Well, it looks like we’ve reached a standoff, Pops. I know you think it’s time to head to the car so I can take a nap, but I’m not going anywhere until I cram my sticky hands in that garbage can behind you. It’s the last stop on the line of my wondrous archeological adventure of spelunking splendor—the only garbage can in the park I haven’t hit today.

Don’t believe me? Joke’s on you, pal. I’ve touched every other can in this joint right under your negligent nose.

When we first walked in and you wasted two minutes asking the ticket window lady why our annual pass doesn’t get us free parking, I was elbow deep in the can behind her booth. I always go hard on the first can of the day. The loot was mostly receipts stuck to old gum and ripped up zoo maps, but hey, you don’t know until you look—and therein lies the thrill.

Next, when Mommy threw her coffee cup away by the flamingo pond, I torpedoed into that can so I could yank the lid off her cup and spin it around making helicopter noises. When Mommy asked, “Where’d you find that?” I shrugged and dropped it in the next garbage can we passed (and while my hand was in there I pulled out a full chicken tender, but it had barbecue sauce on it—blecch—so I threw it over the wall for the grizzly bears).

When you were supposed to be watching me in that dinky Discovery Zone playground area, I was searching for bottle caps in the garbage can by the reptiles. Handfuls of bottle caps are always fun to toss at unsuspecting parents, preferably while they’re trying to drag an unruly toddler away from the playground. Doubling down on chaos is almost as exciting as touching garbage cans.

Remember when I came out of the baboon habitat holding a bag of cotton candy and your dumb ass was all like “Hey, where’d you get that? Did Mommy buy it for you?” No way, dingus! Mommy was in the aviary with those shrieking birds that always scare me. While you were staring at your phone stumped by Wordle, I yoinked that cotton candy fair and square from a bathroom garbage can. I hit both the men’s and the ladies’ with total impunity, right in front of the crowds. Why would anyone try to stop me when they have their own garbage-ransacking kids to worry about?

The Lemur Island garbage can was slim pickings—just some half-eaten hot dog buns and a smashed ice cream cone covered in straw wrappers and popcorn kernels—so I repeatedly banged the door open and closed before licking the can and moving on. Then I licked my hands and smeared them across the mural by the polar bears.

Let’s see—that’s two cans by the baboon habitat, one by the flamingo pond, two by the African prairie section, two by Lemur Island, one by the reptiles, one by the ticket booth, and four more in the bathrooms. Yep, that’s a baker’s dozen. A wadded-up park map I grabbed from the ticket booth garbage can helped me plot my plan of attack, and now I’ve plundered every can in the park except for one.

The pièce de résistance. The crown jewel. The ark of the garbage covenant. That’s right—the gift shop garbage can. I’m hopped up on foraged cotton candy and hellbent on pillaging whatever priceless relics are buried in there. Stuffed animals? Key chains? Magnets, hats, more receipts? Doesn’t matter. For a rapacious explorer like me, every garbage can makes you feel like you’re Indiana Jones discovering the Venetian catacombs.

So here’s the thing. In about five seconds, I’m gonna run full tilt and dive headfirst into it screaming like a banshee. Think you can stop me? Give it your best shot, Daddio. But that garbage can is all mine.