Generally speaking, most eighth grade tours include a day, or a portion of a day, when we give kids time to explore the Smithsonian on their own, which is, of course, code for me to find one of my secret hiding spots and squeeze in a quick nap. Many, and at times most, of the students use this time to do take in some of what the Smithsonians have to offer and expand their horizions. Naturally, some choose at some point to hang out with each other and relax, which is quite understandable, as we put them through a full day, and then some, and everyone deserves some down time.
So last week, as I emerged from my secret lair, I ran into a group of my students hanging out by the kiosk on the Mall by Natural History, waiting for the appointed meeting time. This is a school I've worked with for several years now, and you don't want to enter into conversation with them lightly. Although only eighth graders, they are capable of penetrating questions, and won't be pawned off with platitudes. So forewarned, I waded in and chatted them up.
The conversation drifted, as conversations are won't to do, and I was holding court about the nature of squirrels in the nation's capitol. I went on in depth about my favorite: the black squirrel. Spellbound of course, as any person would be listening to me, one student then asked: what about white squirrels? I explained that you might see "white" squirrels, but as any fan of DC Like a Local knows, they are simply a genetic variant of the more common Eastern Grey Squirrel. Feeling quite pleased with myself, I was a bit surprised to be challenged when the kid continued: "but what about squirrels that are all white?" Well, simply put, I responded "if you did see one, it would have to be albino, and I've never seen one around here." To which he replied: "What about that one?"
Well, sure enough, right here on the National Mall, there was a white squirrel in all its glory, not fifteen feet away from where I was doubting its existence. Publicly. As I got over my seemingly weekly ritual of feeling like an ass, I muttered something about "rare opportunity to see an albino animal in the wild" and joined the rest of the thirteen year olds in snapping a picture with my cell phone. I was no longer in any position to lecture them.
So, if anyone else runs across this guy, let me know. I'm interrested in seeing how long a perfectly white squirrel lasts on the National Mall.