even reading it to Kate when she was little, and I started flipping through it. Here’s the gist of the story: An American family named Lazardo goes on safari and finds a dinosaur which they bring back to the States and it causes a lot of issues but in the end, (spoiler alert), the dinosaur helps their town baseball team win a big game. And that explanation is only slightly longer than the title of the book. But that’s not the weird part. The fact that they go on an AFRICAN SAFARI with their small children and find a dinosaur isn’t even the weird part. No, the thing that absolutely confounds me is this. On the cover of this book, which was written in 1988 by the way, and on almost every page, there is a man wearing a regimental uniform and a turban. He is briefly described on the first page, when the family initially encounters the dinosaur thusly: “Jumbu, their bodyguard, said nothing.”
Okay, first, why the hell does this family need a bodyguard?! And why is he some kind of Sikh warrior? But then things get even weirder because based on the illustrations, it turns out that he’s not really their bodyguard—he’s actually their MANSERVANT, and on the second page, the Lazardos are lounging on the dinosaur’s back in their swimsuits while Jumbu is in some kind of ceremonial beachwear and he’s SERVING THEM ALL DRINKS. This book was published by Scholastic and can you imagine the pitch meeting?
Author: So there’s this white family and they find a dinosaur…
Scholastic: Like, dinosaur bones?
Author: No. A real dinosaur. And they bring it back to the United States to play baseball for their hometown team.
Scholastic: Interesting. Are there any quirky unexpected characters?
Author: Well, they have an East Indian manservant–
Scholastic: Manservant? That might be perceived as racist. This IS 1988 after all. Better call him a bodyguard.
Author: Oh, okay.
Throughout the entire book, no one talks to him, no one mentions him, even though he’s on almost every single page serving drinks to the family, playing catch with the kids and whatnot, and no one even thinks to ask “Hey Jumbu, you’re a bodyguard, right? Do you think it’s safe to bring a dinosaur back to the Unites States to play baseball?” Because I’m sure all the chaos could have been avoided by letting Jumbu do his damn job. The only time we hear about Jumbu again is on the last page where the family is celebrating the big baseball game win and “Jumbu brought out the musical instruments” so the family could sing and dance. But then it felt like there was some ominous foreshadowing because right at the very end, “Jumbu smiled.” I’ll bet he did. And the sequel to this book is called, Jumbu Gets Even.
The other thing that completely befuddled me the other day happened when I went into the cannabis store. That’s it. That’s the story. No, I’m kidding. I went into the cannabis store, because I live in Canada and we like weed so much that we have government-licensed and regulated places where you can legally purchase it. I don’t smoke it or anything—I use CBD gel caps to help with my shoulder pain. I ran out of pills, and walked into the cannabis store to buy some more. On the counter at the till, there were two jars. These jars are TIP JARS. Every month, this store and others like it, have a question that prompts you to leave money in one of the jars. Last month, the question was “Is the Earth flat?” and terrifyingly, there was almost as much money in the YES jar as in the NO jar. Like, how stoned ARE you if you think that gravity, physics, and every explorer who circumnavigated the globe are just LYING TO YOU? But this month the question was “What TV show was better?” and the choices were Friends or Seinfeld. However. The questions are NOT the point. The point is, Why is the staff in a government licensed and regulated business asking for tips? First, they get paid $15.50 an hour at the very least because that’s the minimum wage. Second, it’s not like they cooked me food or brought me a drink—like, all the woman in the store literally did was open the locked cabinet that I pointed at and hand me a bottle of pills. And she wants a TIP for that? But I guess people are very grateful to cannabis store workers because there were a LOT of tips in those jars. More tips than I bet Jumbu ever got anyway.