Apparently the pandas had been aware of the smell coming from the food court at the National Zoo in Washington DC for weeks. “Sure, it stunk,” said Taotao, the 300-pound Panda bear who’s been a habitant of the Zoo since 2008. “But they serve a lot of crazy food over there. I mean, gyros at a zoo? Who wants to look at animals all day then eat slices of shaved lamb log?” The giant bear shook his head, adding, “Wei Lan heard the Taco Bell doesn’t clean their sour cream guns for weeks, that must put off quite a scent. But look, we live in pens with our own feces. It takes a lot for a smell to bother us.” The pandas’ concerns grew, however, when a young boy came to visit them while eating from a plate that looked like chinese food.
“Sure, we don’t get out much, but we know what Chinese food is supposed to friggin’ look like,” continued the more gruff Wei Lan, who’s shared a habitat with Taotao for three years. “I mean, we’re not like the leopards. Those stuck-up pricks act like they’ve never licked their own asses. But this stuff did not look like Chinese food.” The boy was eating a meal from Panda Express, the newest restaurant in the National’s food court, specifically their #5 Paw Combo: General Tso’s Chicken, Beef with Broccoli, and Lo Mein. “It looked like some poor bastard died on that plate. Or wait, you know what it looked like? It looked like the crap that poor bastard took right before he died.” Wei Lan then reached for a high five from Taotao, who looked too serious for such frivolity. Staring off into the distance, Taotao continued, “Then I saw it plain as day on the boy’s takeout bag. There was a picture of a black and white bear and the words… Panda Express. They were using us to sell that food. That terrible, terrible food.” The stately bear was at a loss for words. “Shit’s messed up,” concluded Wei Lan.
Eager to taste what was being marketed in their image, the pandas motioned for the boy to toss some food over their fence. “He was reluctant at first,” explained Taotao, before Wei Lan interjected, “Yeah, but then we put on a pair of sunglasses that someone dropped into our pen a few years ago. Stupid humans will do anything for an animal in sunglasses. Hell, if I had a surfboard to ride the dumb kid probably would’ve elected me President.” After the boy hurled a piece of chicken over the wall, the pandas sniffed at it cautiously. “For a moment I was worried they were serving panda meat, but after tasting it I realized it was just a vile piece of chicken. Thankfully I was standing next to the pool so I could wash the wretched taste from my mouth,” said Taotao, motioning to the body of water that the pandas use as both a bathtub and, on occasion, a toilet.
“Look, you wanna use a panda to sell a nice steak, maybe a sweet little sushi roll for the ladies, finish it off with a glass of Courvoisier — we’re down with that,” cried Wei Lan, now beginning to yell. “But General Tso’s mother-effin’ chicken? Who the hell is General Tso anyway? I don’t remember reading about him in the history books — a military leader with a penchant for fried pieces of fat, dark meat, and gristle?!” Taotao put his paw on the younger bear to calm him, but Wei Lan shrugged it off. “I mean, it doesn’t even make sense! We eat bamboo! I wouldn’t eat Lo Mein if Jessica Alba fed it to me off her naked ass! And let me tell you something, those Panda Express dumps are a far damn cry from a fine lady’s butt.” Wei Lan knocked over a pile of leaves, then marched angrily to his corner of the grounds. It was clear he would not be speaking with us any more that day. Remaining quiet, Taotao summed up the panda objection, like a tolerant but disapproving grandmother. “Their food sits in buffet pans all day long. Call it Pig Express. Or Elephant Buffett. Or the Low Self-Esteem Emporium. But not pandas. We’re symbols of dignity, wisdom, and tradition. Please stop this. I mean, we’re wild animals. You know we can kill you, right?” With that, Taotao closed his eyes, and our conversation was over.